17 Tips for Shooting Better Urban Portraits

The post 17 Tips for Shooting Better Urban Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.


Are you interested in doing an urban portrait shoot, but you’re not sure where to start? An outdoor shoot in your local town or city is a great way to be more creative, think on your feet, and come away with some unique images that you can’t get from a shoot in a studio or your local park. However, If you’ve never done one before, you may be a little daunted. In this guide, I run you through my top tips for shooting better urban portraits.

One way to make sure your talent is relaxed at the start of the shoot is by asking them to smile and getting some fun shots to kick things off.

1. Have a vision for the images you want to shoot

Begin with the end in mind. Create a mood board of urban portraits using a free tool such as Pinterest. These could either be your images or inspirational images from other photographers. Keep these in mind as you plan your shoot, as this is the standard you’ll be aiming for.

2. Location scouting

Before you plan your shoot, get an idea of the type of urban landscapes in your area. What kind of images could you take here? How could the buildings and street scenes feature in your photographs as a point of interest or as a background texture?

Every town and city has its unique charms – from heritage buildings to seaside piers to abandoned shopping centers. Find what’s interesting about your area and use it.

You can find out more about what I look for when scouting locations in my previous dPS article, How to Choose Urban Landscapes for Portrait Photography.


There’s always something of interest to shoot. Open up to the creative possibilities in your town.

3. Find talent for your shoot

The easiest way to find someone for a shoot is by asking family or friends. This way, the pressure is off, as you have someone familiar to work with that you can test your ideas on. Make sure you ask someone that is not too shy or self-conscious, though; after all, it will involve posing for photographs in a public location.

If you’re ready to test your urban portrait skills with a model, organize a TFP (time for print) shoot. These have been around since the pre-digital days, when photographers, models, and make-up artists would collaborate and give their time for free in exchange for physical prints of images taken during the shoot. These days, images from TFP shoots are usually digital files shared over the internet.

Finding people to work with should be relatively easy. Most cities have photographer and model groups on Facebook. Type the name of your area with the words model or photographer and see what comes up. If you have no luck, you can also ask in general photography groups if anyone knows of a TFP-style group you could join.

Image: In this image, I have lit Alyssa with a video light. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 35mm f1.4 lens.

In this image, I have lit Alyssa with a video light. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 35mm f1.4 lens.

4. Ask for expressions of interest

Once you’ve joined a local Facebook group, have a scan of the posts and see if it’s the kind of community you wish to work with. If you feel comfortable, it’s time to post your expression of interest.

Create a post introducing yourself and calling for expressions of interest in a TFP urban portrait shoot. Link to examples of your work and your Instagram.

Let people know specific details about the shoot. This includes the approximate location, proposed days and times, and the types of shots you’re looking to get. You can also link to or share images from your mood board on the post to set an expectation of the kind of shots you’ll take. If you use images on the mood board that are not yours, make sure you credit the photographer and explicitly state whose work it is.

Finally, ask people to comment on the post or send you a private message, expressing their interest. Also, ask them to link to their Instagram or portfolio.


Safety is important on any shoot – never put yourself or your talent in danger to get a shot. I took this image with the model on the footpath.

5. Arrange details for the shoot

After you’ve chosen whom you’d like to work with, organize the shoot. Agree on the day, time, and location. Prepare to negotiate regarding which day you can shoot, but not on the time. Always choose the time of day that you know will work best for photography. For me, that’s about an hour before dusk as this provides opportunities for natural light and after-dark images.

If the model is under 18, check that their parent or guardian is coming along and that they will be able to sign a model release form.

Ask your model what they’re planning to wear for the shoot. Quite often, they will ask for your advice or provide you with options. Explain that it would be ideal to have two or three different looks. Some people will prefer to have completely different outfits for the first and second half of the shoot (if there is somewhere to change). For others, it means bringing along some fun accessories like glasses, sunglasses, a hat or jacket.

