How to photograph an awesome urban landscape photography

The cities are unique places to photograph. Its dynamism, architectural elements or the different types of light that we find throughout the day, they can be the protagonists of countless stories. Because the urban landscape is a stage like few where you give free rein to our creativity, as well as a great opportunity to put in practice a large number of technical and photographic skills.

What is an urban landscape?

The photography of the urban landscape has the objective to capture the essence of an urban environment in general. That is to say, in an urban landscape, the city is the main protagonist. Whether it be through details or drawings, more general, we seek to portray the soul of the city, just like in a natural landscape, we seek to capture the soul and beauty of nature.

Dream team

The ideal team is always that which you already have but if you have where to choose, the best way to get out to photograph this type of landscape is:

  • Camera with manual settings: to be able To play with the three variables of the triangle of exposure (aperture, speed and ISO).
  • Wide-angle lens: it Has a wide field of view by allowing you to cover a lot of portion of the scene. It also has a high depth of field, which will allow you to have more planes in focus in the image. Is that you probably will give you more play.
  • Focal point average: For flat closed, this type of lens can also be very useful. It does not create much distortion in the lines and in fixed format, you can find bright lens at a very good price.
  • Telephoto lens: If you want to photograph details from a distance, this lens can be of great utility.
  • Tripod: Same as for a landscape, natural, the tripod becomes a very useful tool if you want an image is sharp and free of vibrations and an indispensable tool if you’re going to encourage with techniques such as long exposure.
  • Filters:
    • Polarizing filter: it will be very useful for eliminating reflections, and get contrast in the sky.
    • Neutral density filter (ND): it is Essential to achieve long-exposure photographs daytime. These filters reduce the light without changing the color tone of the image.

Recommended settings

As for a natural landscape, urban landscape should be treated in a similar way, looking for the sharpness and a good depth of field.


You work whenever you can to the ISO lower than allow your camera or at least stay in low values. You already know that the ISO is associated with the sensitivity of the sensor but also the noise.

Shutter speed

Another aspect that influences the sharpness of the image and that you must take into account. Whenever you can, try to work at high speeds to avoid vibrations in the image. Or use a tripod.

Depending on the goal, you can work at speeds more or less slow. A good starting point to establish a minimum speed is to use this simple formula:

Minimum speed=1/focal length

If you’re working with a 50mm, the minimum speed of the shot will be at 1/50s, if you’re working with a telephoto lens of 400mm, the minimum speed will be above 1/400s. It is not an exact science but it serves to set a minimum for each of your focus.


It is the opening through which the light passes through the lens to the sensor of your camera. The larger the aperture, the more light you will have for your image. And on the contrary, the more closed the aperture, the less light will reach the sensor.

The effect of “collateral” it happens that the more open the aperture (more light) at the same time we have less area in focus in the image. And the more closed the aperture, the greater is the area in focus in the image.

That said, it is most beneficial in a landscape of whatever type, is to have the largest area in focus as possible, so you’ll have to work at apertures around f/8 or f/16 unless you want to blur the background, for some reason or you need a lot of light.

RAW format

When you’re looking for the highest quality possible, the format RAW becomes a must. This format stores much more information than the JPEG so that the results at the time to reveal the image in an editor are infinitely better.

White Balance

If for whatever reason you decide not to work in RAW, you will need to pay special attention to the white balance, since you will work with different types of light (warm and cold) that may stain your image with your tonality, and even with several types of light mixed together.

I advise that you decide to try it in manual mode, because if not, it is possible that your camera correct tones that you liked, as for example the warm light of a sunrise.


If you want to get the largest area in focus as possible on your image, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the hyperfocal. It will be useful for all kinds of landscapes and even street photography, and in general all those pictures where you need to have the larger area of the scene in focus.

The light in the urban landscape

The light is everything, is also in the urban landscape, with the added bonus that the landscape does not only change with the light and tones that come from the sun, but in addition is added to the scene the artificial light characteristic of the urban environment.

This makes throughout the day we have completely different stages, as different will be, therefore, the photographic opportunities that present themselves.

The golden hour

Don’t be fooled by the “hour” because it lasts only a few moments. It’s the time of sunrise and sunset, when the light is warm, soft and on the side. It is one of the more lights loved by the photographers for all kinds of photography, from portraits to landscapes, among them the urban landscape, of course.

His light side lengthens the shadows, enhances the texture and adds by itself a item fascinating to your image.

The blue hour

Personally, it is the light that I find most fascinating in a city. It’s that moment just after sunset, when the sky has lost the warm tones and turns to an intense navy blue. At that moment the lights of the city, and the combination of that blue and orange lights typical of the street lights or buildings, I think is spectacular.

