The Beautiful City: Urban Landscape Photography

Pristine natural areas aren’t the only places to get beautiful shots with interesting shapes, contrast, and texture. Cities can also be inspiring places for photographers to practice their craft. Urban landscape photography can make us look at our cities differently, delighting us with fresh perspectives of streets and buildings we see every day.

If you are interested in trying out urban landscape photography in a city near you, keep the following tips in mind to produce shots above and beyond the average tourist.

1. Get out early.

Early morning shots have a few benefits. For one, the lighting is fantastic and the sky acts as a filter, lending a softer quality to your images. The content will vary as well because the streets are cleaner and have fewer people when the city is still waking up. City shots without people can make the city look incredibly desolate, but getting a shot like this later in the day can be nearly impossible. Plus, the people who are out in the morning are different characters from those who hit the streets in the afternoon and evening, so you have a different crowd to inspire you if you start early.

2. Utilize mirrors.

Cities are full of reflective surfaces. Skyscrapers, shopping windows, and passing cars all present a challenge and an opportunity. Using mirrors to manipulate reflections can have fantastic effects on your image, though it can take quite a bit of experimentation to get the effect to the way that you want it. A polarizing filter can help reduce unwanted glare in your images.

3. Bring the right gear.

Two lenses – one wide angle and one zoom – are enough for most beginning and intermediate urban photographers. Zoom lenses capture intricate details in buildings, though too much zoom can flatten the image. Wide angle lenses are great for street scenes as they can catch the whole image with a larger depth of field. Don’t forget spare batteries, a case for the camera, a monopod or tripod, and filters as desired.

4. People draw focus, so you can use or lose them in your shot.

Cities are full of people, so it is no surprise that they tend to be included in urban photography. People naturally become a focal point in shots whether you like it or not, so if you would prefer not to have people in your shot then remember tip number one and shoot in the morning. Some of the best people shots are spontaneous, so be on the lookout for opportunities if you prefer to focus on people.

5. Play with angles.

Cities are full of geometric shapes, so there is plenty of fun to be had when playing with angles. Try framing buildings differently and play with different angles to find out which angle captures the effect that you want. For example, most square building look best when shoot from 45 to 60 degrees.

These are just a few tips to help the fledgling urban landscape photographer get started. Cities offer a unique opportunity to blend human life with landscapes, and nowhere do people have a greater impact on their landscapes than in cities.

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