Urban living defines much of our daily lives. Most of us never leave the cityscapes in which we live, which is, for some, a great loss. Think of all the wonderful sights, not to mention photo opportunities, you’re missing in the great outdoors. But while the natural world has its merits, we believe that the city can provide just as stimulating an environment, with some equally breathtaking images waiting to be captured on the streets or from the rooftops. This article should give you some expert ideas on how to use the city to your advantage, and how to seek out the best shots.
Things to Consider
- What’s your theme? There is far more opportunity for storytelling in the city than out in the woods. Everywhere around you people are rushing about living their lives. Take note of all the sounds and voices you hear. Be vigilant for those standout moments that can happen only in cities. How will your pictures resonate with the viewer? What aspect of human experience do you want them to reflect?
- Architecture is everywhere. You won’t find art deco in the hills. There’s no gothic revival in the valley. Don’t let these unique opportunities slip through your fingers. (The upside about photographing buildings is that they aren’t liable to run away if startled!) Look at the contrasting patterns, colors, and textures. Simple everyday things like reflections in glass and water, funneling of light, urban shadows are all powerful subjects for great city photography. Don’t underestimate them.
- Pack everything you need. The tripod is your friend and a variety of lenses can help unburden your shots. Also, the good thing about working in the city is that, if your camera runs out of battery and you forgot to pack a spare, you can always pop into the nearest Starbucks to recharge (providing you packed your charger).
Big City, Great Photos
- The wide-angle lens should be your go-to lens if dealing with limited space or an extremely large subject. For example, if looking down over the city from on top of a large building, anything less than a wide-angle will be too restricting, as though trying to squeeze too much into the frame. The appropriate lens can be incredibly freeing. Remember, cities are huge entities, and if this is what you want to capture, don’t try to contain them.
- Landscape photographs without a tripod are tricky business. If, for example, you were taking a shot of a bridge and the cityscape from above the cloud-line, then shutter speed is the key factor to success. Inversing your ISO while selecting the shutter speed (i.e. 300 ISO = 1/300 of a second at f/16) will ensure clearer, more distinct photos that truly capture the subject in its entirety.
- Perspective can make a world of difference to otherwise uninteresting photos. Get up close to your subject, bringing things down to their perspective. Match that perspective or simulate a different one by using interesting angles to put a whole new spin on the familiar.