10 Tips on Urban Photography

February 8, 2011 · 3 comments

in Tips & Tricks

Urban photography is one of my favorite photography subjects. I love capturing the essence of a city, from the hustle bustle streets, to the outer residential areas. But how do you really capture the spirit of an urban landscape? Here are 10 tips to help you. Your feedback and more suggestions are welcome!

1. Architecture

The architecture of a city or suburb can really define the location. Capture not just the exteriors of buildings, but also the interiors. Look for unique points like colors, lighting, shape, symmetry, angles, lines and curves. There’s no right or wrong and you will soon discover your own creative flare of photographing architectural structures.

Photo by doug88888

2. People

If buildings are the bones and body of a city, then the people are its soul. The essence of a city or suburb can be found in the locals. Here’s where the shoot from the hip tip really comes in handy. Including both buildings and people in a single shot can make a powerful and dynamic photograph.

Photo by Yiie

3. Macro

Panoramic scenes can be breath taking. But see things from another angle and view by getting up close – super close. Photograph the finer details  to really capture the texture and patterns of objects. Going macro is an easy way to photograph a familiar subject differently.

Photo by by Dialed-in!

4. Grime and Decay

A great photograph doesn’t necessary have to involve beautiful subjects. Urban decay can make a great theme and really convey another side of the city. Also look out for graffitis and street art.

Photo by luketelliott

5. Night Life

A city literally lights up at night and photographing during the evening can bring another contrast to the place. Some streets might liven up at night, while busy pavements during the day might become more deserted. Take advantage of the golden hour to bring a bit color and contrast into buildings and people. With night photography, remember to use a fast lens and bring along a tripod.


6. Variety of Lenses

With urban photography, you will come across a variety of subject, and thus, a zoom lens is useful. I tend find a 24-70mm lens able to cover an array of subjects. Personally, I actually like to shoot with prime lenses as they’re faster and better to shoot candid people with. Depending on what you want to shoot, I would recommend taking at least two primes. One wide angle like a 18mm to 28mm for tall buildings and scenery, and another between 50mm and 100mm to shoot people and objects.

Photo by FEWhite2

7. Comfortable Attire

It goes without saying that you should wear something that suits the weather conditions. Nevertheless, I still see the odd photographer wandering around the streets in clothing that fits in all the wrong places. Whatever you’re wearing, make sure you can kneel, squat, jump and walk comfortably.

Photo by EmberWolf

8. Get Your Gear On

Just like wearing comfortable attire, make sure you’re carrying the right camera equipment and gear. Extra batteries, lens hood and lens filter are essentials. But you might also like to consider things like city maps if you’re unfamiliar with the location and maybe even pen and notepad to jot down place and people’s names.

9. Research

Even if you know the place pretty well, a bit of research can go a long way. Find out about events, exhibits, the weather and map out spots you want to check out.

Photo by klancashire

10. Explore

To contradict my tip above about researching, mix it up sometimes and do the opposite. Explore alleyways, small streets, hidden lanes and unfamiliar suburbs. Seeing the same thing over and over again can dull your senses and be uninspiring. Spice things up by getting lost.

Photo by Pieter Musterd

Article by

1 part ad agency. 2 parts freelancer. An avid urban photographer, traveler, and streetwear lover. Geeky curator of all things awesome. Sustains on Vegemite, meat pies and lamingtons. Follow me on Twitter or Flickr.

Yi has written 69 awesome articles for us at Photoble

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