Top Tips for Capturing Emotive Urban Scenes


Street photography can be both exciting and rewarding, with almost limitless opportunities to catch memorable moments from the urban landscape. The main difference between urban scenes and portraiture, fashion or the natural landscape is that you really need to look for extraordinary moments in an often very ordinary setting – over which you have very little (if any) control.

Learning the art of capturing striking urban images relies on a mix of technical prowess and also a great deal of luck – aka being in the right place at the right time with your camera at the ready. You can learn quite a few handy tips from taking a free online photography class, which might lead you to want to study a more in-depth masterclass. However, as a starting point, the following few techniques will afford you a handy insight.

Don’t Let the Weather Deter You

If you’re really serious about capturing the most memorable images in an urban setting, be prepared to get out of your comfort zone, and invest in some waterproof gear. Rain, snow, sleet, and fog can provide the most dramatic and evocative conditions in which to shoot a usually mundane urban scene. The mood is completely different in this kind of weather and you’ll be able to utilize all kinds of light, shadows, and reflections. It’s important, however, that you’re able to keep your camera equipment as safe and dry as possible as well.

Take an Alternative View

In street scenes more than any other genre it really does pay to loosen up and think laterally in terms of the angles, height, and perspective that you use to shoot. By playing with everyday features, such as buildings, trees, and pedestrians, and shooting from up high, down low, or even from overhead, you’ll be able to capture an entirely different view of urban life. It’s this difference and uniqueness that makes a particular image both striking and memorable.

Experiment with Filters

Don’t be intimidated by the number of filters available and the scope of what they do. You can learn a lot about the use of filters from just practicing or from a free online photography class, so it’s well worthwhile investing in a few basic ones and seeing where they take you. A few simple polarizers and neutral density filters can open up all kinds of creative possibilities and add another aspect to your toolkit of skills.

See the World in Black and White

It is, of course, a matter of opinion in terms of your creative preference, but there’s something very powerful about reducing a hyper-real urban scene with its full range of colours, to a palette of black and white. Try to get into the habit of imagining a scene in black and white and you may find that certain aspects lend themselves to a particular composition or point of focus. If you’re hesitant about using the medium of black and white, consider checking out a free online photography class and getting an idea of what you can achieve. The huge benefit of digital photography is that you can convert an image to black and white in the post-production stage.
Whether it’s from books, short courses, or a free online photography class, it’s not hard to find information and tips about how to expand your skills. But, as always, getting out into the field, training yourself to look at things in a different way, and simply diving in and getting started will be the best education of all.

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