The Urban Jungle
Street photographers have been fascinated by the urban landscape since the 19th century, when Eugene Atget introduced us to the streets of Paris with his evocative monochrome images. This type of street photography places more emphasis on the built environment than it does on the people, although including people in your shots can provide context or a sense of scale. However, before adding people, ask yourself whether they contribute to, or detract from the scene. Sometimes, the implication of human presence is all you need.
As with “normal” landscape photography, aim to include interest in the foreground, the middle-ground, and the background. Consider how the viewer reads the scene and how their eyes flow through it, using layers to find points of interest.
A great way to treat this as an ongoing assignment is to shoot a specific area (not necessarily the same scene) at different times of the year to record how the passage of time changes an urban landscape. Aim to produce 36 photographs that can be used to create a photobook, online gallery, or perhaps edited down into an exhibition in the area itself.
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- Depth-of-field is often critical, so use a small aperture to give you a sharp foreground and background.
- On a sunny day, try underexposing by one stop or so (using exposure compensation). This will saturate a blue sky and help retain detail in the highlights.
- Take a range of lenses with you to capture different aspects of the same scene.
- Visit your location at different times of the day to see how it changes.
- If buildings figure prominently in your shot, use a hot-shoe spirit level (or built-in electronic level if your camera has one) to keep the horizon straight.
- Look for uncluttered backgrounds where there is good separation between buildings and other objects, such as cars or people.
- Including people in your shots will give the viewer an idea of scale.