Photographing Trains

Trainspotting is one of the most popular hobbies we see when people create photo books with Bob Books. Photographing trains is an excellent pastime and can really develop your photography skills. We are currently offering 25% off your train photo book with the code TRAINS20.

External Train Photography

Railway photography really falls into two groups - those who want to picture trains on the move and those who want more detail. On the move of course the camcorder reigns supreme but stills can be spectacular for instance:- silhouette on the Ribblehead viaduct and the Jacobite on the Glenfinnan viaduct. Generally in the country a long view is best as it puts the train & rails into a context, an exception being exiting from a tunnel. If one is out in the country then it is more than likely a train will be lengthy  - think Eurostar 17 coaches, container trains 30 or so wagons and many platforms now are being extended to take 12  plus coaches.  

If one is concentrating on a special train eg Tornado, Flying Scotsman, Eurostar, Royal Train keep the background fairly clear. A final note for exterior photos - with the exceptions of viaducts & embankments the best pictures are usually obtained from a raised viewpoint to take advantage of the depth of view and when possible  use a tripod & remote shutter release

 Another facet of external train photography is railway architecture & infrastructure. Many stations and sheds etc in this country are English Heritage listed (Simon Jenkins has done a book of 100 best stations) but there are still plenty of subjects particularly on the Heritage lines.  Naturally the rest of the world has even more variety to tempt avid train photography enthusiasts.

Static Train Photography

Static photography has fewer problems, the chief one being light. This applies mainly of course in museums, railway sheds and workshops and some stations. Always make sure that the subject is well lit even if it is only a sunbeam. Sometimes a flash will help to make a particular item stand out such as a name plate, coupling, link motion even a livery and of course carriage interiors, signal boxes, footplates and drivers cabins.

Photography whilst on a train

What about taking photos whilst travelling on a train? If the train is standing still then normal rules apply and one can let an automatic exposure occur. When moving however and using a still camera then panning is essential i.e keeping the subject in the lens but moving the camera with the speed of the train. Looking along a train on a curve makes this fairly simple. If the subject is a good distance away from the train it is relatively easy but when it is near a very steady hand is required.

Final top tips for trainspotters 

Do not let the weather put you off as all seasons have their benefits. Winter conditions can offer different prospects and views. Sunlight needs no explanations. Rain can add to reflections and add a sparkle to colours, rails and so on.

One final word for the uninitiated. You may photograph anything you can see from public places. On private property you must have permission to operate. Museums, open days & the like usually have notices giving the rules. Copyright usually rests with the photographer but a picture from a permitted position to be published, may need the permitter's permission. You can check this with the Royal Photographic Society.


Our Bookshop is packed with some of our favourite trainspotting and train photography inspiration. Below are some of our favourites.

Modern Railways in Action 2020 - Mark Gowing

A regular Bob Books customer, Mark Gowing has made a series of different photo books documenting railways in action across the UK.

Tracking Back... The Railway Photographs of David Element

This photo book contains photographs of steam, diesel and electric railway locomotives taken by David Element in Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland between 1967 and 2015.

STEAM RAILWAYS 2018 - Charles Kinsey

Photos from many of the Preserved Steam Railways in 2018 - Main line Specials and Preserved railways in the South, South West , Midlands and North Yorkshire. About 50 different steam locomotives, all in steam and working, are featured in high quality images

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