9 Urban Photography Tips for Beginners
While there are many different types of photography, urban photography is perhaps one of the broadest and most diverse forms. Urban photography, sometimes known as stress photography, can vary as much as the city you are shooting in—but there are still a few tips that every urban photographer should keep in mind as they work on honing this craft.
Just getting started with urban photography? Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just pointing and shooting on a busy street—it is a much more detailed craft.
The good news is, while urban photography is completely different than many other forms of photography, it is a type of photography you can capture and practice shooting all year long—no matter what the weather may be like. This makes urban photography an easy type of photography to keep working and practicing at.
Urban Photography for Beginners
Ready to get started shooting urban photos, these tips will help you. However, before you really get started, it is important to understand what urban photography is.
What is Urban Photography?
Most experienced photographers would classify it as a type of landscape photography—but urban sprawls can be much more varied and complex as settings created by Mother Nature. The goal of urban photography is to capture the soul and energy of a city, just as you would with a portrait as well as the beauty of its surroundings, just like you would with landscape photography.
9 Urban Photography Tips
One of the best things about urban photography is that you always have lighting to work with. Every photographer knows that lighting is key to any type of photography, and you will never run out of new and interesting types of lighting when shooting in an urban setting.
What is most important is what you do with that lighting. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Choose the Right Camera
The list of cameras that can work with urban photography would be very, very long. The good news is, there are a lot of different types of cameras that will work with these types of photos. I recommend a quality DSLR that you can use for a variety of different types of photographs.
When it comes to choosing your camera for street photography, keep the following things in mind:
- The camera should be compact.
- You should be able to be discreet with your camera while taking pictures.
- The camera should be light enough to carry with you all day.
- You should have good focusing features and aperture range for better detail sharpness.
These are the types of features you are going to want when you are actually on the street taking photos.
2. Angles are Everything
The right angle can take a stale picture of a large building and turn it into something visually interesting and beautiful. Think outside the box when it comes to your angles.
A great place to start for beginners is low-angle shots. While this can be unflattering with portraits, it is actually great for urban areas. It can make buildings and silhouettes look more commanding and awe-inspiring.
3. Look for Leading Lines
Leading lines are a great way to improve the composition of your photo, and they can help draw the viewer’s attention to a specific part of your image. Urban areas tend to have a lot of opportunities for leading lines.
Look to subway tracks, sidewalks, railings and more throughout the city to find your leading lines. Make sure to play around with your physical position to really capture the way these lines lead into the subject of your photo. It will help your viewer focus in on a subject in your image and prevent your urban photos from looking too busy.
4. Capture Movement
One thing that makes cities such an interesting place to shoot is that there is always something going on. Whether it is speeding traffic, busy commuters walking to work, or even a lone squirrel trying to dig through some city garbage bins—cities are active.
If you are looking for a way to capture the heart of a city and to make sure your photos don’t just look like architectural images—then you want to capture movement. Play with your ISO and aperture and look at different ways you can capture the movement of a city as it thrives around you.
5. Focus on the Weather
Sometimes, taking multiple urban photos in the same area can start to feel repetitive. The buildings in the city itself may not change often—but the weather is always changing. Consider capturing the weather and the unique contrast between mother nature and a man-made urban setting.
Whether there is a dark storm rolling in, crisp snow falling on the city sidewalks or even a gust of wind adding movement to the scene—a focus on weather is a great way to keep urban shots interesting.
6. Look for Symmetry
One of the great things about shooting urban photography is that since cities are all man-made and man-designed, they tend to have a lot of symmetry. Symmetry can be a great way to help focus in on a specific piece of architecture or a person in a shot—and prevent your urban photos from looking too chaotic or overwhelming to the viewer.
You may be surprised by how much symmetry you can find in an urban setting. A row of lamp posts, two doors on a duplex or a pair of symmetrical stairs can all create a sense of balance and visual interest in any photo that you take.
7. Get on Instagram and Make Friends
If you really want to take your photography skills to the next level, then you need to invest your time and money into some formal education. Online forums, meetings with peers and good old-fashioned practice can all go a long way in helping you with your skills—but you should still consider paying for some formal classes.
There are community college courses anyone can take, classes available at local schools and community centers and even formal online courses that you can take. A formal class will really help you and give you a sense of accountability when it comes to working on and perfecting your skills.
8. Urban Portrait Guide
Urban portraits are some of my favorite types of photography as they allow you to capture people in an environment unlike you would be able to in any other setting. You can combine the mood and personality of a great portrait with the setting and backdrop of a beautiful urban landscape.
A great place to start when trying out urban portraits is to try and capture the stillness of a person among the movement of a busy city. Make sure to pay close attention to light in order to help the subject of your photo pop and stand out and consider bringing your own light source.
While cities are filled with light, it may not be the right light to help your subject stand out. To really make the most of this type of photo consider shooting at dusk and always shoot free hand (not with a tripod).
9. Top Urban Photography Cities
Looking for some of the best places to practice your urban photography skills and to capture truly unique urban images? Here are some of the top urban photography cities around the world.
L.A. is a great city for urban photography because of all of the people. Los Angeles isn’t just a densely populated city, but it is one that is filled with people who are vying to make it in the entertainment industry—they can make great subjects when shooting urban photos and capturing the way people interact with the city around them.
New York City
There is no city in the world quite like NYC. If you are looking for a city that has a little bit of everything…character, history, modern architecture and lush green spaces, then The Big Apple is for you. You can take an entire week trip to New York City just to shoot photos and you would never run out of new areas to explore.
If you are interested in modern urban photography, and photos that capture the awe and amazement of modern architecture—then Dubai is a great city to shoot in. Everything in Dubai is clean, new and over-the-top, making for a very visually interesting subject.
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Another great thing about Dubai is that this city loves having the world’s biggest and greatest attractions—whether it is the world’s tallest building, the world’s biggest indoor ski resort or the world’s biggest mall—Dubai knows how to make things grand; and this can lead to equally grand photos.
There are so many things to be learned about the art of photography. No matter how long you have been taking photos, everyone can use some tips now and then to remind them of what they know and teach them new things that they don’t—