Our cities are works of art unto themselves. Whether you're taking pictures in an old dilapidated factory or trying to get a new angle on a popular destination, great urban photography always makes an impression. In fact, some photographers love it so much that they make it the primary focus of their career. Here's what you need to know create urban images that conjure up emotions of isolation, awe, fear, and vitality. Get ready. It's not nearly as difficult as you might think.
Just Like In All Photography, Your Number One Enemy Is Clutter
The city is big. The city is busy. If you're trying to take an interesting picture of a popular building in the middle of the day, you've got another thing coming. There are simply too many people around, and they'll all get in the way of the shot. That's why it's much better to shoot urban landscapes just after the sun rises. Most people are still in bed, and the lighting is fantastic.
Unless you live in the city and know all the destinations, it's important to have a plan before you go out shooting. You don't want find yourself wandering around for a few hours trying to setup your camera equipment. Scout the locations you want to shoot, make a map, and get there before the sun rises. You'll be surprised at how quickly the streets fill up with people commuting to their jobs. Get to the spot early on so your images are clutter free.
Don't Be Afraid To Try Black And White
Nothing brings out the drama more than black and white. It can make dilapidated buildings look much older than they are, and it really comes in handy when the sun isn't out. Whenever I go out on an urban photography excursion, I always remember to run a few of my photos through a black and white filter in Photoshop when I get home. Just try it out, and you'll be surprised with what you see.
Black and white really emphasizes the isolation and loneliness of the city. I've found that my best black and white urban photos usually include one person in a spooky setting. Granted, it's hard to predict when these things will happen, but it's a good idea to keep black and white in the back of your head when you're out and about in the city.
Go To Different Locations At Different Times Of Day
You'll be amazed at how the angle of the sun can have such a big impact on a particular scene. If there's one place you like, keep visiting again and again until you find the perfect time of the day to get an image. And don't forget about the night and twilight hours. This is a particularly interesting time because the lights are on, and you can still see the outsides of the buildings.
While you're at these locations, try to capture the human element in the scene. Urban photography isn't so much about the buildings themselves. It's about the way we live in them. A picture of a broken urinal with graffiti all over it might seem a little crass, but it says a lot about our daily lives. I encourage you to look for and seize these opportunities whenever they occur.
Get To Abandoned Locations (But Make Sure You Have Permission)
Cities are full of abandoned factories and old properties, and they make for some very dramatic subjects. While these are tempting to visit, they always carry a risk with them. For your own safety, don't go waltzing into an abandoned factory or school. You might just get greeted by a few unfriendly authorities. Generally speaking, if you can find out who is responsible for the building, you can usually get permission to take pictures of it and explore.
And that brings up a final point. The city can be dangerous. Unless you feel fairly safe about a particular location, don't go it alone. Remember, you're carrying a lot of expensive camera equipment on you, and it's like a big a red target painted on your back. I'd hate to see you taking unnecessary risks just for the sake of art.
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