This article is about photographing cities. I find this to be one of the most exciting genres of photography. This is probably because I find cities very interesting in general and they offer a lot of motifs. Here I have collected nine tips to help you when photographing cities.
Visit here to attend the top photography workshops in 2023
Choosing the right equipment
Most of the time you take a lot of equipment with you on your tours. This is sometimes more, sometimes less of a problem. In cities, however, one should be able to act flexibly and be light on the move. City trips often involve long walks, but that’s rarely fun with lots of kilos on your back. Neither should you take a large photo backpack with you on public transport during rush hour. So it’s important to only take what you really need. With a little preparation you will know what you want to photograph and what equipment you need for it. I will come back to the subject of preparation below. In principle, you can use all sorts of lenses and cameras in the city, although smaller and lighter equipment is an advantage. Typically, wide-angle lenses are used in city photography. When I’m out and about in cities, I often have an ultra wide angle and a standard zoom with me. I am personally very satisfied with this combination and can also carry it in my small bag*. I have rarely missed a tele.
The right preparation
I will also write a separate article on the subject of preparation. My research often begins with Google or Instagram. On Instagram, I save the posts that I find interesting in a collection. Once I’ve found my motives, it’s about finding the right point of view. GoogleMaps/GoogleEarth are useful tools for this. If I have possible positions, I look where the sun is at what time and decide on a final position. I have found that this gives the best results and is a very efficient method. However, I also just walk through the streets without preparation and capture impressions. In this way, too, very exciting recordings can be made. In general, I like to get background knowledge about the city and individual attractions, which sometimes helps when taking photos, and I really like knowing where I am and what the background of a certain thing is.
Okay, it doesn’t always have to be the roofs of the tallest buildings. But observing and photographing cities from above is one of the most beautiful things there is. There are many ways you can see cities from above. In principle, anything that is high and has a viewing platform is suitable. Ideally, this should not have glass panes, otherwise it would be difficult not to record the reflections. If you want to take pictures that nobody has taken before, you can try to get onto large office buildings or private balconies. But not without permission. While it’s not always easy to get such permits, once you’re at the top, you get a view few have. By the way, the best time to visit viewing platforms is during sunset. Firstly you have the most beautiful light and secondly you can see the city once during the day and once during the night.
Be there before the tourists
One of the biggest challenges is tourists. They are often not alone and most of them do not necessarily enhance the pictures. It is therefore advisable to have been to a few spots before the big rush (in principle it is also possible in the evening, but there is less activity in the morning). You often have the sights to yourself and can concentrate completely on the motif and the implementation. This guarantees relaxed work and almost deserted images.
Search for new perspectives
Many motifs have already been photographed millions of times. The majority use the normal standard views. It is better if you first go around the subject and hold the camera up. Ground level perspective is something many shy away from as it is out of their comfort zone, so views like this are rare too. Even shots from great distances can be a little different. It can also be exciting if you photograph the actual motif from above.
Also photograph the non-tourist spots
It doesn’t always have to be the typical motif. The rather unknown motifs can be very exciting. Finding them requires a little more preparation or prudence when exploring the city. Local photographers may also be able to help you find such spots.
Also take pictures of the town’s residents
Sometimes the boundaries between street photography and city photography are blurred. When traveling in cities, not only the buildings and the different views of the skyline are interesting, but also the inhabitants of the city and the hustle and bustle on the streets. Of course, just taking pictures of people and situations on the street is not for everyone. However, if you manage to overcome yourself, you get very interesting shots of city life in addition to the typical shots of buildings and the like. Admittedly, photographing people and street situations is not my thing, but the further away you are from home, the more exciting such pictures can become.
Think about the details too
Many only see the big things and the whole city. Not many have an eye for the quite interesting details on the edge. But even these details can be very interesting. These can be typical of the respective city or completely atypical. These details can also be easily incorporated into pictures.
What to do in bad weather
Of course, taking photos in dry weather is much more pleasant than in the rain. However, rain does not mean that you cannot take photos. Some cities only show their true colors in rainy weather and have their charm in such weather (London, Hamburg). Then it is a pleasure to photograph public life in the rain. If you don’t like being out and about during rain showers, you can also retreat to buildings or covered worlds. Attractive motifs can be museums or train stations. Subway stations in particular are an interesting motif. Exciting images of moving trains can be captured with a long exposure time and a deep perspective. The architecture of many train stations is also interesting. However, one should always be careful whether photography is allowed and whether the use of a tripod is allowed. It is advisable to prepare for rainy days and to know what covered and worthwhile motives are, so that you only have to take the plan out of your pocket and quickly adapt to the weather conditions.
Photographing cities is extremely exciting and can be very varied. If you prepare a bit and get fully involved with the place, fantastic and sometimes unique shots can be taken. I hope that I was able to help you with this article. If you have interesting cityscapes or stories of urban photography adventures, I would appreciate it if you share them in the comments.