Landscapes of the City: An Introduction for Photographers
Beautiful city landscapes grace the cover of glossy picture books, millions of postcards sold in tourist shops throughout town, and vivid, oversized posters that you place on your wall. Carefully planned-out, intricate landscapes are not just for nature and the countryside anymore; most cultures today find some sense of beauty in the bustling, concrete world of the city and in the diverse, busy people who live there. For this reason, grand, expansive skylines and intimate portraits of a street corner are capturing the hearts of city and country lovers alike. City landscape photographs are not difficult to create, and are sure to be appreciated by everyone who sees them.
Why spend your time in a detailed photographic study of a city? One major reason people do this is that of tourism. Capturing a cityscape on film glorifies the city in question (at least, in most cases!) and makes people remember it. It may inspire tourists to travel there for the first time, or may remind potential return visitors of the charm of the town they visited. This is the reason for all the books, postcards, posters, coffee mugs, and countless other images that signify a city. If you take a stroll around a tourist center of a town, it is hard NOT to notice all the city landscape photography around you.
The more these images travel around the country and the continents, the more they will inspire visitors to do their own traveling. Images often feature famous landmarks and signature architecture because these are the most commonly visited sites in a city. If you are taking your photographs specifically for tourism purposes, make sure to take advantage of digital technology to filter and clean up the images so that they are flattering. Go ahead and make Broadway Street a little cleaner than it really is. Take out those slight shadows that distract from the church steeple. This type of cosmetic altering is important if you’re really trying to sell the city.
Not all city landscape photographers make their art for business or tourist reasons. Some simply want to capture the spirit of a city they admire, perhaps their hometown. These photographs usually focus on the simple and characteristic beauty of a city. City landscape photography is also commonly used for charity purposes. You could use your photography to draw attention to a specific problem found in one or several cities. For example, you could focus your scenes on areas of the town where problems like hunger, disease, or poverty are common. The city landscape is still the main attraction; you are simply using this to draw attention to something that goes on here. In this sense you are not photographing just a city, but a society.
You reasons for doing your art will likely determine what you choose to photograph, but there are many options. You could stick to the major monuments and tourist attractions of a city, like the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, or the Taj Mahal. These attractions are well-visited and admired both for their histories and for aesthetic reasons. However, you are definitely not the first to have this idea. The tourist attractions will produce beautiful photographs, but your pictures will likely look similar to thousands of pictures taken before yours.
Other good subjects are locations or buildings that capture the spirit of a city. These are not always the same as the tourist attractions just discussed. Ask yourself where locals in the city like to go. This could be a beautiful marina, a quaint historical area, or just a funky bohemian street. Find the areas that are important to locals. These could be religious, historical, economic, or stylish.
As far as what you will need for city landscape photography, let’s start with the right equipment. Take into account the scope of your shots, how much you want to include, and the time of day. Have a good idea of what kind of picture you want to take. Do you want an elevated viewpoint or do you want to be right down in the street? Make sure you get the information you need ahead of time. What will the weather be like at that time of day? Will there be many people around? What will the light be like?
Carefully considering these points will offer you the best chance to capture a signature landscape piece of your favorite city. Put it on a few postcards and posters, and you are on your way to sharing this sentiment with others who will soon get to know and appreciate the city you love.
There are other photography resources (many free) at Photography Equipment and Resources. There’s a good chance you will find what you’re looking for there.