As a picture taker, when you hear the word scene your brain will in all probability invoke pictures of lavish valleys, approaching mountains, and glorious, clearing vistas. All things considered, as the common world can be a position of stunning magnificence. In any case, done well, an alternate sort of scene photography, the urban scene, can deliver shots that are similarly as convincing as anything Mother Nature can toss your direction.
Urban photography is an interdisciplinary field of visual practice worried about the summoning and portrayal of urban spaces and the lives of those living, working and traveling through such spaces. It takes many structures including building, scene, representation, road, question, execution, narrative, archeological, plan and compelling artwork photography; all bearing witness to the rich decent variety of works on constituting a progressing discussion about the idea of contemporary and memorable perceptions of city spaces.
Shooting urban scenes additionally has a lot of handy preferences as well. Each sort of photography is about the light, and that is one thing urban communities never come up short on. You can shoot in the fake sparkle of the city long after you’d have been compelled to pack up your unit and advance home from a day in the farmland.
The vitality of a noteworthy city loans pictures an imperativeness that can’t be discovered anyplace else. There’s so much development and life in the urban condition, and the best city shots catch that humming dynamic quality. As a field of crossing rehearses, it is firmly identified with urban research and reflects a number of the topics investigated by sociologists, social scholars, craftsmen, anthropologists, geographers, antiquarians and authors worried about the account of the city.
Couple that with the way that, generally, urban communities are significantly more available for the lion’s share of us, and shooting urban scenes is the perfect action for picture takers amid those long winter months.
1. Research First
You wouldn’t embark on a traditional landscape photography outing by jumping in the car, heading for the hills and hoping for the best. Likewise, the success of an urban landscape shoot depends largely on how well you plan.
For example, when I wanted to get a shot from high up, overlooking my hometown of London, I didn’t foresee any problems in finding a suitable viewpoint. A few minutes Googling directed me to a lesser-known church tower on the banks of the Thames with unrestricted views downriver, saving me hours of fruitless searching.
The vast majority are either restricted entry or in the case of The Shard (seen at the top of this article), cursed with a viewing gallery shrouded with ultra-reflective windows. After a little digging, I learned that while London isn’t lacking in tall buildings offering amazing views, the number you can actually gain access to, that are also well suited for photography, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Travel to Different City
If you’re visiting a city for the first time, it’s a good idea to spend a little longer familiarizing yourself with the place before you go. Drawing up a shot list of the locations you want to photograph is a good idea as well.
But all that being said, don’t make yourself a slave to it. Few things are more exciting or rewarding in photography than allowing yourself the freedom to meander through a new landscape, get a little lost, and allow whatever happens to happen.
One word of warning: depending on your location, be sure you know where you can and cannot shoot. Many places these days are understandably sensitive about strangers waving cameras around. If in doubt, ask.
2. See The Light Come
The quality, color, and angle of the light can make or break any shot, and this is especially true for urban landscape photography. A subject that looks dull and uninspiring at one time of day can transform into a truly spellbinding image just with the passing of a few hours.
As with any landscape photography, dragging yourself out of bed before the sun puts in an appearance can reward you with the kind of light show that almost makes up for all that missed sleep. The golden hour, that brief a period right after sunrise and before sunset, can present you with views of a city that you may never have seen before.
Plus, you can carry on shooting long after the sun’s gone down. Cities come alive at night. They never get truly dark, and some of the most interesting shots can be taken with the only illumination coming from artificial light.
3. Detail is Everything
There are countless small and fascinating details in cities. Always be on the lookout for the tiny intricacies, the patterns, and shapes that otherwise go unnoticed.
They won’t all be right in front of you. Keep your eyes moving and your head on a swivel, some of the most rewarding shots are going to be found way above your head or close to the ground.
Whether it’s an advertising billboard, some rugged brickwork, or a set of windows, get in close, fill the frame, and isolate your subject.
This is another time when the quality of the light can make all the difference to the success of a shot. A strong, high contrast light can give interesting areas of highlights and shadow, turning an everyday scene into a beautiful abstract. If you have time, it’s worth revisiting potential subjects at different points throughout the day.
4. Capturing People
One area where urban landscapes differ greatly from the traditional is in the number of people you’re likely to encounter. It can be frustrating when you arrive at your dream location, only to find it swarming with tourists, as well as the locals going about their daily business, all seemingly determined to clutter up your shot. Along with the great light, it’s another good reason to be up and about in the early hours of the day, while everyone else is still tucked up in bed.
But people make great subjects for candid portraits as you wander the streets. Big cities attract some real characters, and capturing them in their home environment can lead to some winning images.
One thing to remember is to always ask your subject’s permission before you shoot. The vast majority will be more than happy to oblige so long as you’re polite. Take this from a man who once got a severe and humiliating telling off from a Buddhist monk in Thailand for taking his picture without having the courtesy of asking first.
Modern cities seem to be more glass than anything else. This is great news for you as a photographer. You can use that beautiful reflective quality in your compositions to create some wonderful, quirky effects.
The major landmarks in every city have been photographed a bazillion times. So, you have to work a little harder and think a little more creatively to come away with shots that are distinctly your own. Shooting a famous and easily recognizable building reflected in the windows of another gives an interesting change of context, especially as it often contrasts the old and the new.
Many big cities are built along the banks of hefty rivers as well, which gives you another opportunity to utilize reflections in your shots. Clear skies offer the best results, preferably at the start or end of the day to give a little color. A dull, overcast day will be reflected in the water, giving it an ugly, muddy quality.
Urban landscapes are very well suited to the simplicity of black and white photography. Taking away the distractions of the vast range of different colors on show in any city and focussing on just the tones and textures, gives a completely new dimension to your shot.
The increased contrast of a monochrome image benefits architecture especially, enhancing the shape of buildings and accentuating their details. Again, the light is all-important. A low sun highlights surfaces and gives areas of rich shadow for added depth.
Try and avoid using the black and white function on your DSLR and shoot RAW if you can. Then use your post-production software for the conversion. It allows you much more control over the final image.
Shooting urban landscapes can be a richly rewarding experience and gives you the opportunity to try out several different disciplines at once.
You have the chance to flex your portraiture and architectural photography muscles, as well as experimenting with close-up abstracts and shooting in black and white. Plus, you get to practice all that while staying firmly in civilization and never more than a few feet from a decent cup of coffee!
Of course, all that added convenience comes at a price. Shooting in cities has its inherent risks and you always need to keep your wits about you. Watch where you stand to shoot and make sure you’re not in any danger from fast-moving traffic or trespassing on anyone’s property.
Also, keep a tight grip on your equipment, especially if you’re shooting at night. Cities have more than their fair share of bad people who’d not think twice about running off with your expensive kit. If you’re nervous, it’s the perfect opportunity to buddy up with another photographer and explore the location together.