If you’re arranging a shoot a week or two in advance, don’t forget to stay in touch with your model. Remind them a day or two before the shoot.


Sunglasses can be very handy on a shoot – especially when there are neon signs! Anneke, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

6. Have a plan

Think back to your location scouting. Have a list of 8-10 places where you’d like to shoot that are within walking distance of each other. Draw a map in your notebook and plan your route and the types of shots at each place. Typically, I only shoot in 6-8 locations, but I like having a couple of options up my sleeve in case some don’t work out.

Finally, don’t be afraid to throw your plan out the window if a better opportunity presents itself.

17 Tips for Shooting Better Urban Portraits

7. Plan your kit

It’s tempting to take as much kit as you can carry on an urban portrait shoot. However, strike a happy medium between taking enough kit to give you options without having to hire a Sherpa to carry your gear.

I typically take two camera bodies (Fujifilm X-T3 and X-T2) with prime lenses, with a third lens in my bag. My lenses of choice are usually the Fujinon 16mm f1.4 for wide-angle and environmental portraits, and either the 35mm f1.4 or the 56mm f1.2 lenses for portrait work. With the APS-C crop factor, these work out to 24mm, 52.5mm, and 84mm equivalent lenses in full-frame terms.

Although I love zoom lenses for family portrait shoots, I only take fast prime lenses on urban portrait shoots.

Double-check all your camera settings when you pack your gear. Things I check are:

  1. I’ve selected the same JPG film simulation on both cameras,
  2. I have the same auto ISO settings,
  3. JPG + RAW is selected in the image quality settings.
  4. There are spare formatted SD cards and spare batteries in my bag
  5. I have model release forms and a pen.

8. Get to know whom you’re photographing

Make sure you turn up early – you won’t make a good impression if your talent is waiting for you and wondering if you are going to turn up or not. Get to know your model and their chaperone. Everyone can be a bit nervous at the start of a shoot, so have a good chat with them before you even think about pulling out a camera.

9. On the shoot

Remember, on these kinds of shoots, you don’t need quantity, you need quality. I aim to get a dozen images I’m really happy with. This means potentially shooting in a different way than you usually would. Take your time with directing the model and getting the composition right before taking the shot.

Make sure you get a variety of shots – close-ups, full length, looking to the camera, looking away. Also, remember to get some different looks by using any accessories the model has brought with them.


Make sure you get a variety of shots – not just close-ups.

10. Be prepared to direct the model

Directing talent is a skill you will need to learn – especially with younger up-and-coming models with limited experience. There’s no need to be worried if you have no experience doing this yourself. Get yourself the 67 PORTRAIT POSES (PRINTABLE) Guide from DPS to have on your phone (or print them), or have a stash of urban portrait images, ready to flick through to give your talent some ideas on how to pose.

17 Tips for Shooting Better Urban Portraits

11. Check your ISO and shutter speed

As the day moves into night, keep a check on your ISO and make sure you have usable shutter speeds above 1/80th of a second. The most annoying mistake I’ve made on these shoots is looking at the back of the LCD screen, thinking that I’ve captured a sharp image, only to see that the image wasn’t as sharp as I thought on my computer screen later on.

12. Limit any negative self-talk

Negative self-talk can affect us all. If you had an idea for an image, but it doesn’t work out on the shoot, move on and forget about it. Many images are still there for the taking.

13. Carry your own lighting options

For the first half of an urban portrait shoot, I rely on natural or ambient light. As darkness envelopes the urban landscape, I look to my own lighting options.

The first option I usually take is a speedlight flash that I can use on-camera, or trigger remotely. Typically, the light from these types of flashes can be harsh, so you may like to use a light modifier such as a mini softbox.

The second type of lighting that I use on my urban portrait shoots are small LED video lights. These are fantastic, and I love using them. Again, you can use one through a light modifier for a softer effect.

Image: Using an on-camera flash can lead to some creative effects.

Using an on-camera flash can lead to some creative effects.

