On City Photography

City Photography

On City Photography

“For me, cities are enormous bodies
of people’s desires.”

Daidō Moriyama

City photography is not much of a genre or style as some people might think. City photography is a beautiful continent in which many photography genres can flourish. Cities have been drawing photographers’ attention almost from its birth, and is still doing it strongly at least once in every photographer’s lives. Some photographers fall so deeply in love with cities that they simply can’t go back to shooting anything else that isn’t something linked to the cities.

Today we are going to talk about some of the most popular genres of photography that can easily and strongly generate results in this urban environment.

Architecture Photography

Let’s start with the static elements that can be captured by our cameras, architecture photography. Cities are filled with architectural wonders, and we as photographers can use them as our main subjects, or as backgrounds as well. From huge exteriors to beautifully lit interiors, architecture photography is a very interesting genre for exploring.

Regular architecture can be easily photographed without falling into “the same image as everybody else”, but when photographing iconic buildings, uniqueness can be a really difficult challenge to achieve. If you want to capture this iconic architecture like nobody else, you could browse images in the internet first, and then try a new or less explored approach in order to capture a very unique angle or point of view from them.

Depending on what things photographers are more drawn to capture, there will exist the necessity of using a very special type of lens, the tilt-shift lenses. With this sort of lenses capturing the whole structure of an architecture becomes very satisfying because they aid by correcting perspective inside the camera.

Street Photography

There is a never-ending debate on what street photography is and what it isn’t. Beyond that pointless struggle, we can say that street photography is a genre that have intrigued many photographers, but just a few end up holding on to it. The main reason is because it is really hard to capture worthy images, but when keepers are there, it is extremely satisfying.

Street photography is almost a synonym of city photography, and there are plenty of stuff anyone can do when wandering the streets in pursuit of the perfect moment to be captured. This practice is often performed alone, or with a few other photography peers, and it is more related to the act of walking and feeling rather than shooting and shooting. That is why so many passionate street photographers still enjoy shooting with film, because it is not about the quantity, but they quality that results for being alert to those commonly unseen moments.

Street photography is plagued with creative challenges like juxtaposition and portraits of strangers, and since it is a self-imposed competition with ourselves, there is nothing wrong with failure.


As days go by, landscapes are getting more and more transformed due to the human presence. Some cities have some really interestingly looking skylines, especially the ones with nearby shores. With long exposure techniques borrowed from the traditional landscape photography, cities can be captured in the most fascinating ways, to the point of even turning themselves into fine art.

But not only skylines can offer great looking images, also the buildings themselves when photographed closely can offer some really interesting shots. And more recently, drone photography has enabled photographers to capture things from a point of view that was only accessible to aerial photography a couple of years ago.

Here you can find some inspiration thanks to the work of the fine art photographer Andreas Gursky.


There is always something going on in the cities, and photojournalists know it. A lot of the breaking news photography we see every day have been shot inside the cities, and it makes sense because society make the news, and societies are prone to develop larger in cities rather than in calmed villages.

If you are interested in photojournalism, you’ll be making a lot of your commissions in cities, so deeply knowing them will make you a better photographer for sure.

Urbex Photography

Let’s talk a little bit about urbex photography. Even though its name comes from “urban exploration”, this has turned into a completely genre itself. Typically, urbex photography invites photographers to explore decaying and abandoned cities in a sort of post-apocalyptic adventure. There is a fascinating thing about capturing the abandoned structures left behind by the human being.

If you are passionate about adventures and exploration, urbex photography could be a really great adventure for you as a city photographer.

Lifestyle and Fashion

Fashion has been around since quite a long time in photography, and today it has mixed a sort of reportage vibe in it. Lifestyle fashion photography has become very popular, especially for social media purposes, and it is all about great urban locations.

The thing with lifestyle photography is that it has to depict fashion in a reachable way, that’s why it has become so popular in Instagram for example, even when models and photographers are not quite aware of this genre.

Documentary photography

Documentary photography has been tightly linked to photojournalism and street photography, but it is a genre itself. But, they do share a lot of stuff in common, especially their relation for capturing reality in the most notorious ways. Documentary photography requires a topic, and a slow-paced way of doing stuff. It is more oriented towards telling a story rather than illustrating something that happened right in this moment.

Cities are filled with characters and they all have a story to tell. Many photographers from Mary Ellen Mark to more recently Boogie found their stories inside the cities. If you are willing to become a successful documentary photographer, you will find in the necessity of reading and documenting yourself a lot in order to tell the story you want to tell in a unique way.

There will always be room for one more in the cities, and they have a generous amount of subjects to portray. And cities are so generous, that they don’t demand heavy investments when it comes to gear, from DSLRs and compact mirrorless cameras to even smartphones, cities can be easily photographed almost with anything. Besides architecture photography, which could require some really special lenses like the ones mentioned above, everything in the street can easily be captured with a regular lens from 24mm to 50mm.

We really hope you have enjoyed this brief take on city photography, and remember, it is all about practice and practice, so go out there and have some fun.

Federico Alegría

Article licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. 2010 – 2018.

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2 Thoughts to “On City Photography”

  1. Gerry

    I take a lot of street pics, I love sceneries and beautiful buildings, I take pics of sunsets, raibows, I stop where I am and take the pics.

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