Urban Landscape Photography Tips

Urban Landscape Photography Tips


149523624 B484A11717Last week I was reading an issue of Digital Photographer Magazine (issue 50) which had a good feature on Urban Landscapes.

In it they interviewed an urban landscape photographer (Mark Bury) and asked him for his top 5 tips on his craft. I thought I’d share them here.

The headings are his the descriptions are my paraphrases of his tips combined with some of my own thoughts.:

1. Early Bird Catches the Worm – First thing in the morning is one of Mark’s favorite times to shoot for a number of reasons including that the light is diffused and the ‘sky acts like a giant filter’. I’ve done a little urban photography too and also find that early morning shots can be great for a two other reasons too:

  • Clean Streets – Most street cleaning happens over night and the early morning often finds urban scenes with less litter to clutter your shots.
  • People Free Shots – Shots around dawn have less likelihood of being cluttered by people. It’s amazing who lonely a city can look if you’re able to get a people free shot.
  • Different Activity – Of course you might want people in some of your shots – It’s amazing how an urban area can change depending upon who is around. While at 9 am you’ll get a peak hour feel to your shots and on the weekend at midday you might get a crowd of shoppers – in the wee hours of the morning there’s a whole different group of people wandering the streets can give your shots a whole new focal point.

2. Prospective Perspectives – Mark suggests that the shape of the buildings that you’re shooting should alter the way you frame your images. Buildings with domes should include background to help viewers appreciate it’s form and square buildings look best when shot at a 45-60 degree angle in Mark’s books.

3. Up and Coming – Don’t just photograph the finished product when it comes to buildings but also focus upon construction areas and what is being built and/or renovated.

4. Permission to Shoot – Some places don’t allow public photography and you might need to get a license and/or other form of permission to photograph them. Mark likens it to getting a model release when photographing people. Getting permission can mean the difference between owning copyright or not of the images you take in some instances. This will of course vary from place to place.

5. Angle Attack – Find new angles to photographing well known buildings. Find areas of them that are hidden from the average photographer and look for interesting patterns, shapes, textures, reflections and angles that highlight the details of the building that might have previously been missed by others.

Read our previous tutorial on photographing urban landscapes and submit your urban landscape shots to the Photos by Will.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Maria September 9, 2013 08:56 am

    Wonderful tips. I especially appreciate the "Prospective Perspectives" - finding areas or sides of a building/urban landscape that aren't immediately in the focal point of passersby.

  • Irol Trasmonte July 25, 2013 07:00 am

    I think the best thing to master here is the Angle Attack. With dynamic angles, and by properly using foregrounds and backgrounds, urban photography will be a thing of beauty. Its also nice to add that a good wide angle lens combined with this tips are surefire weapons to come with great photos.

  • Algie Moncrief April 13, 2012 03:22 am

    To limit the term "landscape" to mean "an open area with a wide view" is rather restrictive. An alternate definition (as found in the World English Dictionary via dictionary.com) is "the distinctive features of a given area of intellectual activity, regarded as an integrated whole". This is a much broader interpretation of the term. Images of " doorways and windows, buildings and streets" certainly qualify as "landscape" according to this perspective.

  • Peter Haken April 6, 2012 08:55 am

    Great tips thanks for sharing, time do day and light make all the difference.

  • Wedding Photographer Braintree March 2, 2012 11:25 pm

    Some great photo's and really helpful tips. i like the idea of shooting early morining for all the reasons stated. Great advice thank you.

  • yudie August 28, 2011 02:27 pm

    how now photografer by Nikon d3100 out door

  • Jerry Oberholzer August 27, 2011 06:50 pm

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  • wide angle macro photography July 9, 2011 12:25 am

    another great photography tips post! urban photography can be real tricky, will be using your tips. P.s- this post is from 2007 but still very helpful. thanks

  • mike evans November 25, 2010 11:27 pm

    very good insight on urban landscape photography i fully intend on using most of the tips keep up the good work.thank you.

  • Ramelli November 18, 2010 06:47 pm

    Hello Darren,

    Doing early shoots is definitly the best, but I have a hard time getting up in the morning, another trick I found was doing bridge shoots in Paris, even in the evening just before sun set, you get compose your photo in a way that there is still no one on the photo, see some examples at :


  • charles binns landscape photography June 8, 2010 05:57 pm

    I prefer to take images late in the afternoon because there are more people around - cities are full of life and so I like to include that in my images. Early morning is good but some times you end up with photos of a ghost town.

  • shinoy April 20, 2010 10:28 pm

    Nice article

    By shinoy @ http://sites.google.com/site/shinoysathyan/

  • J. R. March 27, 2010 06:40 am

    Here's my ultimate tip for shooting in an empty city. Go on certain holidays. Thanksgiving is great. Everyone is at home. Easter, Christmas (lights!). Research first. Make sure there are no parades if you plan a morning shoot. Go in the afternoon after everyone has gone. More trash in the streets but it's worth it. Stay for the twilight shots.

  • john john alabata November 8, 2009 09:25 pm

    Since last year, DPS has been very helpful in improving my photography skills , and when i shall be in NYC this Dec, these tips will surely help me a lot. Thanks.

  • Alex - Photographer from Suffolk November 6, 2009 07:06 pm

    I love urban landscapes.

