Are you looking for inspiration for taking urban landscape photos? Now you will get lots of great tips and ideas!
If you’re a professional or a newbie photographer or even if you’re taking photos with your smartphone camera as a cool distraction, you can benefit a lot from shooting urban landscapes and areas because this photography style is very popular.
Also, understanding more about this photo style increases your artistic abilities in general because it’s a style that values details very much. “Cityscape” is another way of naming urban landscape photos, and you will learn exactly about that here.
Urban landscapes photos can be either wide or minimalist. If you find it somewhat challenging, now you will see some tricks to create amazing photo shots in any city you’re in. If you’re in a town, don’t worry! The tips ahead are good for town landscape photography too!
Just to make it clear: it doesn’t matter if you’re using your smartphone’s camera, a simple camera or a professional camera. Either way, give this photo style a try, you won’t regret it!
Let’s walk through some amazing urban landscape photography tips.
1. Be in high angle points of view
This first tip can increase your cityscape photos a lot! All you need to do is find a high angle point of view to stand and take awesome shots.
Those are some examples of places you can go to take high angle photos:
- Buildings (stay at least on the second floor)
- Skyscrapers (don’t miss the opportunity to go to the higher floors to take photos!)
- Tourist places with high angles
- Historic churches
When you find yourself a high place to stand, use the first tip again to take photos of wide areas, now from the high angle point of view. You can compare the results of the normal angle point of view and the high angle point of view later, and decide what you like the most!
2. Take photos during nighttime
Urban places at night can be great photography scenes as well. Also, your smartphone’s camera, a simple camera or a professional camera can do nighttime urban photography if you choose photo scenes with a good amount of light.
This technique applies both for big cities and small towns because you can always find a place with good light. Even if it’s a street with many restaurants and public places (in this case, go far enough to avoid focusing on people more than on the urban space).
So, look for urban areas that are more illuminated because light will be the key element to take good photos after the sunset.
Some examples of urban places with good light for photos are streets with a good number of cars, avenues, places with aligned light poles, areas with a good number of buildings and bridges that are illuminated at night.
3. Light trails: a charming element of urban nighttime
Another way of using the nighttime in urban landscape photography is to take photos of light trails. They are a nice effect that streets and avenues with lots of cars create if you use the technique of long exposure in your camera.
Long exposure is created by sharply capturing still elements in a photo scene to highlight the moving elements. In the case of urban photography: highlight the moving cars and their light trails.
If you adjust the long exposure of your camera (smartphone’s or not) and take photos of streets or avenues during nighttime, the result will be amazing photo shots showing light trails that look pretty futuristic. That goes better for bigger cities, but it can be cool in small towns as well, you just need to make sure that you pick up a street with enough car movement.
So, do a simple search on YouTube or on Google for “how to use long exposure light trail” and complete the search with the name of your smartphone camera or pro camera, just like this: “how to use long exposure on iphone 11 light trail” (for smartphone cameras), “how to use long exposure on canon m50 light trail” (for cameras).
For this technique you may need a tripod to get better results. Also, make sure to take your time and take many shots, then you choose the best ones!
4. Take photos of wide areas
Another thing you can do is to take photos of wide urban areas. So, you simply walk around the city you’re in and take pictures of whole scenes, without cutting off elements of the photo scene by approaching elements or by focusing on one or a few specific objects. The wider the photo, the better.
Also, wide area photos may or may not include people. Just don’t make it a need, if there are people in the photo scene, great! If not, keep taking photos anyways.
Here are some examples of wide urban areas:
- Wide areas including many buildings
- Wide areas including many houses
- Public places (such as parks and squares)
To take photos of wide areas, it’s highly recommended that you use your camera in landscape mode, when you position it horizontally. If you’re using your smartphone’s camera, landscape mode is the opposite of portrait mode, and portrait mode is how you position your smartphone to take a selfie.
5. Focus on the foreground perspective
This technique is very simple to understand and put into practice. The foreground perspective is, in short, your point of view of the photo scene. So, by relying on the foreground perspective you take photos that are focused in the photo scene elements that are closer to you.