14. Safety

Safety should be your number one priority on a shoot like this. Identify any hazards before the shoot and brief your model. The last thing you want is someone getting hurt. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you get a bad vibe from an area, it’s best to move on.

Never leave any of your bags on the ground unattended. A few moments of inattention is all an opportunistic thief needs.

15. Legal

Always operate your shoots legally. Research if you need any permits to shoot in your city, look into public liability insurance, and have model releases signed before the shoot.

16. Limit the shoot time

Keep the shoot between 60 and 90 minutes; you’ll be amazed at how fast this will go. It’s better to have it run shorter and end on a high than run it longer with everyone exhausted. For younger models, keep it to under 60 minutes.


Keep the shoot length to under an hour for younger people – modeling is very tiring!

17. Editing your images

I always try and get it right in-camera, with only minor edits made to images afterward. One decision you may have to make is how much you want to clean up the image in post. In the example below, there were a lot of cigarette butts on the ground. I decided to remove these in Photoshop to make a cleaner image.

17 Tips for Shooting Better Urban Portraits


In this image, I removed all the cigarette butts and other debris from the road as I felt it detracted from the image. Sasha, Brisbane, Fujifilm X100F lit by a Godox flash.


Urban portrait shoots are a lot of fun and can stretch your creativity as a photographer. They help you to think on your feet and overcome challenges. If you’ve never done one before, there’s no need to feel daunted. Do your research and planning, and it will all fall into place.

If you have any questions or comments about planning an urban shoot, let us know below.

The post 17 Tips for Shooting Better Urban Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

Best Fujifilm X-Series Kit for Urban Portraits

The post Best Fujifilm X-Series Kit for Urban Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.


With a range of feature-packed cameras that are fun to use, and a line of stunning lenses, a Fujifilm X-Series kit is the ideal companion for urban portrait shoots.

I have been shooting with the X-Series for four years and love the system and the results I get from it. However, with so many good options available, one problem you may have is choosing a lens or kit to shoot with!

In this guide, I discuss what you need to consider when choosing a lens for a shoot, and a list of my favorite Fujifilm lenses for shooting urban portraits.

Advantages of using a Fujifilm X-Series Kit

There are a few key advantages that the Fujifilm X-Series has for urban portrait shoots. Being a mirrorless system, it’s generally smaller and lighter than DSLR kits. In practice, though, my camera bag probably isn’t much lighter because I usually fill it with more of the excellent Fujinon lenses.

Image: Fujifilm’s X-Series is ideal for urban portrait shoots for so many reasons.

Fujifilm’s X-Series is ideal for urban portrait shoots for so many reasons.

Excellent ergonomics and usability is a hallmark of the system. I love that I can change aperture on the lens instead of via a menu – in fact, I could never move back to a system where I have to change aperture via a menu now. The camera bodies feature shutter speed and ISO dials on top of the camera, so you have all the elements of the exposure triangle at your fingertips without a menu in sight.

Live view is another feature I couldn’t live without – it’s amazing seeing what your exposure will look like before pressing the shutter button. This is particularly useful in low light situations that you often encounter in urban shoots. Another dial on top of the camera is exposure compensation – you can easily adjust the exposure as you look through the viewfinder, which is perfect for the way I shoot.


Using live view on my Fujifilm X-T3, I could see exactly what adding extra exposure compensation would do when photographing Anne.

Another big advantage of Fujifilm cameras is their stunning color rendition – the best of any digital camera manufacturer. Fujifilm has used their decades of knowledge to produce JPG simulations that bear the names of class film emulsions: Provia, Astia, and Velvia, to name three.

The images in this article are JPGs (Provia simulation) with only small edits made in Adobe Lightroom. You can, of course, shoot in RAW alongside JPG and add your own looks or presets in post-production.

Camera bodies

I prefer to take two camera bodies with me on my shoots: the Fujifilm X-T3 and X-T2.

