Where desert sands and teal seas meet dazzling hotels and Aladdinesque markets, you'll find a city in which cultures converge. As photogenic as it is scorching in both heat and innovation, Dubai is an Instagram wonderland. One minute, you can be photographing your way through the souqs and the next you’ll be hitting the slopes and posing in ski goggles. Truly anything is possible in Dubai, and when it comes to photo-worthy experiences and scenes, you're spoilt for choice as to where to visit first.
Here are 10 of Dubai’s most photogenic angles.
Get picture-perfect views of the Burj Al Arab from Jumeirah Public Beach © Melinda Nagy / Shutterstock
Jumeirah Public Beach
Get a close-up glimpse of the world's first 7-star hotel as the sun dips below the sea and the sail-like shape of the Burj Al Arab glows in the evening light at Jumeirah Public Beach. It's a great spot for a swim and beach photoshoot, where you can use the gentle waves, lifeguard towers and hazy horizon for composing your images.
Photo tip: Switch your camera’s white balance to cloudy mode to boost the warm tones and bring out the colours of sunset.
Head to the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, early in the morning for a glimpse through the fog © Naufal MQ / Getty Images
Towering above glamorous Downtown Dubai at a staggering height of 828m, the Burj Khalifa is one of the world’s most impressive structures. From the observation deck at 555m, peer down to see the entire city of Dubai below and zoom in to photograph aerial images of the vast scenes below. Head sky high in the morning, and if you're lucky, you might experience the illusive fog that wafts in from the desert and turns the city into a dreamlike scene.
Photo tip: When taking photos at the top, be sure to get your camera as close as possible to the glass to avoid any glare or light bouncing into your shot. A great vantage point to photograph the Burj Khalifa in its entirety is from Souk Al Bahar Bridge, where you can compose your shot with a wide-angle lens using the dancing Dubai Fountain during its hourly show. Alternatively, the Palace Hotel provides a great view that’s a little further away and framed beautifully with palms and pools.
Dubai's desert is just a short drive from the city © Lisa Michele Burns / Lonely Planet
Dubai's desert dunes
Just a short drive from downtown Dubai, a desert landscape awaits. Sand dunes contrast with the ever-present clear blue skies, and all those visions of Arabian adventures become reality. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled and cameras ready for gazelles and camels that often wander past. One experience that will keep you snap-happy for hours is a sunrise hot air balloon flight, where you slowly drift over the desert and photograph the stunning scenery below as it changes colour with the rising sun.
Photo tip: Look for leading lines and patterns in the sand dunes to creatively compose your shot. Also if you're floating above, keep your shutter speed set a little faster than usual to make sure you're compensating for any movement in the balloon, and your photos come out nice and sharp.
Cruise around the waterways of Madinat Jumeirah © Steve Back / Getty Images
Shallow clear water canals weave their way through this luxurious resort complex, which sits right on the beachfront beside the Burj Al Arab. You don't have to be a guest at the Madinat Jumeirah to visit the public areas, so wander the interior marketplace and then head outside to jump on a traditional abra boat and cruise slowly to capture some iconic shots on the bow.
Photo tip: There's a great view of the Burj Al Arab framed by palms and canals from the bridge at the market's main entrance, plus another from the deck in front of Anar Restaurant and The Meat Co.
Seek out an angle amongst the crowds at Dubai's textile market © Matteo Colombo / Getty Images
Souqs of Dubai
Like stepping into Aladdin's closet, Dubai's maze-like markets are essential photo stops for soaking up bustling atmosphere. Located beside the Dubai Creek in Bur Dubai, the textile souq is awash with vibrant fabrics and is often referred to as the most beautiful souq in the city because of the colourful, fine silks and saris on display. Take an abra across Dubai Creek to Deira where the gold souq and spice souq await to provide more fantastic photo opportunities. A fun shot to try inside the souqs is capturing a long exposure with someone standing completely still as people rush by to showcase the movement.
