- Investigate Ahead of Time
- Capture a Wide View
- Focus in on the Details
- Choose the Right Camera and Lens
- Use a Polarizer
- Protect Your Gear
- Post-Processing Tricks
- Rewards of Urban Landscape Photography
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Urban landscapes are fascinating photographic subjects. Also known as cityscape photography, urban landscape photography is similar to other outdoor genres but also has some specific considerations to be aware of.
Compared to natural landscapes, urban landscapes have advantages for some photographers. If you live in the city or suburbs, you don’t have far to travel. So if you have an afternoon off in your schedule, you could either walk out your door or take a short drive to be right in the middle of great city photography subjects.
Even though we may be right there, ready to go, we may still want to get some good tips on how to photograph urban landscapes.
Table of Contents
Investigate Ahead of Time
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To create great urban landscape photography, it helps to start with a great subject. One way to find workable subjects is to simply go out and start looking. Or you may already have an idea of a subject that could transfer into an amazing image.
Investigating online or in print is a very good way to see what might be an interesting subject where you live. Word of mouth is another valid investigative technique. Ask your friends, co-workers, neighbors, even your kids.
Sometimes a great image is just waiting to be captured by the right artist. That right artist is you, or could be if you just knew where to go to capture that image.
That’s for your own hometown. The same approach is usable when visiting other urban landscapes. A primary source of information for other areas can be found online. Google Images, Google Maps, and Google Earth are excellent sources.
You can even see pictures of what other people have taken of subjects you’re interested in, giving you ideas of what may or may not work photographically.
Capture a Wide View
As with natural landscapes, the urban landscape is often seen as a very big picture. Wide-angle lenses are a natural choice to gather the entire view. Panoramic images are another option that is very easy to do with existing equipment. Careful hand holding technique is important, image stabilization features can help out a lot as well.
Another camera feature that can aid for capturing the wide view of an urban landscape is turning on the viewfinder grid lines. This will help you keep lines straight so that the buildings don’t look like they’re falling over.
Some cameras have an electronic version of a spirit level, which can also be used to keep lines straight. A travel tripod and a hot shoe mounted spirit level are also good alternatives for capturing wide views of the urban landscape.
Focus in on the Details
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As in natural scenic areas, some of the best urban landscape photography images are found in a narrower view of the scenery. Especially in regards to architecture, the smaller details in city photography make interesting images.
As an example, an iconic image of San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge. A wide view of that structure makes an excellent image. Focusing in on a smaller aspect of that same structure, perhaps from under the span will still show that the image is in San Francisco, but highlight an out of the ordinary view.
Choose the Right Camera and Lens
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When engaging in urban photography, I prefer to use more compact equipment. Several reasons. Lugging around a big heavy camera kit all over the city can become tiring and uncomfortable.
Safety is another valid reason for choosing smaller equipment. It’s a fact of life that carrying and using larger photographic equipment in today’s urban environment can call unwanted attention to photographers from both the authorities and from undesirable elements. I won’t editorialize about that right now, but I have plenty to say on the subject.
Use a Polarizer
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The large expanses of glass and concrete in the buildings and roads of urban landscapes are just crying out for us to use a polarizer. A polarizer will tame the reflections and also deepen the color of blue sky showing in our images. The contrast and color enhancement of using a polarizer adds interest to our urban landscapes.
Protect Your Gear
The concrete jungle is just as dangerous to the good health of our camera and lens as is a tropical jungle or a snowy mountainside. You can protect your equipment with a good camera bag. One of the best for urban landscape photography is the Hazard 4® Freelance™ Sling Pack.
Very well padded inside, this bag has a protective shell, patented strap and buckle technology, and many compartments and pockets for keeping your gear safe. The sling pack design lets users quickly rotate it from back to chest for fast gear access without taking off the bag.
Reinforced stitching adds strength and durability to the bag’s construction. Other features making this bag a good companion for your urban landscape photography are military modular webbing (MOLLE) in the straps and on the sides of the bag, YKK® zippers that are smooth, rugged, and resistant to the elements, and soft tricot inside to protect your gear from damage due to bouncing around.
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Since the urban landscape is full of challenges for proper exposure and handling contrast and dynamic range, two methods are well suited for cityscape photography. Shooting in RAW and using HDR.
Using either one of these techniques, or both together, will let you capture more detail that can be processed with your favorite image processing program.
Rewards of Urban Landscape Photography
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Urban landscape photography is one of the more rewarding types of photography for creating images for your own and other’s enjoyment. Try out some of these tips and let us see your images for our own inspiration.