When visiting a city, the stunning architectures and flashy neon lights may tempt you to snap away with your camera, especially nowadays where digital cameras and smartphones make photo-taking as easy as simply point-and-shoot. People tend to shoot photos of anything that comes in their way before thinking it through, and they usually end up with hundreds, even thousands, of photos at the end of their trips. Of course, you may still get many memorable photos this way, but it is not a healthy habit to randomly shoot without choosing your subjects carefully.

As photographers, your goal while on the road should be to capture memories that you can revisit and share with others, and hopefully to trigger meaningful conversation about your travel. You are not trying to create masterpieces, but you should nonetheless use your knowledge in composition and lighting to make them interesting. To achieve that, you need plan ahead what you want to photograph and know what to expect with the subjects you choose.


NYC - Union Square George

Landmarks are what people recognize as symbols of the cities, hence they are the most-photographed subjects by both local residents and out-of-town visitors. A landmark could be a building, a statue, a bridge, or an arch in the case of Reno. They are great subjects if you are new to photography and want to practice your skills because there are plenty of example that you can look up on the Internet, and they are not as dynamic as other subjects, meaning you’ll have an easier time imitating other photographers’ work.

Buildings and Architectures

Idaho State Capitol

The one thing you’ll find abundantly in cities are buildings, and they make great subjects too. In bigger cities like San Francisco and New York, architectural design of buildings are especially captivating for their aesthetic property and historical significance. They also bear witness to a city’s past, and each one of them tells the story of the city from a slightly different perspective. Note that sometimes buildings with amazing architectural design are also considered landmarks of the cities.

People on the Streets

People in Action

Another common sight you will see in a city are people going about their business. This type of subjects is also great if you want to tell the story of your travel in a foreign country, especially ones where the culture and people are drastically different from your own. The key is to feel comfortable about photographing strangers since many people find it uneasy to talk to people they don’t know. One suggestion from professional photographers is to be honest and sincere, and have business cards at hand so you may introduce yourself, explain that you are a photographer and would like to photograph them, and promise to send them a copy of the photos once they are processed.

Things that Tell Stories

Evening by the River

Aside from all the buildings and people, there are still plenty to see and photograph in cities. One of my favorite postcards I bought during my trip to New York features a bench on Brooklyn Bridge. It resonated with me because during my stay in the city, I had to either walk or take the subway to almost anywhere, and at the end of each day all I wanted was a bench where I can sit and rest. To me, that photo tells a really great story I want share with others.

The City Itself

Pearl of the Orient

Lastly, a shot of the entire city is almost a must for many photographers to wrap up their trips. I personally prefer to photograph cities at night so I can do long exposure shots, but you can do it during the day if you have the know-hows. The key is to find a location where you can see the city and most of its defining features and landmarks. Again, you may search on the Internet for the best location so you’ll have an idea how your photos may turn out.