You can pretty much substitute any of the excellent X-Series lineups into your urban portrait kit, from the X-T series I use to the X-Pro line and the X-E line. I’ve even shot urban portraits with the X100 line of fixed-lens compact cameras.

If you only have one camera body, that is workable – you just need to be careful if you plan on changing lenses in urban environments to minimize the possibility of dust ending up on your sensor. The last thing you want on your mind during a shoot is the feeling of dread that you just let a whole lot of dust bunnies inside your camera.

Image: Choosing a lens for an urban portrait shoot is a balancing act between a focal length that fl...

Choosing a lens for an urban portrait shoot is a balancing act between a focal length that flatters your subject, but still allows you to be close. This image of Bailey was taken with a Fujinon 23mm f1.4 lens.

Lenses for urban portraits

The Fujifilm X-Series boasts a stunning range of superb lenses, with more being added every year. Fujifilm regularly updates a lens road map to let photographers know what new additions are coming. Portrait shooters have many fast primes available to them, as well as weather-resistant primes and a fantastic range of zoom lenses.

When choosing a lens for a shoot, I consider the following things:

Focal length

How flattering is this focal length for portrait photography? The images should flatter your client or model and make them look amazing.

Working distance

What’s the practical working distance of your lens? Ideally, for urban portraits, it’s good to have a lens choice that flatters your client for portraits, but without you being too far away. For me, this rules out some options such as the Fujinon XF 90mm F2 R LM WR lens.


In low light, I often find myself shooting at, or close to, the maximum aperture of the lens (the smallest number). In this image of Natasha, I was using the Fujinon 56mm f1.2 lens at f1.6.

Maximum aperture

The maximum aperture of the lens determines how wide it can open. The smaller the number, the ‘faster’ the lens is, allowing you to take images at high shutter speeds in lower light. ‘Slower’ lenses will not be able to shoot at the same shutter speeds unless you crank up the ISO, which can affect image quality.

During the middle of the day, this may not be important, but with less light after the sun goes down, fast lenses are important for sharp images and to keep the ISO lower. The X-series lineup has a range of very fast prime lenses with many maximum apertures at F1.4 and even F1.2.

Weather resistance

If planning a shoot in the rain or snow, a weather-resistant lens and body are a must. This is generally something I don’t need to think about – if it does start raining during a shoot, I usually move to an undercover location. Usually, clients don’t want their hair, makeup, and outfits ruined by a downpour.

Listed below are my choices for urban portrait lenses.

Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R


I love this lens – there is real magic to it. It’s my number one choice for urban portraits. The XF 35mm F1.4 is the closest Fujifilm has to the full-frame equivalent angle of view of 50mm – a classic focal length used by photographers for decades.

One of the three original lenses in the X-Series lineup, it has a fast maximum aperture of F1.4, making it perfect for images with a shallow depth of field and night shooting.

Featuring stunning optics and pleasing bokeh, this lens gives you a relatively short working distance for portraits. Best of all, it’s a lot cheaper than most of the other lenses in this guide.


I love this shot – so much fun! Alyssa in a phone booth, Brisbane, Australia.


The 35mm F1.4 lens has a magic quality. I love that the lens is flattering for clients, yet it allows you to get quite close to them while shooting.

Fujinon XF 16mm F1.4 R WR


The next choice on my list is arguably one of the best lenses Fujifilm has ever produced – the stunning Fujinon XF 16mm F1.4 lens.

With a full-frame equivalent of 24mm, you may think this is an odd choice for a portrait session, but it’s a perfect lens for wide-angle environmental shots. With a minimum focus distance of just 15cm, this lens is the perfect option when working in confined spaces.

The excellent build quality of the lens is also matched by its stunning optics. Although any distortion is corrected in-body by the camera, you still need to be careful when shooting with it. Place your model or client towards the center of the frame for the best results.

Image: Sasha sitting on beer kegs in a Brisbane laneway. There wasn’t much room in the laneway...

Sasha sitting on beer kegs in a Brisbane laneway. There wasn’t much room in the laneway, so the 16mm F1.4 was a perfect choice for this shot.

