Close this search box.

Urban Photography Guidelines: How to Shoot in Cities

Here at, we participate in affiliate programs and may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Learn more
Urban photography is an adventure for every amateur or professional photographer. Find more Tips and Tricks in this city photography article.
Urban Photography

One of the most popular subgenres of photography among amateurs is urban photography. You need a camera, some time, and your hometown as a playground for your imagination. Also, the best thing about it is that it is a type of photography for any season and any moment of the day.

However, urban photography is easily confused with street photography, which is a bit different. Urban photography includes street photography, while the latter has several inclinations toward fashion but doesn’t include everything that means urban life.

Urban Photography

What Is Urban Photography? Tips for Beginners

Urban photography is focused on everything that means the city together with the people and places in it. Any corner of the roof, street sign, or newspaper seller can be the subject of urban photography. We often see those pictures taken with drones over Barcelona or during the golden hour in Chicago. All these pictures are nice, but the city is more than that. Urban photography is when you capture life on the street, working people, and moments that give life, color, and identity to the city. So, in this article, we will point out some tips about what to do and when.

Urban photography City

Look for Shapes when Shooting in Cities

As you already know, any city out there is built on shapes and colors. Every corner can hide a style of architecture that can create storytelling photos. Architectural photography also uses details like the symmetry of buildings or the unique look of a balcony. Of course, you won’t be able to know what architectural marvels are out there if you don’t wander around any time you can. So, take your camera and start looking for shapes that inspire you.

Shapes are the main focus of this kind of photography, especially when the pictures are clean and the subject is very well highlighted. Also, seek to make photos as simple as possible and not show details that can distract. In order to capture the greatness of some buildings, a wide lens is useful. Famous wide lenses are the Sigma 14–24mm f/2.8 DG HSM for Canon or the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16–85mm f/3.5–5.6G ED for Nikon. However, with the adapter, any lens fits any device.

Urban Photography Building

Stay in the Light

The city is full of light, and you should use that to your advantage. Do not avoid all the colors and bright lights, and don’t be scared to make the best of them. At night, in particular, the lights are what change the image of a city. Always use the various lights you see to create contrasting pictures and mysterious portraits.

Car headlights will always be the most popular for long exposure in urban areas. A well-lit building at night can be the best background, while a restaurant with a big sign in front of it can become the main subject. The camera will focus on that light, and the photo is going to be sharper.

Urban Photography Lights

Playing with Shadows in Urban Photography

Next, keep in mind that often the shadow of a subject is more impressive than the subject itself. Don’t be afraid to let that ISO down and blur some details around the subject. In this way, you let small pieces of light outline your picture and let the rest be darker. Just imagine how cool it would seem and the vibe it’d give to the whole picture. The shadows of people or buildings can appear in the most unusual situations. If you’re looking for this effect, just wander around sometime before sunset and see where the shadows of the surroundings are placed. You’ll be amazed by the magic created around you!

Urban Photography Shadow

People Reflect the City

The city can be a jungle or an object of art; it all depends on the viewer and the people around him or her. People are the ones who give life to the city through their only presence. Every person has a story behind him or her that, with a little attention and creativity, can be told in a single frame. From old people who cross the street to children who play in the park, they all have a dynamic that gives life to the city.

For capturing people and emotions, a prime lens is often welcome. This is best used for moments when you want to separate a certain object from the rest of its surroundings or simply want to have that F/1.8 for more light and speed.

Urban photography Family

Keep Your Eyes Open When Shooting Urban Style

Urban photography is considered a great start for beginner photographers, considering all we have to do is get out of the house. Referring to the same building, three different photographers can capture it in three different ways. It’s all about vision, angles, and your own style. It’s not necessary to live in cities with skyscrapers or be surrounded by historic buildings in order to create amazing pictures filled with emotions. Just keep in mind to have your device ready for any kind of situation and don’t be afraid to shoot “basic” things (they may surprise you).

Lastly, from time to time, look up through your camera and see what it captures. Maybe it “sees” things a little differently than you do; who knows?

Urban Photography

Urban Photography Conclusion

So, are you ready to go out and capture the city and all the moments that go unnoticed by the common eye? The best part of urban photography is that you don’t need expensive equipment or high-performance lenses. Walking through the city streets and having your mind clear and your eyes open is enough to begin with. Then, as you master city photography, you should figure out what you are most passionate about and start practicing that. Whether you like to shoot old buildings or need some human presence in your pictures, everything starts with you wandering around.

Last but not least, if you are passionate about the street art of photography and want to immortalize it much more organically, I have the article for you! You can read the article about the Best Analogue Film Cameras for Beginners in 2023, where you will find some unique and friendly devices for beginners.



Bogdan Zainea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

On Key

Related Posts