To learn more about these two famous types of light, I recommend that you take a look at this article: How to get great photos of the golden hour.

Central hours of the day

Not only the magical lights of the dawn live the photographer of the urban landscape. If you love the large contrast, shadows marked, and the white light, this can be a nice touch to your photographs urban.

In my opinion, each type of light has its own magic, you just have to know how to find it ;).

To bad weather good photos

The lights of a day in overcast, rainy or foggy are the perfect setting to get different images, with lights, unique, and scenes that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.

That said, we return to the question…

Take advantage of the color of the umbrella in the streets, the lights of the cars or street lights through the rain, the drops through the crystals, or the atmosphere that generated the fog are just some of the many photographs that you can get with bad weather.


After a good lighting, composing in a way that helps convey the message of the picture, is the most essential.

Adds a human element

Without losing sight of the subject is the landscape, you already know how to add an item increases the interest in the image naturally. In addition, it helps to add a sense of scale to the scene.

The rule of thirds

Should not abuse this rule because it is very view, but that can help you in specific scenes, because for quite worked that is this rule, it is also true that placing the center of interest in one of its intersections power greatly that point of the composition.

Law of the horizon

You have to think about previously to which area of the image you are going to give more prominence. If it is the sky, this must be about 3/4 of the frame. If, on the contrary, are more down to earth, the city must occupy these 3/4 of the frame.

And remember, the horizon always straight, you can activate the grid of help of your camera to do this. Because, if you can fix it in editing, it means yes or yes always some cropping of the image.

The point of view

It is important to vary the point of view in the compositions, whether they are an urban landscape or a portrait. Learn to look differently helps to develop the photographic eye, find images different and unique.

  • Angle: If you raise the view of your feet, you’ll rise to different images of the buildings and structures that surround you.
  • Chopped: If you are in an elevated position, looking at the ground can give you very different points of view and interesting.
  • Normal: it Is the most used, so that is usually not the most exciting But this does not imply that you are unable to or need to use.

In short: Look around, up, down, think before pressing the shutter is there any other way of framing that makes this image more interesting? With this simple gesture sure that your image earn points.


In urban landscapes, there are many opportunities to compose through reflections, since we have windows everywhere. Search reflexes interesting can be a good way to find different images for your landscape pictures: puddles, mirrors, windows or any reflective surface that is interesting to you.

General plans

Looking for the depth and breadth of your city through general plans. A good idea may be to search buildings that rise above your city to photograph it from above, or look for places where you have a good view of the skyline of your city landscape.


While we are used to thinking big when we are faced with a landscape of any type, sometimes the image that seek you can be in the detail and more subtle.

Therefore, pay attention to details, experience with minimalism and depth of field, sometimes in the small things it hides the message that we were looking for.

The vertical format

I always like to remember that the vertical format there is, also for landscapes, so do not miss this experience with him. You’ll find that fits perfectly with the vertical forms of the buildings, becoming a great ally of the composition for your photos.

The natural framework

Frame elements of our landscape through other elements such as windows, doors, walls, etc, provides different images and compositionally appealing.

Long exposure

I would dare to say that technique is the star of any urban landscape. All we have in mind those scenes of a night sky with long trails of colors generated by the passage of cars, but there are many more options.

If you are lucky enough to a river crossing the city, you can get images of water with silk effect, play with the movement of people to travel, clouds moving, etc

To achieve long-term exposure conditions, do not forget that you will need a tripod and work in manual mode or with speed priority. Here’s an article that explains how to do it step by step.

TRICK: If you want the lights to appear as stars, closes the diaphragm to the maximum.

Long exposure daytime

Although when we think of long-term exposure we think of at night, is also an option to have in mind when photographing landscapes during the day.

The long exposure is used to create silk effect in the guide, but also in the clouds.

In addition to allows to “delete” the people of crowded places that you are interested in photographing. If you have the shutter open long enough in a place where people are continuously moving, you’ll see that these are blurry and even disappear from the sensor.

To achieve long-term exposure during the day, in addition to the tripod, you’ll need a neutral density filter (ND) or a filter gradient neutral density if you plan to include the sky in your composition. This type of filters, what they do is to subtract a certain number of steps of light without changing the color. That is to say, remaining light in the scene so that you can work at slower speeds without burning your image.

The cities are environments that are full of life and dynamism that offer creative opportunities everywhere, between them, as you may have seen if you’ve read until here, the urban landscape. I hope that encourages you to portray your city as you deserve, that you experiment with different techniques, and compositions, but above all enjoy this wonderful hobby that we share that it is the photography.

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