Image: The short working distance and wide angle-of-view enabled me to take this image of Natasha in...

The short working distance and wide angle-of-view enabled me to take this image of Natasha in front of some metal shutters.


Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2 R


The XF 56mm F1.2 R lens is perhaps the jewel in the crown of the X-Series lineup. Stunning image quality and beautiful bokeh make it a winner in anyone’s book.

This is the lens that all Fujifilm portrait photographers either have in their kit or on their wishlist. With a full-frame equivalent of around 85mm, it is substantially lighter than full-frame equivalent lenses for DSLRs. It boasts a super-fast F1.2 maximum aperture, is tack sharp, and has the most pleasing bokeh in the X-Series lineup.

For portrait work, this lens is fantastic. Just bear in mind that in urban environments, it’s not always a suitable choice, as you need a greater working distance when using this lens.


Sasha in Brisbane, Australia. I love how sharp she looks in this frame, and how the out-of-focus lights have rendered in the background.

Image: Natasha in a laneway, Brisbane. With a bit more working distance, full-length portraits are a...

Natasha in a laneway, Brisbane. With a bit more working distance, full-length portraits are also possible with this lens.


Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro

Best Fujifilm X-Series Kit for Urban Portraits

Perhaps the most underrated lens in the entire Fujifilm line up, the XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro, was another of the original three lenses released for the system. It had a reputation for being slow to focus, but improvements to the firmware for this lens have made a big difference. I have no hesitation in using it on shoots.

Although it has the word macro in its name, the lens can only shoot at a 1:2 magnification ratio. (Generally, a 1:1 magnification ratio is regarded as true macro.) With a maximum aperture of F2.4, it’s not as fast as other lenses in this article, but the lens still provides excellent image quality and has a very good bang for your buck.

Image: Alyssa at dusk, Brisbane. The XF 60mm F2.4 is an excellent option if the XF56mm F1.2 is out o...

Alyssa at dusk, Brisbane. The XF 60mm F2.4 is an excellent option if the XF56mm F1.2 is out of your budget.



Alyssa in Brisbane. The XF 60mm F2.4 is stunningly sharp.


Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 R

Best Fujifilm X-Series Kit for Urban Portraits

The Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 R is another lens often mentioned as the best in the X-Series lineup. With the 1.5 crop factor, it’s Fujifilm’s closest lens to the traditional full-frame 35mm angle of view. This angle of view makes it perhaps the most versatile lens in the lineup for any given range of shooting scenarios – a big plus.

Another fast lens with a maximum aperture of F1.4, the lens is optically stunning and produces sharp images and beautiful bokeh.

Although I love this lens, I often leave it at home and take along the XF 16mm 1.4 and the XF 35mm 1.4 instead. However, it still deserves a place in this guide as it’s an excellent choice for urban portrait shoots.

Image: Bailey, Cleveland, Australia. The XF 23mm F1.4 lens is super-sharp and produces beautiful bok...

Bailey, Cleveland, Australia. The XF 23mm F1.4 lens is super-sharp and produces beautiful bokeh.


Bailey, Raby Bay Harbour, Australia. It was quite dark when I took this shot, but with a higher ISO and some exposure compensation, Bailey looks fantastic – as do the pretty lights in the background.



The Fujifilm X-Series lineup is ideal for shooting urban portraits. The range features a range of compact, feature-packed camera bodies, along with optically stunning fast prime lenses.

Although you could invest some serious money in this system, there are many excellent value-for-money options, including the X-E line of camera bodies, as well as the X-T30 and the X-T20. In terms of lens choices, two of the original X-Series lineup – the XF 35mm F1.4 and XF 60mm F2.4 lenses – represent excellent value for money, blowing the competitor’s budget lenses out of the water in terms of quality.

If you have a bigger budget, also consider the X-T3, the new X-Pro 3, and the excellent XF 16mm F1.4, XF 23 1.4, and XF 56mm 1.2 lenses.