Photo tip: By dropping your ISO down low and raising your aperture to f/11 or higher, you'll slow down the shutter speed quickly and produce a beautiful blur as people wander by.
Get lost in the quaint alleys of Dubai's old merchant quarter © Zambezi Shark / Getty Images
Al Fahidi Historic District
Wander slowly through the Al Fahidi Historic District of old Dubai and photograph scenes that are a distinct contrast to the modern glassy marvels of downtown. Here you'll step back in time and see historic, earthy-toned Arabian architecture lining narrow alleys that portray a more relaxing pace of life. Initially built in the early 1900s by merchants from the Persian town of Bastak, the Al Fahidi Historic District offers an insight into the city’s seafaring and merchant past. Al Fahidi Fort is the oldest existing building of Dubai and inside you’ll now find the Dubai Museum. If you’re in need of a break, stop by the Arabian Tea House, tucked in the lavish courtyard of an old pearl merchant's home.
Photo tip: This area is typically much quieter than other spots around Dubai, so it's ideal for taking portrait shots. To brighten faces and smooth complexions, you can increase the exposure of your camera to about +0.7. This will also help to raise any shadows that appear within your image from the buildings too.
Endless sands curve around Dubai's Palm © Nikada / Getty Images
Home to sprawling beachfront resorts, The Palm is a giant man-made palm tree configuration of reclaimed land that sits in the sea off the coast of Dubai. If you’re not staying at one of the many beachfront resorts, you can still visit for great vantage points looking back to both the Dubai Marina on the western fronds and Downtown Dubai on the left. The hotels have stunning pool areas that make for beautiful backdrops, too.
Photo tip: Venture out onto The Palm at sunset to capture the setting sun behind the Dubai skyline. Fairmont The Palm provides a beautiful view back towards the marina, and it’s also a great spot to swim.
Cross Dubai Creek the traditional way, on an abra © bennymarty / Getty Images
There’s been a lot of activity around Dubai Creek ever since it became a port of free trade back in 1902. Ships of all shapes and sizes can be seen sailing through the waterway, and it makes for a buzzing scene to capture. Crossing the creek on an abra is a popular way to get between Bur Dubai to Deira, and it’s a really affordable way to experience views from the water and photograph the skyline of the older areas of Dubai.
Photo tip: Be aware of any stray splashes on your camera, but keep an eye out for seabirds and the striking contrast between the sky, city and sea.
Art has overtaken industry at Alserkal Avenue © Iain Masterton / Getty Images
Originally an industrial zone, Alserkal Avenue has been transformed into a trendy and creative space for artists to showcase their work. Since 2007, it has been Dubai’s arts and culture district, and you’ll find a number of galleries and cute cafes all housed within this sleek, silver collection of warehouses. It's a spot for capturing those more edgy and minimalist Instagram shots, and you can also visit a number of exhibits which change regularly or take part in workshops and innovative talks.
Photo tip: Alserkal Avenue is a great location to whip out a 50mm lens and focus on details, lines or clean spaces. Look for angles that highlight this minimalistic space, or perhaps add a pop of colour if you're capturing portraits against the warehouse walls.
Multicoloured umbrellas shelter the path through Dubai Miracle Garden © dvoevnore / Shutterstock
Dubai Miracle Garden
Think Alice in Wonderland meets the Chelsea Flower Show: the Dubai Miracle Garden is home to 50 million flowers and almost as many colours. Crafted into a series of quirky displays, dramatic exhibits and blooming marvels, the garden is somewhere to visit if you’re keen on brightening up your photos with a pop of colour. Head for the heart-shaped path and stand beneath red roses, or visit the giant A380 plane made entirely from flowers. The garden typically closes over the summer months, but if you happen to be visiting between November and May, grab your tickets and take a peek inside.
Photo tip: The tunnel of flowers is a great place for portraits, or visit the Butterfly House to take macro shots of the 35,000 species fluttering inside.
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