When it comes to wedding and portrait photography, urban decors can offer a multitude of opportunities. For one, cities are full of interesting textures and patterns that can add visual interest to your photos. Concrete walls, brick buildings, and metal fire escapes can all make great backgrounds, foregrounds, or leading lines for portraits. Additionally, the lines, angles, and grandeur of urban architecture provide photographers with many creative options and storytelling elements. Of course, urban settings also present their own challenges, such as clutter in the background and low light in certain areas. To help you navigate and improve your city photography, here are 9 tips for better city portrait photography.
- Look for reflections and windows
- Find multiple light sources and reflectors
- Incorporate graffiti and street art
- The night is the right time
- Long exposures and shutter trails for the win
- Take to the skies for a view of the horizon
- Integrate people and environments
- Maximize Interesting Architecture
- The view of a body of water is often the best
(The following images and tips are provided by the award-winning photographers of wedding cards and used with their permission.)
1. Urban portrait photography: look for reflections
Urban environments are full of reflections and frames from the windows of office buildings and businesses just begging to be used in creative compositions. See some examples below.
2. Find multiple light sources and reflectors
The backdrops of the city are also full of unique lighting. Sunlight bounces off reflective buildings and creates multiple light sources. Sometimes the light is soft and can be used as a reflector for fill light. Other times, it can act as a spotlight to highlight your subject(s) in the photo. See example below.
3. Incorporate graffiti and street art
Urban backdrops often have interesting street art that gives the city a unique personality and character. Tastefully incorporating graffiti and other murals into your urban portrait photography can create interesting and creative photography. See example below.
4. The night is the right time
One of the best and most unique ways to capture urban portraits is after the sun has set and buildings light up the night sky. This is where your flash and lighting skills shine and where you have the opportunity to differentiate yourself from other photographers. See some examples below.
5. Long exposures and shutter trails for the win
Urban environments are full of invigorating and beautiful chaos. The sights, sounds, bustle and bustle come together for a unique energy that can be captured creatively with long exposure photography. Use long exposures, aka shutter trails, to capture the movement of people, traffic, and anything moving in the scene. Here are some examples below.
6. Take to the skies for a view of the horizon
Of course, another great way to capture a cityscape is above it all. Many city weddings take place on the upper floors of tall buildings, and some may even have balconies and rooftops to use for your portrait photography backdrop. See some examples below.
seven. Integrate people and the environments
A difficult aspect of urban photography, especially in larger, busier cities, is getting clear photos without people or crowds. In some places, you can beat the crowds by taking photos during off-hours, such as sunrise. However, this can present challenges for guests who simply don’t want to wake up so early or for wedding guests who need to keep a reasonable schedule. Instead of struggling with the crowds and potentially getting frustrated with the situation, you can embrace the environment and make it part of the photo story. See some examples below.
8. Maximize Interesting Architecture
One of the best things about urban portrait photography is that many cities have interesting and beautiful architecture. These buildings, bridges, sculptures and other works of art can add character to photos. They can also create scale and perspective when juxtaposed against much smaller subjects. See some examples below.
9. The view of a body of water is often the best
When it comes to photographing horizons, here’s a little advice. The best views of the skyline are often across a large body of water. The body of water not only creates a beautiful reflection of the horizon, but it also eliminates the risk of small buildings or other objects obstructing the view of the buildings. See some examples below.
More examples and inspiration
We want to end this article with a few more examples of urban portrait photography to show you that there is no “correct” or universal style that fits every scene. Each photographer will approach a scene in a different way, and that’s part of what makes our craft so unique and awesome. Here are some other city portraits from some amazing photographers.
When it comes to portrait photography, urban environments are some of the most fun and interesting places to photograph. The lines and geometry of cityscapes mixed with the contrast of light and shadow present seemingly limitless creative options and potential. We hope this article gives you some tips and inspiration for your next urban photo shoot.