Urban Photography: Five Tips For Taking Great Photos

Cities exude energy and magic at the same time. The people, the buildings, the rivers and the streets are all sources of inspiration for photographers. So, do not hesitate to go to a city located not far from your home to photograph it. Follow our five tips for taking photos you’ll be proud of. Find out how to improve composition, compensate for lack of light, and photograph the city from a personal perspective.

Tell An Urban Story

All cities are historical and cultural melting pots where thousands of stories intersect. As you explore a city, take an interest in one of these stories and try to dig deeper into it. Ignore the most touristy sites and try to find a narrative point of view that will immerse viewers in the world of your photo. It could be a historic Berlin building under renovation, a chef hard at work in Rome, or a group of locals going out for a night on the town. The objective is to express what the city evokes for you and to capture its essence in a single shot. Try to arouse the curiosity of the spectators so that they want to know more.

Photograph A City In Motion

People, objects or moving vehicles make the heart of most cities beat faster. Think of the streets of Amsterdam overrun by bicycles during rush hour, Bangkok’s floating markets, or Dubai’s incessant traffic. To photograph a city on the move, walk around it until you come across a busy intersection, then take a few shots from an interesting angle. If your camera allows it, adjust the shutter speed. After reducing the shutter speed (to 1 / 60th of a second, for example), stabilize your camera and shoot the moving crowd against a static background for a blur effect. Or get started in the panoramic photo by moving your camera at the same time as a moving object, like a bicycle or a car. These shots take a little practice, but they produce great results and are fun to take.

Photograph A City At Night Or In Low Light Conditions

Most cities change their face as soon as night falls, but it can be difficult to capture the atmosphere due to the lack of light. If you take pictures at dusk, a tripod can be useful. Try photographing cityscapes in well-lit places, like the Christmas markets in Prague or the West End of London. The streaks of light can also be the most beautiful effect. Try to gain height by going for example on a bridge or on the roof terrace of a building to photograph the street below. If you have a digital SLR, try adjusting the delay time exposure of your camera over 20 seconds. Adjusting your camera or ISO settings (if your device has one) can also allow you to take some great night shots.

Emphasize urban contrasts

The most beautiful urban photos are sometimes those which illustrate the contrasts (between old and new, between peace and discord or between the cosmopolitan communities of a city). Give your own interpretation to this theme; for example, photograph a person meditating in a bustling Shanghai park, a historic London building overshadowed by a modern skyscraper or the hustle and bustle of a hip New York neighborhood. Try to go to the same place at different times of the day to capture different atmospheres. The morning serenity of the cafes lining a square can give way to a most festive atmosphere once night has fallen.

Details That Make All The Difference

It’s the little details that make a city’s identity. Often invisible at first glance, these can nevertheless give rise to magnificent photos. Think of the Victorian street lamps of London, the Art Nouveau signage of the Paris metro or the patterns of the cobblestones of Lisbon. On your next trip to a city, look for the quirky little details and try to photograph them from an interesting angle.