5 essential photography tips for city shots

Publisher and photographer Sophie Goldsworthy explains what you should focus on next time you're photographing a city

3 mins

1. Shoot cities at night

Cities are often beautifully lit at night. Try taking some long exposures as it gets dark, using a tripod to keep your camera absolutely still, and letting the streetlights or light trails from moving vehicles pick out parts of the image that might be lost in the daylight (such as this 30-second exposure of the city of Vlatera in Puglia, Italy).

2. Use the light to create depth

In the harsh midday sun, the most beautiful of  buildings can look flat and uninteresting.

Try shooting in the early morning or evening, when side-lighting will wrap its way around a building, throwing shadow patterns across the structure, picking out textures and shapes, and enhancing reflections.

In this Oxford street, the light picks out the architectural detail, and creates appealing pools of light and shade.

3. Play with city space

Be creative with the different structures and spaces you find in a city. Look for natural pathways that might lead the viewer’s eye: roads or arches, flights of steps or bridges. Or aim your camera upwards: use the perspective distortion to convey an impression of height, or to create strong abstract shapes, as in this image taken on a grey day in London.

4. Find great scenes

Hunt down appealing settings – perhaps an interesting background or somewhere with an interesting juxtaposition, such as this cow, calmly defying the parking restrictions in Madurai, India. Then wait it out, camera at the ready. If you fire off a trial shot first, you can adjust your settings so that when the right moment comes you're ready to go.

5. Look for details

You don’t have to go for grand scenes when photographing a city. Try a series of images based on a single architectural feature – doorknobs, neon signs, interesting graffiti etc. Pick out small details, rich in texture and shape.

Sophie Goldsworthy is a publisher and photographer based in Oxford. She is author of The Rough Guide to Digital Photography (Rough Guides, 2011). www.sophiegoldsworthy.com

These top five tips have been taken from the current issue of Take Better Travel Photos. Order your copy online or pick up a copy in WH Smiths now.

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