Urban Photography: 5 Tips To Enhance Your Urban Shots

Whether you are in a completely new city or you just want to catch the sparkle of the city you have been living in for ages, there are a couple of things you should consider before starting your photography tour. Before you get started, put your equipment in order and make sure you know what you're shooting with.

Wide shots can be  an interesting solution, however, whatever you do make sure you capture the essence of the city - even if that means traveling from the beautiful center streets to the quiet and lovely suburbs. In any case, no matter where you conduct your shooting, make sure to have the urban landscape in your focus. Here are some tips to catch that particular essence we were talking about previously:

Rise And Shine - Be In The Spot Before Everybody Else Is

One of the best times to capture the essence of the city is early in the morning, when the light enhances just about everything in sight, and helps you build a view of the city. This is a great tip from a number of points of view, more precisely:

  • Emptier Streets - You will not have to struggle as much to capture a clean shot, or wait for a bunch of people to pass by in order to get a shot of that beautiful building. However, note that the term early varies based on the city you shoot - a capital city will always wake up earlier than some mid-sized town in the center of the country. Set your alarm clock accordingly if you want to take the best shots.
  • Clean Streets - As we all know, most cleaning services occur late in the evening or very early in the morning. This means that you will not have to include clutter, debris or garbage in your image - you should be able to capture actual clean shots of the entire scene.
  • Capture It As It Happens - While it is a great thing that you can picture certain buildings without a million people in front of it, or trying to shove while taking a picture, it does not mean that your pictures should have the feeling of desertion. Giving the fact that you woke up early enough, you might be able to capture some rather interesting shots of people going to work in the morning. For example, if the city has a metro station, you could wait for the morning rush-hour and picture how they're all trying to get to work, with their busy looks and general stressed attitude. It is all part of the urban landscape, and it's the best time to capture it for that matter. The only thing you should be careful about is not to get in everyone's way.

Enhance Perspectives

In terms or urban landscape it is always important to help your viewer understand what he is looking at. For example, buildings with dome or of impressive dimensions should be shot with a little bit of landscape so those looking at your image can figure out that it was either very big, or incredibly round. On the other hand, with square buildings, you can simply try a different framing, like a 45-degree angle.

Create a small photo-story out of your urban landscape cruise - for example, if you are photographing a church, you can make a merge out of two images one of which shows a little bit of the interior (if it is interesting enough, of course). You can merge them in Photoshop later and the results are uncanny - it will help everybody understand how something looks on the inside and on the outside providing a complete experience. It is valid for most buildings where you can actually sneak in and take a couple of relevant pictures.

Also, with special buildings, make sure you focus on its architecture more than usual - meaning that if they come with a special exterior, then go for it - consider an angle that will enhance the view, and soon enough you will develop a flare for these kinds of situations.

Construction Sites - OK!

It is not mandatory to go only for beautiful, finished buildings. Yes, they are part of the city, but so are construction sites and renovation sites - consider photographing them as well, to give your project a more realistic feeling. Don't go for every construction sight you can find - if it's a large city you're bound to find quite a lot of them. For example, if they are rebuilding the City Council Building or something along those lines - why not take pictures of it in its current state.

Sometimes All You Have To Do Is Ask

There are a number of places that will not allow you to take pictures of them and will ask for your photographer's license or something similar. If you want to keep the photos in your camera, and not have your entire flashcard erased, sometimes, all you have to do is ask. If all you want are just some landscape photos you can ask the guardian or whomever is in charge if they will allow it for you to take a couple of shots - if they say no, don't bother going over their heads, you have no right after all. In addition, if you cannot take your time with the shot, it will not prove to be of such great quality.

Another thing in the "sometimes all you have to do is ask" category is in regards to finding the appropriate view for your shots. If in order to take an amazing shot you have to be on the first level of a certain building, discuss with the people there and ask them if they will allow it. In some cases, you might get lucky and while they will follow you around, you will at least get a chance at that shot.

Re-Think Your Angles

Even if you are a beginner in terms of urban landscapes, you must be familiarized with certain angles - you might have seen them in all those Travel Guides. Why not try something different? If time allows it, you can go for that odd shot from time to time - after all, you have nothing to lose. If it does not come out right, you will always have the original shot with the typical angle. The point is, don't be afraid to experiment, since the results might be staggering at times.

These tips might help you build a stronger city guide for wherever you are in a new town and you have some time for a little urban landscaping. However, if you want to be thoroughly prepared, to a little homework first:

  1. In your hometown, wake up early one sunny morning and follow the tips mentioned above
  2. Try to find the extra in the ordinary - make it something interesting - you should know your town good enough to find those truly interesting things about it, can you share those in your photographs?