Photography - Knowledge

Urban Photography: Tips to Make Ordinary City Landscapes Magical

1016 Views - 6 mins read

At the mention of the word ‘landscapes’, most people tend to go natural. They imagine lush green forests, majestic mountains, cascading waterfalls, bashful beaches, flirty oceans and pristine valleys. However, a recent addition to urban photography is to capture city landscape comprising of buildings, roadsides, pavements, alleys, and people. While it might not sound very exciting to someone who hasn’t come across this kind of photographs, many urban landscape photographers get very famous because of their unique snaps. With compelling pictures of a city, you can depict its vibe and energy in a very artistic manner.

Urban landscape, by definition, includes the various structures that make a city. Often, people are also included in these structures. There are no magic ways to capture memorable shots of urban landscapes, but most city landscape photographers follow a few guidelines.We have compiled these awesome tips that will help you to add the ‘wow factor’ in your photographs of the urban landscape.

Table of Contents

Gearing Up for Urban Photography

Before we start with the tips and tricks to capture stunning city landscape, you should gather the essential gear and accessories that you will need when shooting the city’s landscapes. We have jotted down the main points for your perusal.

Make a list of essential items that you will need for the shoot. While it is important for you to stay light, you should take care not to forget any vital accessory or gear.

1. The first vital equipment for urban photography is a good camera, preferably a DSLR. Unless you have a good camera, it is difficult to get good shots.
2. Carrying different types of lenses is a good way to ensure a variety of shots. City photography will necessitate a wide-angle lens and a good zoom lens, among others.
3. A tripod or monopod stand is useful for lending stability to the camera. These are also useful for time-lapse shots.
4. Carrying a couple of polarizing and UV filters can prove to be a great thing. Sometimes, the right filter is all you need for clicking those enviable photographs.

In addition to the above-mentioned gear, it is important to carry spare batteries. These will be handy in a situation where you have a perfect city landscape waiting to be clicked, but your camera is out of power.

Tips and Tricks to Master Urban Photography

Once you are ready to capture the various landmarks of a city, all you need to know is the fine trick of doing it right. Here are the most commonly used tips followed by most successful city landscape photographers.

  • Know the City

Before you set out to capture the glorious features of different cities and their skylines, it is important for you to know about each city. With a bit of research, reading up and mingling with the local crowd, you will be able to know the character of the city. Some cities are very fast paced, while others are laid back and calm. It is important for you to feel the city by walking through the narrow streets and discovering interesting nooks and corners.

urban photography
Don't be a tourist, be the local (source)
  • Choose and Use Foreground, Middle Ground and Background

These three components of a photograph are as important for urban photography as they are for natural landscapes. Find these elements in your frame and make the best use of each of these to create a visually stunning effect. For more information on how to use the foreground creatively, refer to our article on foreground photography.

  • Make the Best Use of Light

Lighting is the essence of all kinds of photography, including rural landscape photography and its urban counterpart. As you walk through the city, you will notice sudden changes in lighting. Buildings, walls and stone carved historical artefacts reflect the light that falls on them. It is important to consider the location of the sun and the direction of sunlight before you take a picture. A correct interplay of lighting and location is what urban photography is all about.

A very creative way by which city photography can be elevated several levels up is to go out at night. The whole atmosphere of city changes when the sun goes down and the street lights are up. You will find some enthralling shots and discover new places that you didn’t know before.

urban photography
Explore the city at night (source)
  • Highlight Contrasting Features

A very interesting perspective that can be captured to make the photograph stand out is to highlight contrasts. For example, a weary old building next to a newly constructed skyscraper, or an old heritage building with a modern restaurant situated next to it. These contrasting buildings add a lot of drama to the photograph, thereby making it very interesting.

  • Include People along with City landscapes

One of the most amazing urban photography ideas is to include people in the photographs along with urban landscape. It is understandable that many of you might want to omit people from a shot dedicated to landscapes. However, including people in some shots adds intensity to the photograph and make city photographs very unique. It is to be noted that excess of everything is bad and including too many people will spoil the basis of photographing the landscape of a city.

urban photography with people
Capture the real emotions of people (source)
  • Choose the Best Colours

It is not always a great idea to experiment too much with colours in landscape photography. One should try to include the natural colour and feel of urban photography. With its parks, fountains, memorial buildings and colourful gardens, it will be a pity if you choose to capture only black and white pictures. The verve of a city lies in the various colours it displays. 

  • Choose the Road Less Travelled

A particular city may boast of iconic towers and landmark buildings that constitute the city’s skyline, but it doesn’t mean that you should not explore the unknown paths and alleys. Sometimes, the best shots are taken on the road less travelled. When you venture out in the city, you will find many unique things that are worthy of being captured in a camera. These unique shots will stand out more than yet another photograph of a famous building.

urban photography
Click the road less travelled (source)
  • Include the Vibe of the City

Try to figure out the speciality of a city. It may be its vibrant night life or the colourful graffiti on the city’s walls. Some details can add so much value to an otherwise plain photograph. Keep your eyes open for finding these small things that make a city unique and different from the rest. Many urban photography landscape artists use this tip to bring out the best in their photographs.

  • Include Mirrors Creatively

Mirrors can be used in a photograph to create a beautiful effect. Most modern-architecture buildings have highly reflective surfaces that can be used as a creative means of playing with the light that falls on them. Using a polarizing filter in these conditions is highly recommended because they will help you to get rid of stray light and glares.

Sometimes, it is important to wait for the perfect combination of various elements. It may be the perfect angle of the sun or the reflection of sunlight form a window pane that makes your photograph a lot more interesting and appealing. Taking pictures from different angles at the same location can sometimes make all the difference. Remember to add special effect such as starburst effect wherever possible.

The essence of urban photography lies in capturing the heart and soul of a city’s landscape. This can be done easily by keeping the above-mentioned tips in mind. Remember to keep looking for interesting elements that will add character to the photograph and make it stand out from the rest.

Cover Source