Easy Photography Hacks for Non-Touristy City Shots
There’s no better place to be a budding photographer than in the middle of the city. Just think: from architecture to food shots, street fashion to urban landscapes, you’ve got it all right on your doorstep.
But if you want to move beyond simple point-and-shoot, read on for some photography hacks that will boost your picture-taking game. Instagram fame, here you come.
JOIN A COMMUNITY
Skip taking the same shots as everyone else and explore your unique style. Image courtesy of Zachary Staines/Unsplash
Sharing is caring – and one of the best ways to get in on the action is by joining a virtual “photo hub.” IGBoston is one such group, and aims to showcase some of Beantown’s most stellar shots. To join, participants just need to be active on Instagram and take part in a new-member photo challenge assigned by the moderators.
“Photo hubs like IGBoston help photographers get their best work out to a wider audience,” founder Brian McWilliams says. Peep your own city’s offerings for instant access to a whole community of fellow urban photographers.
FOLLOW THE SUN
Use light in unconventional ways to capture another side of the city. Image courtesy of Ines Njers/Flickr
In simplest terms, photography is the capturing of light. No matter where you’re shooting, pay attention to your light source and use it to your advantage. Avoid shooting towards the sun, which will turn out darkened, low-contrast shots, and be aware that low lighting often results in grainy, distorted images.
Before any photo sesh, be sure to check the weather: cloud cover provides soft and versatile light, while bright sunlight yields more dramatic, high-contrast results. Many photographers cite “the golden hour” – the hour either after sunrise or before sunset, when the light is notably soft and golden – as one of the best times to get out and shoot.
And one of our favorite photography hacks? While many pro-photogs tote around reflectors to add extra light, instead, use reflective windows, trucks, or other shiny surfaces for a burst of brightness.
EMBRACE THE DRAMA
No fear, weather forecast: even “bad” weather can result in great photos. Image courtesy of ooyoo/iStock
Don’t think that you can only shoot in relatively bright light, however. As McWilliams points out, “dramatic weather and lighting can make your shots unusual. A great sunset always helps, but a snowstorm, or people with umbrellas, etc. can make a location seem new compared to a typical sunny, midday tourist shot.”
PLAN TO BE CANDID
You’re on candid camera! Catch the city in action with real moments. Image courtesy of Sjoerd Lammers Street Photography/Flickr
Candid street photography can yield up some striking results – but it takes a little practice to get the best shots. It helps to know your turf: stake out a spot that gets a good amount of foot traffic, and one where you feel comfortable spending some time. Some street photographers advise “shooting from the hip” to maintain discretion, while others suggest bringing along a buddy you can pretend to take photos of while capturing the action around you instead. No matter what, keep a sharp eye out for colorful characters, unusual details, or scenes that inspire emotion.
FIND YOUR ANGLE
Experiment with speed and movement to give a thrilling spin on a classic sight. Image courtesy of Hernán Piñera/Flickr
One of the easiest photography hacks ever? The rule of thirds. Instead of centering your subject, place them off-center for a photo composition that’s instantly more pro.
When setting up your shots, look out for unusual patterns and textures. Urban architecture offers up plenty of bold forms, leading lines, and unexpected juxtapositions. And don’t forget to change your perspective. We all know what eye-level looks like, but what happens when you shoot your subject on a diagonal, go in for the macro zoom, or shoot from an unusual angle, like looking down from a height or shooting from ground level?
EDIT AND ACCESSORIZE
Modify your smartphone with a lens to add drama in a simple way. Image courtesy of Muku Labs
A number of photography editing apps will give your smartphone shots that extra je ne sais quoi. Think Instagram, VSCO, or Pixlr, all of which offer up a range of editing tools.
Smartphone accessories can also help up your photography game. Snap-on lenses created by Moment transform your phone into a DSLR-like device, while Holga’s Lens Filter offers ten different dramatic effects, ranging from five colored filters to dual-, triple-, and quadruple-image lenses – all without dropping stacks on super-expensive gear.