You can use your camera focus tool to completely defocus the background of the photo scene and focus more on the elements closer to you, every camera and smartphone camera have a focus tool.
For example, if you’re taking photos of the crowd walking on a square, you defocus the buildings behind the crowd. If you’re taking photos of city buildings, you defocus the ones farther away and focus on the ones closer to you. This type of photo varies from camera to camera depending on the capacities of the focus tool you’re using, but don’t hesitate to give it a try!
6. Focus on the background perspective
The background perspective is the exact opposite of the foreground perspective. Using this perspective as a photo technique can result in awesome photos with a more abstract look.
To take photos of the background perspective, you simply use your camera’s focus tool to focus on the farther away elements, such as far buildings, far urban elements (poles, bridges, benches, payphones if there’s any…), people stand far away, then you defocus the photo elements closer to you.
As for the foreground perspective, background perspective photos vary a lot from camera to camera because they depend on the focus tool capacities.
Just remember that if you’re standing in a high point of view, you may not have many elements close to you or far away from you. In that case, both for the foreground and background perspective, it would be cool to use your camera’s zoom tool to approach elements in the scene and focus on some of them.
7. Take photos of crowded urban spaces
Another interesting idea is to take photos of more crowded wide areas (they’re better taken during day time). To put this technique into practice, you need to look for an open urban space, such as a square or large streets close to buildings, where lots of people walk by. Then you take photos of the crowd without focusing on anybody’s face.
For this technique, it would be cool for you to stand on a high point of view, like on the third floor of a nearby building from where you can take photos from the crowded space.
Also, if there are buildings or nearby, make sure to include them in the photo scene, that will create an awesome perspective of the crowd as “part” of the city. The wider the photo scene, the better. So if you need to stand far away from the crowd to take your photos, don’t hesitate!
8. Early morning time in your favor
You can benefit a lot from the early morning hours to take amazing shots of urban landscapes. This time of the day is when people are going to work or to school, so it’s great for crowd photos. Also, you can use the sunset in your favor and take photos of wide city areas beautified by the sunlight, if you’re willing to walk a little earlier than usual.
For wide area photos or crowded area photos with the sunrise light, it would be better if you could stand in a high point of view. Also, it’s recommended to use a tripod for this technique as you can avoid shaky or blurry photos of the sunlight.
9. The blue hour can also be in your favor
If you have never heard of it, the blue hour is the time between the sunset and complete evening darkness. This particular hour actually lasts about 45 minutes. You can use it to improve your cityscape photos a lot because your shots will be unique.
That’s because during the blue hour you can shoot both artificial city lights and sunlight, and the results can be pretty amazing! So, give the blue hour a try, you won’t regret it!
When you’re taking photos during the blue hour remember to take many, many shots without worrying too much about quality, then you pick up the best ones later because the blue hour has a limited time to end and you’ll need to wait for the next day to take more photos.
10. Find cool street scenes from a wide perspective
Street photography puts “inside street scenes” on focus, and it’s not the same as urban landscape photography. But you can inspire yourself on street photography and take cool street scene photos from a wide perspective: you stand far away enough from people just so no faces are clearly visible.
For example, you can take photos of a public park where people are walking their dogs and kids are playing, but you stand far away enough and don’t let any person’s face be identifiable.
You can also take photos of a street where people are passing and others are riding bicycles, but stand far enough to include as many people as you can in the photo scene, and remember to never focus on one person alone.
The result will be artistic painting-like photos of urban spaces that you can proudly say you’re the author of!
11. When you travel to other cities, take photos!
Whenever you’re traveling on vacation or for a different reason, don’t miss the chance to take some cityscape photos of the city/town you’re visiting! New places are always great because they have lots of possibilities of photo scenes you can explore.
In another city/town, you see things differently from its residents, and for this reason you take photos of places in the city or town you’re visiting that aren’t seen artistically by those who pass by them every single day!
Also, traveling is a great opportunity to put your landscape photography into practice in spaces and areas you don’t know, in this case it’s a good idea to do some research on the Internet about the city you’re visiting to check what are the tourist spots and more populated places.
