That Wild Idea tour leader and professional photographer Jordan Banks was recently named the National Geographic City Photography of the year. Aside from his work as a Landscape photographer Jordan is a highly accomplished urban photographer as this recent acylation shows.

We approached Jordan and asked him to discuss his techniques to create interesting urban landscapes. From his use of light and shadows to long exposure city images, Jordan takes us through his workflow to produce amazing urban photography.

National Geographic cities winner, city photography tips

Depth of field

During your urban exploration you will have plenty of chances to experiment with shallow depths of field. City photography can be become very busy so using a wide aperture to blur out the background and highlight or isolate the main subject of your image is a very affective method of calming a scene and giving your composition a boost.

Don’t just shoot cityscapes

Street photography is a big part of photographing cities. I always have my camera close at hand when I am walking the city streets. The Streets are what gives the city its street life so it pays to always be ready for any event, however fleeting it may be.

City Photography Tokyo

Interesting details

City’s are full of interesting patterns that can make great abstract images or be used as leading lines or foreground interest to make your images really stand out.

Experiment with lenses

The general tendency is to shoot city photographs using a wide-angle lens but this is not always the best option so be sure to play with your zoom lenses. Telephoto lenses are great for compressing a scene and highlighting selected areas of your city photographs.

Famous landmarks

Photographing famous landmarks in a city is very popular so your images must really have the perfect conditions or a unique perspective to stand out from the thousands of other. Ideally, look for fresh angles or vantage points to capture the city.

Fortunately there is a lot more to city photography than these iconic landmarks. I always look for new vistas from roof top bars or hotels and concentrate on finding interesting street scenes to go alongside my landmark images.

City Photography New York

Best time to shoot

Like almost all photography, Golden hour is the best time to shoot and this is no different with city photography. Those long shadows and soft rays of light creeping through the streets make for some incredibly atmospheric images. Likewise, if you have an elevated view with the sun setting and bathing the entire city with its golden glow you are going to capture something amazing.

City Photography Millennium bridge

Weather conditions

How I approach photographing cities is very different depending on the weather I encounter. Clear sunny days will produce a harsh light combined with long shadows whereas an overcast day can add a real mood to your city photographs. If it rains then I look for reflections and/or head indoors. Markets, museums and transport hubs such as train stations are always interesting due to their busy nature.

Black & white

I personally don’t shoot a lot of black and white images but that’s just my personal preference. You can often find that architectural photography and street life work great especially in monotone.


Cities come to life at night so allow some time to concentrate on shots of cities at night. From the bustling streets filled with street performers bathed in neon lights to the sweeping vistas of the glowing city, nighttime is not to be missed when photographing cities. The image that won me the National Geographic cities photographer was shot at night around midnight.

Shoot from the hip

I often find myself shooting street life from my hip. A term that means shooting without looking through the viewfinder to compose your shot.

The reason for this is that when you point a camera at someone they will almost certainly react. This could be as simple as looking at the camera to actively disliking being included in you image. Once the camera is lowered and eye contact evaded people will pay almost no attention to you and allow you to shoot the scene as you intended.

This has become much easier than it used to be with the use of flip screens on most cameras.

There you have it, some great tips from Jordan Banks. Be sure to try some of these tips out the next time you are out and about photographing.

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Even though we may not be able to travel right now, we are already planning our trips for 2020 and 2021. Our UK workshops in the YorkshireCornwallGlencoeDorsetLake DistrictCotswolds or London will be starting again soon.

Jordan Banks is a successful travel photographer and Lee Filters & Cruise America brand ambassador. With almost 20 years of experience shooting assignments and campaigns for some of the world’s leading brands, companies & tourist boards such as British Airways, Credit Suisse & Visit England.

His editorial work has appeared on the covers of National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Sunday Times travel and many more. If you would like to learn more from Jordan or join him in the field, why not join one of his travel photography courses.

This city photography article is subject to copyright. Words and photos by Jordan Banks (That Wild Idea). Copying or reposting of photos or article elsewhere is strictly forbidden. Please contact us if you would like to use this feature on your website.

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