8 Ways to Photograph your City

Posted on July 04, 2018 by Helen Oakes | 0 comments

When did you last have a good look around your city? Finding creative ways to photograph a city is a fun challenge to embark on.

I went into my city recently to have a look around and shoot lots of new buildings going up and to see what changes have been made. I felt it was very important for me to do this as it is history in the making. I live in Christchurch, New Zealand where we had a series of devastating earthquakes which completely changed the face of our city. 

Seeing a city recover from massive earthquakes is something not many people will experience.  It has now been 8 years since our first major earthquake, a 7.1 magnitude in September 2010. That damaged some of the infrastructure but the most damage was done 5 months later when the 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit. It was centred only 5kms from the city centre. There was so much damage and destruction that the city has to be re-built.

Looking around the city now you would think it had only been a few years since these earthquakes and subsequent ones, but no, it has been much longer. To built a city from scratch takes time and patience. We were told around 20 years before the whole city would be completed.

I took loads of photos after the earthquakes and I've seen a massive amount of change so it is very fitting to take photos now and see how it has progressed. 

I decided to take a walk and document what is new in the city.  This is what I would recommend when documenting your city and surroundings.

8 Creative ways to photograph your city:

1. Lines and perspective

Try to shoot objects from different perspectives. Include lines that lead you into an image and look for different angles and shapes. Tram and train tracks work well for this as do unusual building shapes and steps.

Christchurch street


2. Street art

I love including street art in my photos. Street art makes a great backdrop to people shots and it also shows colour and vibrance in the city. We had a big display of street art recently that was painted all over the city by international artists. This is another area that could be focused on for a completely new photo challenge.

Maori person street art

Street art

Street art spray cans

3. Characters within the city

Street photography is a challenging area but very rewarding when you pluck up the courage to photograph city buskers or entertainers.  Asking for a photograph usually gets a good response when you take an interest in what they are doing. This DJ was playing some great beats to get customers into the clothing stores. He was happy to pose for some shots for me.

Disc jockey in the street

4. Architectural design

Include some newly designed sculptures that show modern angles, shapes and lines. The seat below is shaped as a canoe and the sculpture has maori motifs on it. Some of the new buildings have great textures and colours on them.

Canoe seat & sculpture

5. New & old buildings

Comparing new and old buildings next to each other makes for interesting shots. Some of the old buildings have their original facades but the inside is completely new. A juxtaposition of old and new will stand out and show how progress has been made in any city. 

New building & old building
Containers, old building facade, new building

Old abandoned building

6. Shapes & lines, textures & colours

Glass buildings mixed with wooden structures.  Bold colour or muted scenes can make a statement. Shapes and forms with gates, windows and seats will stand out. Look for interesting material combinations and textures.

New glass building next to wooden posts

Pink metal seats


7. Interesting structures & gap fillers, installations

Some cities have a piece of art or a funky sculpture that just stands out. Try and capture these. They are unique to your city and should be showcased. We have a lot of areas in Christchurch that fill all the empty gaps that have sprung up after loads of buildings were pulled down. Gap Filler came on board and put some amazing installations up. Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative. They have a wide range of temporary projects, events, installations and amenities in the city and they are worth checking out if you are in Christchurch.

Girl doing a split leap

Dance-O-Mat Gap Filler.

Another Christchurch initiative is Greening the Rubble (GtR) They create 

public green spaces and places where communities can gather.  They are a charitable trust that grew after the Canterbury earthquakes. Some of their installations are quite unique and worth a look.

Old broken green car

8. Laneways and hidden spots

Finding unique laneways can make for interesting shots.  I love dark alleyways or a laneway with lights. Look for painted words or interesting signs to include in your shots. Some of these laneways haven't even been discovered as they are off the beaten track. Little High is a cool area that I hadn't seen before.  There is a new venue in town, Little High Eatery and a few great laneways nearby, check them out!

Little High laneway

Little High eatery 

 Little High Eatery

In summary:

Most cities don't suffer these major changes but any city has some change and progress to document somewhere or some unique structures. This shooting challenge will give you a new light on your city and a will of wanting to explore it more. You will certainly notice things that you didn't even know were there.

Take time to explore and see what piques your interest.  There is a whole city out there waiting to be shot in interesting and creative ways.

P.S. If you like this article, please click “like” or provide comment, as that will give me encouragement to publish more. Share and inspire. Thank you.

Posted in Art Prints Photography, Fashion Photography, Lifestyle Photography, Lightroom Presets



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