I’ve been using the system for four years and love the images the system produces straight out of the camera, thanks to the magic of Fujifilm’s JPG film simulations. The beautiful rendering of colors makes post-processing work a breeze.

What Fujifilm X-Series camera bodies and lenses do you use for urban portrait shoots? Let us know in the comments below.



The post Best Fujifilm X-Series Kit for Urban Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

How to Choose Urban Landscapes for Portrait Photography

The post How to Choose Urban Landscapes for Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.


Are you bored of doing portrait shoots in the studio or the local park? Try mixing things up with an urban portrait shoot. The city streets, the buildings, the laneways – this is your cinematic backdrop. All you need is a little bit of planning and a lot of imagination. If you’ve never done a shoot like this before, you might be wondering how to choose locations. In this article, I will run you through my process of choosing urban landscapes for portrait photography


Bailey in a window, Brisbane. I took this shot with some off-camera flash outside my local library. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 23mm f1.4 lens.

An urban portrait shoot in my city? No way!

You may think that your city or your town has nothing of interest, but it does. You just have to look with a fresh perspective. Sometimes I’ll be on a photo walk with another photographer, and they don’t seem to see the potential that their town has to offer. “Wow, look at that doorway!” I’ll say. With a puzzled face, they reply, “It’s just a doorway!” 

No, it’s not just a doorway – it’s a potential scene in your next urban portrait shoot. 

Image: Sasha, Brisbane. I used these old street lamps as an element in the shoot. Fujifilm X-T3 with...

Sasha, Brisbane. I used these old street lamps as an element in the shoot. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

Every town or city I’ve ever been to has its charms and a unique look: from modern glass and steel skyscrapers to historic buildings to run-down industrial areas. There are so many aspects of urban locations that you could include in your shoots: laneways, street art, doorways, neon signs, steel shutters, and traffic trails, just to name a few. 

There’s also the unique way that light falls in urban environments: harsh beams of light that fall between buildings, beautiful soft light that you find in doorways and under bridges, and in Brisbane, dazzling light reflecting off skyscrapers. The possibilities are endless.

The best time for an urban portrait shoot

The best time for an urban portrait shoot is whenever you and your client or model are both available. Regardless of the light, the weather, or the locations. The success of the photoshoot is ultimately in your hands. 

My favorite time for doing urban portrait shoots is just before dusk. This allows you to get a good mix of golden hour photos with sunlight, blue hour photos as the city lights come into play and nighttime shots with artificial light. 


Alyssa in an industrial alleyway, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 60mm f2.4 lens.

Location scouting

I usually run portrait shoots for around 90-minutes, allowing me to shoot in 6-8 locations. 

It’s best to do your location scouting at the same time of day that your shoot will take place. This is so you can look at the light, see how it falls, and plan accordingly. In practice, though, I usually end up doing my scouting during the day. 

Before I arrange the shoot, I take some time to wander about the city to find 8-10 locations close together. The reason I look for more places than I’ll need is to be flexible on the shoot. Cars or trucks can block alleyways, big crowds could move through the area at the time of the shoot, or the lighting could be all wrong. There’s a whole lot of things that could make the location unsuitable when you arrive at the scene.

Although it’s tempting to plan to shoot in two locations at opposite ends of town, unless you have easy access to transport on the day of the shoot, it will be impractical. Photoshoots can be tiring for everyone, so asking your client or model to walk several city blocks and back again to shoot in one location may not be the best idea. 

What to take during location scouting

When you’re scouting for locations, have a notepad and pen ready along with your smartphone. When you see somewhere that you like, take a photo on your phone for reference and jot down some notes. I always draw a map of the city streets in my notebook. Then I plot the locations on it and plan a direction for the shoot.

What I’m looking for during my walk is a cool urban location in which to place the client or model. Some locations will leap out at you, and you will know that you should take some photos there. Others may not reveal their charm until later when the lights are low. 

