Creative tips for photographing urban art
If you live in or near a major urban area, chances are you will come across interesting street art. I’m not talking about random graffiti, I’m talking about serious art, sometimes offered in areas to create a unique urban setting. Whether you’re on a casual photo walk or planning a comprehensive shoot, the colors and textures of urban art can be a really fun subject to photograph.
I always find it a little bit tricky to take photographs of other people’s artwork. At what point does a photograph of art become art itself? For that reason, I like to employ a variety of creative techniques when I’m out shooting street art. Here are some tips for creating unique photographs of urban art:
Look for details and closeups
Sometimes, the shot isn’t the entire piece, but details hidden within the artwork itself.
Make it about colors and textures
Process your images to enhance the vibrant colors and textures in street art. In Lightroom, use the Vibrance, Saturation, and Clarity sliders to enhance the effect, or go even further by using an enhancement plug-in like Color Efex Pro 4 (Nik Collection) or Intensify CK (Macphun).
The wild colors and patterns of street art take on even more interesting forms when they are captured as reflections in windows or black cars.
Use multiple exposures or image overlay
If your camera has a multiple exposure mode, try combining more than one shot to create psychedelic effects. You can also combine images in Photoshop layers to create unique composites. Some cameras will let you overlay two shots to create a composite RAW file right in the camera.
Use long exposures to create motion blur effects
Try stopping down and using a low ISO and move your camera during the exposure. You can try swipes, zooms, and rotation to get interesting motion blur effects. You can also use zoom blur filters in Photoshop if you are unable to capture a long exposure in the field.
Get Jason’s complete guide to long exposure photography.
Where to find great street art
Just about any urban center will likely have street art, but there are a few places that offer specially contracted works that go beyond traditional graffiti.
- DUMBO (Brooklyn, NY)
The Brooklyn neighborhood around and under the Manhattan Bridge is well-known for having lots of interesting street art.
- Wynwood Walls, Miami, FL
This once derelict warehouse district in Miami has a fantastic area of specially contracted works which change every year. The surrounding neighborhood of warehouse buildings is covered in amazing art.
- Fremont Street, Las Vegas, NV
The area east of the Fremont Street district is covered with some wonderful and colorful art. Check out the area near Ogden Avenue and 7th Street.
- River North Art District (RiNo), Denver
In the alleys and streets along Larimer Street north of Coors Field you’ll find lots of hidden gems to photograph.
Do you have a favorite spot for photographing street art? Leave a comment and share it!