Capturing city photography with your EOS DSLR

EOS tutorial

Capturing people in the city with your EOS
Your Canon EOS DSLR has lots of flexibility for capturing cityscapes, people and city details and this is the time to make use of it. By their nature, cities are busy places, but there are times when the pace slows, such as late at night or very early in the morning. For this time of day, you will need to be adept at low light photography. That means slow shutter speeds, high ISO settings, and steady camera holding techniques.

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Harlem Line Departures by Erich Poole

The first thing to remember when taking low light photos is to stop your fully automatic settings from using the flash. You can do this by using the Flash Off mode and / or the Handheld Night Scene mode.

Flash Off mode – turn the camera mode dial to the Flash Off mode. Now your camera will have to use its capabilities differently to capture pictures without flash. It will do this by increasing the sensitivity to light (ISO speed), reducing the shutter speed and opening the aperture of the lens.

Avoiding unwanted blur from camera shake

In very low light conditions or at night you will need to avoid moving your camera while you capture a photo. Camera shake can create unwanted blur and ruin your shot. So put the camera on the ground, a solid table or handrail. Even pressing it firmly against the wall of a building will keep it steadier than your hand can hold it. Image Stabilizer lenses will also help.

Tip: The Flash Off mode is also the one to choose for shooting photos in city museums and venues where flash photography is not allowed or when the flash would spoil the ambience.

Handheld Night Scene mode

This useful mode takes a quick series of four pictures and then combines the results in one single frame, optimised for minimum camera shake. Since a lot of cities have restrictions about using tripods, the Handheld Night Scene mode can be your path to sharp shots in the city at night.

Capturing people

Use the Live View shooting mode to compose candid street photos without the subjects being aware of you. An EOS camera with a Vari-angle LCD screen makes this even easier.

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New York by Eddy Hilbrink

Did you know? Often if you find a spot to wait for a picture in a city it will come to you. Look for the shapes, light, and shadows; then wait for the characters to walk in to the right place. In a city there are many cameras. Standing still or subtly waiting with one ready to take a photo often will make you less visible to everyone else.

Take a small, fast aperture prime lens

A wide aperture prime lens like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is always good to keep with you and is great for shooting in low light. Small and lightweight, this unobtrusive lens offers sharp image quality. Prime lenses’ wide range of aperture settings offers fantastic control over depth of field. To make the most from these lenses, use Aperture priority mode (Av) and control the depth-of-field from shallow to deep or use Shutter priority mode (Tv) to control how movement is captured. Another benefit of using this kind of lens is that you have to move to get closer to a subject, rather than zooming, meaning you'll often find more interesting angles to shoot from. For city shooting or more general shots, check out the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM or Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM.

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People by Matteo Ciani Bassetti

Be ready for the shot at all times

Keep your camera ready to shoot at all times. This means that you need to be aware of how the light is changing around you as you walk through the city. If it gets darker then plan on increasing the ISO or opening the aperture. If it gets brighter then lower the ISO or close the aperture. This way your camera setting will be close to the ideal one should you come across a spectacular scene that you want to capture.

Tip: If a city has tall buildings, then check the position of the light between the buildings and think about how the available light might improve your image. You should also consider returning to the location at a better time of day when the light is how you want it.

Using monochrome and filters

Use the Monochrome Picture Style on your camera to create black and white images in-camera. Since black and white is all about shadow and light using Monochrome mode will help you see the play of contrast. Your LCD will show the pictures in black and white, but if you shoot in RAW format, you can return to a colour image in the post-processing on your computer.

Often increasing the contrast setting of the Monochrome Picture Style and adding a yellow filter effect in bright sun will give your images even more dramatic contrast.

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NYC by Marco Iozzi

Did you know? Shadows are longer at the end of the day than in the middle, and that bright clear cloud-free days give shadows with the crispest edges.

Making the most of time-lapse effects

Even if you are only visiting a city for a short period, a time-lapse is a great way to convey the fast pace of life. Some EOS cameras have a built-in intervalometer that you can set so the camera will take a still image every few seconds. If not, you can use an accessory like the Canon Timer Controller TC-80N3 to take the series of pictures for you.

Make sure you use a stable tripod for the camera. You could try shooting a city street from a high-up hotel room to create an interesting portrait of a city from sunrise to sunset.

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Melbourne by Ralf Kaldenhoff

To capture enough pictures for your time-lapse remember that the shorter the interval, the longer the time-lapse will run. If you only shoot a few hours of still images, it is better to capture using a shorter interval as you can always speed up the film in the edit if needed.

Submit your shot to our Gallery

If you've felt inspired to capture the changing face of a city over 24 hours, why not send your photos to our You Connect Gallery? It's where we showcase and share our favourite images sent in by the Canon community. Upload your photos.

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