Cities provide us with some of the broadest range of images you could possibly hope for. However, that sheer variety of genres can sometimes lead to a severe case of photographer’s block.
If you are like me, sometimes I struggle to think of what to shoot, mainly because I find it hard to settle on one idea. In recent years to get good city photos, I have set more defined goals for a shoot. That has allowed me to concentrate on one specific goal and improve my city photography. Today I want to share with you 10 ideas for amazing city photos.
Architecture, The City’s Building Blocks
Of course, architecture is going to be right at the top. However, rather than aimlessly wandering the streets of your local city shooting pretty buildings, you need to define your aims a little closer.
Juxtaposition is an excellent theme in shooting city architecture. Most cities will have locations where you can contrast the old and the new.
Details, both on modern and older buildings, is also a great theme to focus on. The ornate doorway of a Victorian building or the sweeping glass and steel curves of an ultra-modern skyscraper.
You can get some amazing city images by shooting architecture, but be sure to set yourself a theme and stick to it.
Street, The Life Of The City
The people make city and street photography is such an appealing genre to shoot. Like architecture, the street can be many things, so it’s best to try and focus on one thing per shoot. That might be shooting with a long lens and looking for amusing, candid images. It could be sticking on your wide lens and plucking the courage to get up close and personal.
The one constant in street photography is an understanding of your location. You will find shooting streets much easier in your home city than one you are visiting for the first time, leading to much better city shots.
Blue Hour In The City
Cities come alive as the sun goes down. This is especially so in the winter months when the sunset combines with the evening rush hour. Blue hour is the best time to shoot the city. It's that time after sunset, once the city lights are on, but there still remains a beautiful inky blueness to the sky.
Look for well-lit buildings or monuments and set them up well in advance. You must work fast as the best parts of the blue hour can be a fleeting moments. Traffic and people add extra life to the beautifully lit buildings. Using a slow shutter speed will add some fantastic light trails to your city photo.
The blue morning hour is a great time to shoot the city as it’s rarely seen, deserted. Summer mornings, just before sunrise, are great for that “28 Days Later” feel. The empty streets with a few lights on give your city photo a really mysterious feel.
Going Up In The City
Many cities have locations for shooting elevated shots. From viewing platforms in modern skyscrapers to spires of churches and cathedrals, getting high is an excellent way to shoot exciting city photos.
Like many other shots, timing and light is essential. Plan your elevated city photos well. There’s no point in getting to a viewing platform in the middle of the day to find it’s positioned straight into the sun.
Many paid locations will often close before the golden hours in summer, so another option is to look for rooftop bars. For the price of a pint, you can get some amazing dusk and evening shots from your elevated position.
If you have a sub 250g drone, you can fly that in your city. Check with local regulations and adhere to the rules, and you can get some amazing city photos.
Glimpses Of The City
A couple of years ago, I wrote about a project I did in my birth city. It was called Glimpses of London, and the concept was to shoot the city’s many iconic locations without them being the primary focus or subject of the shot. The shot needed to be uniquely London yet avoid any cliched view.
This type of project is challenging but can be extremely rewarding and is an excellent way to focus on your city shots.
The City Commute
So many cities are defined by their transport. Tokyo and its Shinkansen trains, London’s red buses, and New York’s yellow cabs. Shooting transport can be an excellent way to define a city. Try using a slow shutter speed to add motion blur and dynamism to your transport shots.
Shooting in the golden hour is a great time to capture the hustle and bustle of a city’s transport system. Think beyond the obvious. London has red buses but also black taxis and river buses. Look at newer forms of transport, from scooters to electric cars. These can make an interesting juxtaposition against older buildings.
Cities Noir – The Black And White City
There will be days when your local city is just crying out for the black-and-white treatment. Perhaps the light is contrasty, or the location is more suited. To shoot great city photos in monochrome, it helps to be in the right mindset before pressing the shutter. Try to visualize the image without color. Does the light suit? Is there texture and form to concentrate on? If the answer is yes, then you could be on the way to a fantastic black-and-white city photo.
Reflections Of The City
Reflections can make for a very different look to your city photos. You could create a juxtaposition of an old building reflected in a new one. Perhaps the reflection of a red bus as it passes.
In the blue morning hour, the world can be very still. Ideal for reflections of iconic locations in rivers or lakes. Even in poor weather, you can shoot the city light reflected in rain puddles or car windows.
Modern cities are full of glass, steel, and water, so next time you are out taking city photos, take a look for some enigmatic reflections.
Cities are endlessly photogenic places, but as we said at the top, it can be hard to concentrate on one particular thing. By picking one central theme, perhaps from the list we have provided, you will find yourself taking better and better city photos