All cities are historical and cultural meeting points with thousands of different stories. As you explore a city, think about what stories you’re interested in and then go deeper. Don’t worry about known landscapes; try to find a unique narrative point that will invite the person looking at your photo to the world of your photo. This could be a restored historic Berlin building, a working chef in Rome, or a group of local people coming out at night. Your goal should be to express your feelings about the city with a single image and capture the spirit of the city. Try to ensure that people looking at your photo are curious about the landscape they see and want to know more.
The heart of most cities beats in the movement of people, goods or means of transport. Think about the hours of departure from work, the floating markets of Bangkok, or the endless traffic of Dubai that fills Amsterdam with a bicycle. Take a walk to catch the city on the move, stop at a crowded intersection and take a few shots from an interesting point. Set the shutter speed if your camera permits. After selecting a slow shutter speed (ex. 1/60 seconds or slower) keep your camera steady and take a flutter-effect picture of people moving in front of the still scene. Alternatively, try moving the camera to move your camera at the same time as a moving subject, such as a bicycle or car. This takes a while to get used to, but it offers successful results and can be tested with any camera.
Most cities become completely different when the dark falls, but because of the declining light, it may not be easy to capture the atmosphere. If you’re shooting in Twilight, using a tripod may help. If you don’t have a tripod, sit against the wall and hold your camera steady to capture the street scenes clearly. Try taking city views in bright lights such as Prague’s Christmas markets or London’s West End district. Pulling the light tracks can give you good results. Why don’t you go up to a high point like a bridge or roof terrace and catch the street below? If you have a DSLR, set the exposure time of your camera to around 20 seconds and experiment. Adjusting the ISO settings of your camera or device (if any) can also help you take great night shots. To avoid unwanted blur, keep your camera steady and switch to ISO 1600 or 3200. Your camera’s sensor captures more light even at night. Alternatively, why don’t you take unique city shots after you’ve tampered with the settings on your camera and darkened it?
Some of the most impressive city images show contradictions between the cosmopolitan communities of the city, such as new and old, Harmony and conflict. Try capturing this theme by adding your own comment. For example, you can take a meditative person in a crowded park in Shanghai, a historical building in the shadow of a new skyscraper in London, or a run-through in a hipster neighborhood in New York City. Try visiting the same place at different times of the day to catch different atmospheres. In the cafes in the city square, the morning calmness can be replaced by a crazy party after the sun goes down.
What gives a city its identity is small details. In fact, you can capture these details in front of our eyes to create impressive photos. Imagine London’s Victorian-style ornate street lights, Paris Metro’s Art Nouveau station signs, or Lisbon’s distinctive pavement tiles. Look for these small and unique details in the next city you visit and look for ways to capture them in an interesting way.