Urban Photography | Your Guide To Mastering Street Photography

Many photographers travels hours or even days to get to a unique location but it’s not always necessary if you live near just about any city. Urban photography is an art form of its own and offers some incredible images if you know where to go. The main key to urban/street photography is showing the city in a way nobody has seen before. Urban photography shows the city and its residents and their interactions. It tells a story. It is raw. I’ve jumped head first into urban photography simply because it’s a great way for me to enhance my photography skills without having to go on some expensive trip. So here are a few things I’ve come across that will help you master your Urban Photography skills.

If you want to master urban photography, start with finding new angles.  Oslo, Norway. Canon 5D Mark IV.

If you want to master urban photography, start with finding new angles.

Oslo, Norway. Canon 5D Mark IV.

Types of Urban Photography

Landscape

Personally, urban landscape is my favorite kind of urban photography. I enjoy taking big sweeping shots of the city to include skylines, roads and urban sprawl. Here your goal is to really show the city in more of a complete form.

Example of a Urban Landscape Photography  Denver, CO  Sony a6500

Example of a Urban Landscape Photography

Denver, CO

Sony a6500

Tips for Urban Landscape Photography

Shoot Iconic Landmarks

If you’re looking to get into Urban Landscape Photography I’d suggest starting with the iconic parts of the city. I’ve found that if you get a lot of urban sprawl but no real recognizable buildings, you will just be capturing a generic city. People love urban landscape photography because it’s nostalgic. When I post one of these photos to my Instagram, people will always comment about how they miss Denver if they moved away or how happy they are to call Denver home. Recognizable buildings help the viewer place themselves in that city, even if they aren’t from there.

Photograph at sunset, sunrise and at night

I’ve rarely captured a shot of the city during the day and thought, “man, that’s a great shot.” This is obviously a general rule of photography but the light during the day is harsh and pretty unforgiving. You will really need to think outside the box if you’re going to capture some really good day photos. Personally I really like to photograph during sunrise for one reason… nobody else really does it. If you think about it, most people are capturing sunsets on their iPhones and posting to their Instagram stories, but rarely do you see sunrises. A large portion of the city never really sees a sunrise and the shots you take are more likely to be unique and original. I am also a huge fan of shooting the city at night because I think light trails are awesome. Light trails help give a static city motion in a photo.

Denver-5.jpg

Find Unique Angles

Anytime I drive around Denver I am always looking for new angles to capture the city from. I am constantly scanning hills, tall buildings or vantage points that will show a city in a new form. Most cities have around 5-10 places that everyone seems to take the same shots from. The photo above was taken just off Spear and I-25 in Denver and will almost always have 1-2 photographers on any given morning or evening. When you go to the same place as everyone else, it’s hard to get something unique and original, so you really need to explore if you want to get something new. My best advice is to look for hills and get a good zoom lens. A good zoom lens will help you get a good shot of the city if the hill you’re on happens to be far away from your subject.

Urban Decay Photography

Urban Decay Photography is always a great way to show a city’s history. Old, run down building offer a gritty perspective of a city and often helps tell a story. These locations are also a great place for just about any photoshoot because it helps add interesting context to your image.

Outside Phoenix Arizona. This old airplane offered a great medium for photographs  Sony A7RIII

Outside Phoenix Arizona. This old airplane offered a great medium for photographs

Sony A7RIII

Tips for Urban Decay Photography

Don’t Get Arrested

This may seem obvious but you’d be amazed at how many people get in trouble for trespassing on abandoned properties. When in doubt, try and find the owner, it’s easier than you think. A lot of times you can get permission from the landlord to go on and get shots. It just takes a little work.

Go To The Right Cities

Wanna get some good urban decay photography? Go to Detroit. You can spend all day running around Denver looking for some good urban decay but the real estate market is so hot you will be hard pressed to find anything that’s been abandoned for too long. Cities that have experienced a lot of hardship will often have the best urban decay. I can tell you from personal experience that Puerto Rico is an absolute gold mine when it comes to urban decay photography. So go out on a weekend trip and explore something new.

Shot just outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico  Sony A7RIII

Shot just outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Sony A7RIII

Look for Interesting Items

I know this sounds like an obvious but I think it’s really what helps make a good urban decay photograph. Old houses falling apart occur all the time. But finding something like a plane, old car, train, gas station or iconic landmark that’s decaying seems to make for a really good medium when it comes to urban decay photography. I really like to look for the things that tell a story to the past.

Urban Street Photography

Urban Street Photography tends to focus more on everyday life within the city. This includes things like graffiti, urban life, buildings from unique angles etc. I personally think a good urban photographer tells the story of the city through a simple image. Urban Street Photography can be very powerful if done correctly.

Trips for Urban Street Photography

Look For Interesting People

One of the best parts of urban street photography are the people who live and work in the city. Each person has a vastly different story to tell and capturing their story in a photograph can be very powerful and moving. There is no criteria of what makes an interesting person and I think if done correctly you can capture just about anyone and get a compelling story. I find that the homeless, street performers and city workers tend to make great subjects but the options are literally endless.

Look for angles

One of the best pieces of advise I got for taking good photography is to get low and this certainly applies to urban street photography. By getting low you are capturing an angle that most people don’t see. I mean, unless you’re wasted and find yourself face first in the gutter you probably wont get a chance to look at the city at ground level. By offering a unique angle you will create a compelling photograph. Another tip I like is to have urban lines go towards a corner of the photograph, this helps guide the viewer through the photograph.

Look for reflections

I love shooting reflections, especially in the city. The city offers some really good angles and it can be very symmetrical. I feel like reflections really enhance the photography by again offering a really cool take on what people see everyday. When shooting reflections make sure you get low and look for buildings or structures with lots of unique lines.

I really like this photograph because it offers a unique look to Denver’s Union Station. If you want a cool way to photograph the city look for any place that has some unique reflections.

I really like this photograph because it offers a unique look to Denver’s Union Station. If you want a cool way to photograph the city look for any place that has some unique reflections.