    I used to shoot a whole load of them when I was a student, but now I live in the countryside, don't get a chance much anymore. :(

    Something to also consider is this: If there is a plaza surrounded by tall buildings, crack on a wideangle, lie on your back in the plaza and shoot up at the sky.

    It makes for amazing abstract form construction.

  • jucacu May 1, 2009 03:20 am

    I just wonder why it is called "urban landscape" when a landscape to me means an open area with a wide view, while most of this pictures are of doorways and windows, buildings and streets that are more of urban details than landscape appreciation. Does anyone see my point?

  • Lucian April 10, 2009 03:34 pm

    Great tips, thank you !

    Important the notice on copyright as well. Without trying to kick-off a new thread - there is no 'emphasis' on the model release. As far as i know (have read quite a few articles, but not a 'definitive answer' ), anything you photograph has your copyright, so you do not need the model release. Of course, you can get your arse kicked if you take a photo of somebody bigger than you who simply doesn't ant his photo to be taken, or your ex may be pissed of for seeing her nude photo in a magazine. The release form should describe what you can do with the photographs, not if you have the copyright. am I right :) ?

    Is there a 'definitive guide' ??

  • Sunnyman December 17, 2008 07:15 pm

    Nair: This can be done in various ways. For instance, you can set that in the camera. Then the built-in camera software will try to enhance the borders between different color areas, thereby creating a sense of greater sharpness.

    Basically the same thing, but with much more control, can also be done using software like Photoshop (I use that all the time in my post-processing).

    If overdone, it can indeed create a "grainy" feeling, the trick is to do it right.

    Kai, @ www.a1phototips.com

  • Nic January 2, 2008 12:00 am

    In responce to Nair, you would have to explain what you mean by 'increasing sharpness' i presue you mean in the processing stage using software to increase sharpness?? and if so in photoshop for example increasing sharpness will increase the noise (grains) in the photograph.

  • nair sreedhar January 1, 2008 01:23 pm

    I have a question. When we increase the sharpness, will it not lead to grains in the photo?

  • Nic November 26, 2007 12:28 pm

    Just to help out anyone stumbling on this site about the copyright of buildings.....
    'In general, buildings erected after December 1, 1990 do not pose a big problem either. There is a “photographer’s exception” to a building’s copyright owner’s rights that permits the photography of buildings. This gives a wide leeway to the definition of “building”; everything from gazebos to office towers are included. As long as the building is in a public place, or visible — and photographable — from a public place, there is no infringement of the building’s copyright owner’s rights. This rule includes private as well as public buildings.'

    that may give an insight into what you can and cannot shoot or rather what you wont get in trouble for =)

  • chris October 18, 2007 05:34 am

    some real good points!
    i particularly keen on strange view points
    try to get right underneath or above or snap parts not seen by others

    its kind of like when u can see the strings of a pupet but on a building

  • Todd April 30, 2007 03:24 am

    I would like to investigate Devyn's assertion that you can always photograph from a sidewalk or public thoroughfare. As a journalist or as an artist or hobbyist maybe, but don't ever let the owners of the Chrysler Building catch you using the image of their building for advertising!!

  • Clifford Newton March 17, 2007 11:31 pm

    Great post. I am back into photography after many years absence. The weather conditions on those early morning shoots also change the atmoshere so much . A sequence of same place shots in different time slots in varying weather situations can give such a completely different feel to the image. Its great to be back!

  • Antonio Iacovelli February 13, 2007 09:55 am

    Some good points here. Early morning and late after noon to dusk are prime shutter-releasing time.

  • Diane February 10, 2007 04:33 am

    What a great article...I loved the tip on early morning photography. Being a novice photographer, I had never thought of that time of the morning for taking pictures.

  • Devyn February 8, 2007 07:19 am

    As an urban photographer hobbyist, I can appreciate getting up early to capture the city before when it is filled with people.
    It has become more and more difficult to obtain permission to photograph on most private property, however, I will offer that standing on the sidewalk (public right of way) is license to take as many images as you want. I have on many occasions had security request that I not take images of their buildings, and I gently remind them that I am on public right of way, and they have no authority to prevent me. I love a good challenge, and being challenged has pushed me to work harder at being creative (and thankful for a decent zoom).

  • orangeacid February 6, 2007 11:08 pm

    Great article :-) I'm trying to get competent at urban photography recently at this is solid advice.

    You put 'who' rather than 'how' in the second bullet btw

  • Brian Auer February 6, 2007 12:10 pm

    I love this stuff. I've always been fascinated by the urban jungle. I rescently moved near New York City, and I can't get enough of it. I'll be taking these tips with me on my next trip into The City.

  • Donncha O Caoimh February 6, 2007 09:51 am

    Oh good post! I was tempted to buy that issue, but bought Black and White Photography instead. Nice to have those heading to fall back on as urban photography is a favourite of mine.

    Point 3 is important to me, as it's recording a moment in time in the growth of a city or town. Cork City where I live has been changed completely, but I've recorded that process in several places. Here's one I took a few months ago. This street is now almost finished, there are wide pavements, beautiful tarmac and clean lines. Quite a change from this:

    Go photograph the ordinary, you'll love it when it's extra ordinary :)