When you think of photographign people in the city you may think of candid street photography, however urban portraits are something altogether different.

Photographers like Damien Lovegrove may be shooting in the street, but they’re taking control of every aspect of the process, including lighting, styling and more. In AP this week he offers a few top tips for shooting urban portraits.

1. Find Your Location

Lovegrove-UP-05 800Damien starts with Google Earth, and in particular Google Street View, looking for environments with multi-level zones such as bridge and tunnels. This will provide the environment necessary for controlling the light. This is also useful for finding suitable backgrounds like a stainless steel shutter or a wall of glass with interesting reflections.

Once you’ve got an idea for a location, you’ll also need to use Google Maps to find a suitable meeting spot for you and your subject, as well as parking.

Damien also recommends having a recce around the location before you shoot – as well as planning the technical requirements, you can also check it’s completely safe to use.

2. Get the right gear

RF60_2 800You’ll need to be well equipped. Damien recommends at least one Cactus RF60 flashgun (above), its matching V6 transceiver, a Lastolite Jupiter stand and a Lovegrove flash bracket. This combination will allow you to freely place the light wherever you wish and precisely control the look and feel of your shoot.

3. Light it Right

Lovegrove-UP-06 800You need to have control of the light, so finding a location that blocks natural light from at least one direction is a good idea. Damien finds an area with relatively little ambient light then adds his own with one or two flashguns.

4. Mix the Colours

ColourPlaying with colour temperature is a great way to get interesting, dynamic effects. Try a warm gel on the flashgun and a cold white balance setting on the camera to keep the surrounding areas blue while maintaining a warm glow on the subject.

5. Shoot Wide Open

Lovegrove-UP-11 800Damien uses a shallow depth of field to get beautiful blurred backgrounds, and recommends using a standard or telephoto lens to really soften the look. Neutral density filters are a useful extra to keep in your kit bag, so that you don’t have to compromise your wide aperture settings even in brighter conditions.

All images © Damien Lovegrove

For a complete guide to shooting urban portraits, pick up a copy of this week’s AP, on sale now.

Want more great techniques? Check out our top tips for shooting autumn colour.

About the author

DamienDamien Lovegrove

You can view more of Damien’s work on his website, where there are more than 2,000 images arranged in 23 galleries. Or you can join him on one of his photographic adventures. See here for more information.