Urban photography is mainly distinguished in urban landscape and architectural photography. In architectural photography, the main subject of the photo, which occupies a large part of the composition, is often a single element: in general, a building, a building, a structure such as a monument or a complex of buildings.
Urban landscape photography, on the other hand, has as its purpose the representation of an entire area and not a single element. This type of landscape photography aims at giving a sense of the atmosphere of the city rather than depicting a single element.
It could be in a far off place or simply downtown close to where you live, urban landscape photography could be practiced in any city. Personally I believe the best city landscape shots are taken at night, using long exposure techniques so as to capture the city lights.
One thing is certain, photographing urban landscapes does not mean photographing monuments. That could be considered travel photography and even in that case I’d stay away from cliché, unoriginal pictures of the most famous monument or statue right in the middle of the frame.
Chicago Illinois – USA
First of all, you want to enjoy the process, which means going for a walk downtown without heavy gear. You could even use your smartphone. The key with urban landscape photography is not using the most sophisticated camera and lenses, but it lies in the ability to see differently, to compose the shot in order to create the metropolitan atmosphere and the magic of city lights.
The last half hour of the day, the so-called Golden hour, is ideal for photographs of urban landscapes. The sunset renders the atmosphere warm, the shadows lengthen, and the colors change from red to orange to shades of violet, all within half an hour.
However, if you want to create special effects such as light trails that can be created using the traffic and city lights, you will have to wait beyond sunset.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to create very marked contrasts and clearly marked darks, shadows and lights, the best time is midday, the central hours of the day.
Photographing urban landscapes has various advantages, mostly variety. A city can be comprised of Victorian-style houses, art deco buildings, ultra-modern skyscrapers, sometimes a river can cross the city, therefore bridges, but also railways and even 1950s buildings such as old theaters. All these, if taken from the right point of observation, with the right perspective and the most effective framing, constitute wonderful subjects for your urban landscape photographs.
Brooklyn bridge – NYC USA
The settings can vary however, closed diaphragms are usually preferred for good sharpness and greater depth of field. Unlike natural landscapes, mainly photographed with wide-angle lenses, longer focal lengths should be used for urban landscapes.
With the right settings, the city lights at night can take on a fascinating aspect. Backgrounds become less invasive (often dark). The lampposts and the interiors of the illuminated buildings give you lines and shapes of various colors to be exploited to your advantage. Cars look like traces of colorful lights: red, green, yellow. If you are willing to take the time to go out at night with your camera, with the necessary precautions, you will notice that there are interesting subjects everywhere.
As we said before, the experience needs to enjoyable and for that reason it’s best to travel lightly, however if you want to take night shots you will need a slower shutter speed, which can lead to blurry photos, and so in order to be able to hold the camera steady, a tripod is the best solution as well as shooting remotely.
A common problem with night photos is that dark areas of an image tend to show more digital noise than lighter areas. Resist the temptation to raise the ISO at night if you can. If you have a tripod, it is usually not necessary to set the ISO very high.
Urban landscapes, especially when you are in a big city full of lights and particular and tall buildings, are among the most fascinating photographs to make.
The most important element in a successful urban landscape is finding the right position from which to take the photograph.
Don’t forget to leave your comment here and share your experience with urban landscape photography!