Amazing urban detail ideas

Creative techniques and camera settings for amazing city shots

The urban area with its increased density of people, structures, decay, traffic, lights and neon signs creates endless possibilities for the creative photographer. You can play with abstracts, signs, and fragments of buildings to come out with some really interesting pictures, and tinckering with the exposure settings and depth of field will add a little extra atmosphere.

Shallow depth of field

You can best achieve this by setting the camera to the Av or Aperture Priority setting. Click on to a wide setting (smaller f-stop number) – with a good, fast lens this could be as much as f/2.8, which is perfect for lowlight or night-time work.

The lower the f-number the shallower the depth of field. On Av setting the camera will automatically work out the correct shutter speed required.

Long exposure

This essentially means slow shutter speeds. Set the camera to T or Tv setting (Shutter Priority) and make a selection of around 1/15. The camera will set the aperture automatically.

Vary the shutter speed and check the results; try a minute-long exposure or even longer. In creative photography the rules can often be broken. Try holding your camera as normal or shaking it for a slightly creative effect.

Urban fragments

Urban fragments is an envelope term for the strange and interesting things you can find in any town: things like doors, windows, architectural detail, mouldings or carvings in fact, anything that catches your eye.

A good place to start is around old or abandoned buildings. Try looking up when you’re out and about rather than just at ground level. Youll find hidden gems lurk in the most unlikely places.

Signs and flyers

An element of urban photography thats very easy for anyone to try. Every town has signs tucked away somewhere. Add to this the modern trend for stickers and flyers, that appear on phone boxes and lamp posts.

Capturing these type of shots is a form of social documentary of this strange ephemera. You can try the shallow depth of field technique, too, and be sure to check for good lighting.


This is an area of photography where there are no limits; the trick is just to let imagination take over. Try looking at texture, shapes and colour, or try easing the image out of focus a little.

Long exposures can work well at getting a little movement blur into the image, and natural elements, such as rain, reflect wonderfully. Stepping back from pin-sharp attention to detail can be very liberating.