By Rick Hulbert, HSW Faculty

Now that you have the gear . . . how about learning to make great images?

When attending one of my intensive Urban Photography Workshops, I promise to help you learn how to better see and perceive the environment around you. Your photographic skills will be enhanced regardless of your level of experience and expertise.

But how do you know if you need to bump up your game? Here’s a sneak peak from my Night Photography in San Francisco workshop, a part of the academic curriculum lifted right from the course instruction. This will help you get a feel of where I will take you to better read and perceive your surrounding photographic environment.


Night Photography in San FranciscoCHALLENGE NUMBER 1:

Q: Do you know what Neuroscientists tell us is the very first thing we see?

A: Our vision is initially stimulated by small spots of light.

The key is to understand and appreciate that we are initially stimulated by “contrasting light.” It is not the brightest image that “wins.” Rather it is the contrast that initially draws our attention. You can imagine that nowhere is this more true than photographing the urban scene at the edge of night. Imagine learning how to just see light as separate from specific subject matter.



Q: Do you want to hazard a guess as to the second subject of human vision that most stimulates our brain activity?

A: After contrasting light, our brain interprets a scene as a series of edges of objects and elements. Our comprehension of what we see is initiated by these edges. It is our amazing ability to understand how edges of objects and elements make up the physical world we see before us that becomes a fundamental component of our visual system. Imagine composing a photographic image only based on edges of light and edges of objects. It is powerful stuff! For a photograph that is easy on the eyes, you want to learn how to maintain a clarity of edges. I refer to this as “edges that breathe.”



Q: Architect’s and City Planners design envelopes for human activity. I refer to these envelopes as “behavioral settings.” Given this awareness, what do you think the next challenge is that I want to suggest you learn to photograph?

A: A key aspect of photographing the urban environment is learning to photograph “volumetric space.” Examples of urban spaces include Streets, Plazas, Parks, and Waterfront Promenades. They can be thought of as urban rooms. While most photographs are of a physical subject, you can up your game by learning to photograph spaces that are framed by the designed and constructed environment. Think of building faces or a row of trees as walls of outdoor rooms. Think of the sky as the ceiling of those outdoor rooms.



Q: What do you think is the single most important characteristic of sensing a volumetric space?

A: The single most important aspect of conveying 3-dimensional space is the ability to portray varying “degrees of depth.” There are recognized visual cues that result in our brain sensing the notion of 3-dimensional depth. As photographers, we can use these cues to control the degree of depth in our images.



Night Photography in San Francisco

Q: There is a phrase that is used to characterize the uniqueness of urban communities world-wide. Knowing this four-word phrase will provide you with the ability to begin to identify and then translate that unique community character in your photographs.

A: The objective of conveying “a sense of place” in your images will up your game in Urban Photography. The word, ‘place,’ describes all of the unique physical attributes that define and describe designed and constructed cities and towns. The search for ‘place’ will expand your mind and guarantee uniqueness in your images.




Q: There is one key component of Urban Communities that we have yet to mention. Without that component, it would be like photographing water fountains without water. Can you guess the remaining photographic challenge?

A: In a word, the answer is people! Those of you who have benefitted from and enjoyed the Ultimate Travel Photography Workshops lead by Michael Mariant will appreciate the power of the phrase “a slice of life.” Photographing individuals or groups of people in the urban scene can include candid Street Photography or Urban Portraiture where the subjects are aware they are being photographed. The key is to recognize that the setting drives the image. City nightlife is a great subject to learn and enjoy.



By tackling the above six photographic challenges and then mastering them, your image making will take a giant step forward. Keeping the above six photographic challenges “top of mind,” will not only enhance your photography, it will result in further enjoyment and appreciation on the part of the beholders of your art. Come join me at my next workshop to not only tackle these challenges, but many more to help elevate your photography to a level you didn’t realize you had in you!

Rick Hulbert’s next workshop is in the world-class city of San Francisco, September 29th through October 2, 2016: Night Photography in San Francisco. Limited seats are still available.