12. Pay attention to sunlight direction
If you’re taking photos during the day, this tip is very important: pay attention to sunlight direction. You can be either taking photos from the last floor of a building or be in the middle of a public park. Either way, you always need to pay attention to sunlight direction because it can completely mess up your photos, making them poor in detail and too dark.
In most cases, you’d better keep your back to the sun, which means you need to stand in the opposite direction of sunlight, in whichever time of the day. Then you can be sure your urban landscape photos will always be detail rich and have the right brightness.
13. Take photos from an abstract perspective
Abstraction can be a great asset for your urban landscape scenes, both for big cities and small towns. Abstract photos are taken when you point your camera to the sky in an area with many buildings, for example.
Also, when you take photos from a wide urban area but focus on one object that’s very close to the camera, such as a bench or a light pole.
Those are just some ideas, so be creative and look for abstract perspectives in urban areas! Just remember to keep the photo scene as wide as possible, including as many elements as you can.
14. Use a tripod
That’s not a must-do, but having a tripod increases photo quality a lot. You can take photo shots with your smartphone’s camera, a simple camera or a professional camera, one way or another: you can always benefit from a tripod.
Tripods for smartphones exist as well as for pro cameras. They help you take more steady photos, especially for urban landscape photography when spaces are too crowded and you get a lot of movement around your camera. Also, tripods avoid taking blurry or shaken photos.
So don’t hesitate to get yourself a tripod and you will surely improve your cityscape photo quality!
15. Remember to take many photos of the same scene
With whichever urban landscape photography technique you’re putting into practice, remember to take many photos of the same scene. Then you choose your favorite ones when you finish shooting. Professional photographers take many photos of the same scene to choose the best ones later, so when you do that you’re already taking photos like a pro.
Also, this can lead you to: a photo album! If you take, let’s say, 100 photos of five different places, you can narrow them down to around 30 of your favorites. Then you have your own urban landscape photography album that’s originally made by you, nobody else! Cool, right?!
16. Don’t worry if there are street animals in the photo scene
Sometimes when you’re taking photos in urban areas, there can be some street animals in the photo scene, such as pigeons or street dogs. If you get to this situation, don’t worry too much about those animals, just make sure to stay far away enough to avoid them becoming the focus of the photo.
Or, if you want to, you can also make them become the photo focus but in this case it’s better to include some urban elements in the photo scene, such as buildings or large street/square parts.
Also, you can choose to put them on the background perspective, defocus them, and focus on other elements closer to your camera. Just make sure you’re far away enough to create this specific effect.
17. Test black and white on raw photos
“Raw photos” means your original photos that you shot normally, with color. You won’t be shooting photos directly with the black and white effect, you will edit them later and see what they look like in black and white.
Also, remember this: you must never take photos directly on black and white. That’s because it’s pretty easy to put photos in black and white later, you can do that for free with websites very quickly. But coloring black and white photos will require learning this specific technique and you will need a powerful photo editing software, such as Photoshop.
To put your urban landscape photos in black and white, simply search on the Internet for “black and white photos online free”. Then you choose a website, upload your photos to it and the website will make them black and white for you, then you download them again!
Of course, if you have a favorite photo editing software, just look on the Internet for how to turn a photo to black and white with this specific software!
18. Before the sunrise: a great moment for urban landscape photography
Another thing you can do is take photos of public urban areas when there are no people around! That’s mostly before the sunrise, so you will need to wake up before most people do, and that’s before the sunrise.
This idea can sound crazy if you don’t like waking up early, but imagine the awesome photos you can take of beautiful urban places when there’s nobody to enter your photo scene!
Also, if you live in an apartment at least on the second floor of a building, you can wake up early and take photos of the city zone around you when it’s less crowded than ever.
Now you can make your own urban landscape photo albums!
Awesome, now you’re all set up to create albums and albums of urban landscape photography!
There’s an extra tip you can use: finish your photos by adding some color filter effects to them. That’s pretty easy to do, all you need is to search on the Internet for “free online photo filter”, choose a website and apply filters to your shots.
Color filters are those from social media like Instagram, and they can make your photos look a lot better by giving them an artistic look. So, try it out!
See our many other posts about many photography styles.
You can also share your thoughts in the comments below!