Image: Natasha, Brisbane. I like the very subtle reflection in the polished stone wall behind her. F...

Natasha, Brisbane. I like the very subtle reflection in the polished stone wall behind her. Fujifilm X-T3 with 56mm f1.2 lens

As you’re wandering around, there’s a couple of things you need to keep in mind:


What is this place going to look like at dusk or nighttime? Remember that for many shots, you will be shooting with a wide-open aperture, or close to wide open, so many of the details in the background will be blurred. 

Potential risks

It may look cool, but is this place dangerous in any way? Think of how you will place the model or client in this scene – are there any risks that you need to be mindful of? Is there a lot of traffic? Is it a dangerous neighborhood? You should consider all of this when you’re planning, as safety should be your top priority for these shoots.

Below are some of my go-to shots when I plan an urban photoshoot. I took all of these within a few blocks of each other in central Brisbane, Australia. 

Neon lights

Neon shots are a favorite with the Instagram crowd, and it’s easy to see why. They are so much fun and a great image idea to have up your sleeve.

Neon signs are something that, quite honestly, I never usually notice. However, as soon as you start looking for them, you’ll be amazed at how many your town has.


Alyssa, Brisbane. This neon light is outside a takeaway shop in central Brisbane. I was attracted to the three different colors the sign had.

Beer kegs outside a pub

As soon as I saw these beer kegs in a laneway outside a pub, I knew I wanted to incorporate them in a shoot. I’ve used them as both a background element and also as a prop for models to sit on.

In this shot of Anne, I struck gold. By chance, it was one of the busiest days for pubs in the year – Melbourne Cup Day. There were a few dozen kegs in a laneway all stacked on one another. I lit this shot with an LED video light.


Anne in front of beer kegs, Brisbane. I love the shape, color, and reflection of the kegs in the background. Fujifilm X-T3 with an 8-16mm f2.8 lens lit with an LED video light.


Many Australian cities are blessed with alleyways. In many ways, they are the perfect place for photoshoots. Expect atmospheric lighting, an industrial look, street art – and best of all – little traffic. While Melbourne may be the laneways capital of Australia, Brisbane has many too.

Image: Natasha in a laneway, Brisbane. I like the color and bokeh that some tiny blue fairy lights p...

Natasha in a laneway, Brisbane. I like the color and bokeh that some tiny blue fairy lights provided in this shot. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

Telephone booth

This is a really fun place to use for some shots – if you can still find one these days. You may also have to take some time to explain to younger clients or models on how to use a public payphone!


Alyssa in a phone booth in Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 35mm f1.4 lens.


Reflections are a go-to image idea for urban portrait shoots. Many buildings provide you with glass or reflective surfaces.

Image: Anne looking into a mirrored surface, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T2 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

Anne looking into a mirrored surface, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T2 with a 56mm f1.2 lens.

Old signage

I love history and nostalgia, but sadly there isn’t much left in my city. One day I noticed this sign and thought I’d love to do some shots here.

Image: Sasha in front of a sign, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 16mm f1.4 lens.

Sasha in front of a sign, Brisbane. Fujifilm X-T3 with a 16mm f1.4 lens.

Take your next portrait shoot to the streets

Urban portrait shoots can be a lot of fun. If you’ve never done one before, I hope that this guide has inspired you to look around your city for urban landscapes for portrait photography.

For your first time, you can always ask a friend to be your model if you want to try things out and see how the images look. Practice makes perfect.

Remember, safety is a very important factor in a shoot like this – both for your client or model and for yourself.

Urban shoots have helped me grow as a photographer. I feel more creative, I see possibilities for images in the mundane, and they’ve also helped me to think on my feet and improvise. ­­­­

So what are you waiting for? An endless array of scenes is right on your doorstep. Take your next portrait shoot to the streets.

Do you have any other tips for scouting urban landscapes for portrait photography? Share with us in the comments!

The post How to Choose Urban Landscapes for Portrait Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.