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Capturing the Spirit of a City Through Photography

Urban photography is a unique blend of architecture, city life, and history. By keeping a few key tips in mind, you can capture the vibrant soul of a city in your images.

A view of the Bourg-de-Four square and the Saint-Pierre Cathedral from Etienne-Dumont street at dawn.
The dawn lights up Bourg-de-Four square and Saint-Pierre Cathedral, captured from Etienne-Dumont street.

Know Your Environment

To begin, immerse yourself in the city’s atmosphere. Take the time to walk around and discover unexplored locations, wander the side streets, admire the iconic buildings, and find peaceful havens in parks. Each city has its own character, colors, and textures, and the more you understand them, the better you can incorporate them into your images. Look for repeated patterns, intriguing contrasts, or bright colors that catch the eye.

Respect Image Rights

People can bring a dynamic energy to your urban photographs. However, it’s crucial to respect image rights, especially in Switzerland. A crowd shot in which no individual is particularly highlighted is generally acceptable. On the other hand, photographing a specific person in a particular situation may require their consent. Stay informed about local laws to ensure you respect individuals’ rights when photographing in public.

Use Light to Your Advantage

Light is the essence of photography. It can define the mood, reveal textures, and add depth to your images. In urban photography, the early morning and late evening hours, often referred to as the “golden hour,” offer soft, golden light. This light can illuminate buildings majestically and bring a sense of warmth and dynamism to your images.

Look for Unique Details

Each city has its own features that set it apart. This can be a characteristic architectural style, specific urban design elements, distinctive neon signs, or unexpected urban artworks. These details are the city’s heartbeat. Capturing them in your images provides a glimpse into the city’s unique identity.

Be Patient and Prepared

Urban photography is an exercise in patience. Sometimes, you have to wait for the perfect moment when everything comes together: the light, the action, the atmosphere. Keep your camera close at hand, ready to capture these spontaneous moments. And most importantly, remember to enjoy the process. Every moment spent exploring the city is an opportunity to develop your artistic vision.


Urban photography is more than just the act of taking a photo; it’s an exploration, a discovery, and a narrative. By studying your environment, respecting image rights, using light to your advantage, looking for unique details, and being patient, you will be better equipped to capture the truly unique spirit of each city you photograph.

To learn more, read our article on [image rights in public spaces in Switzerland].