Urban landscape photography is a documentation of where we live. Where street photography often includes human subjects (not always), urban landscape photography has no such prerequisite. You’ll often hear it referred to simply as urban photography which can be a little confusing as it sounds a bit ambiguous. If I were to create a hierarchy it would probably start with urban photography and then have the subsets of street photography and urban landscape photography side by side (think family tree where urban landscape and street photography are siblings). Have I confused you enough yet? Simply put, urban landscape photography tends to document the where while street photography’s emphasis is on the who.
Whether you’re a landscape, portrait, wedding, or street photographer, shooting urban landscapes can improve your photography. Urban landscape photographers have the difficult task of taking normal scenes, scenes people see day after day, and capturing them in a way that makes them look interesting.
Here are some tips to help you capture more interesting urban landscape images:
Unlike traditional landscape photography, urban landscapes often look great up close and personal. Don’t worry about trying to get as much of the scene in your frame as possible like you would when shooting landscapes. Try to move a little closer and only include things that add to the composition of the photograph. If something gets cut off, like the van above, viewers minds will fill in the blanks.
Having contrast between colors in the frame will add interest and grab viewers attention. If your preferred photography flavor is black and white you can capture contrast between light and dark.
You should approach urban landscape photography the same way you would any other type of photography… The idea isn’t to simply point and shoot at every car, house, alley, or building you come across. What about the scene you are about to photograph speaks to you. For instance, aside from the pleasing colors in the photograph above, what caught my attention was the bike (reminds me of a scene from Italy) and the large shadow of the tree. Though there is only a small portion of the tree at the top of the frame the shadow it casts makes it seem as if the tree is a huge presence here.
Just like landscape photography, the light you shoot in will have a huge impact on the quality of image. With that being said, urban landscape photography can be shot in the harshest of light depending on what you fill your frame with. In fact, in the middle of the afternoon when most photographers grab lunch or a coffee, you’ll likely find me ducking in and out of side streets capturing street or urban landscape photography to take advantage of the “harsh” light.
One of the best things about urban landscape photography is its ability to help you improve other types of photography as I mentioned above. You can take your time and compose an urban landscape over and over again, eventually you’ll figure out what looks best and train your mind to spot great backdrops for things like street, wedding, and portrait photography.
The image above was taken in Charleston while I waited for my wife to finish up in one of the boutiques. I first spotted the contrast between the tree, shadow, and white wall and then decided to wait for someone to walk by to add the human element. If I were a wedding or portrait photographer in Charleston I would use this wall for all sorts of shots.