Urban environments are great places to explore various impressionist photography techniques. There is no shortage of subject matter to photograph, even in a small town. Full of colour, textures and patterns, ever-changing urban landscapes provide endless opportunities to create exciting photographs from the early morning right through to the late hours of the night.
Impressionism is not a definable technique; rather it is a way of seeing and expressing the effect of light upon the subject, so always spend some time just looking at the subject to determine how you want to interpret it. We each have a different view of the world and that should reflect on howwe photograph it. Once you've decided how you want to interpret a subject, push the boundaries of your own photography and take chances with something different.
A good place to start is to look for intriguing abstractions of reality in reflections. There is an abundance of reflections throughout an urban landscape. Windows, glass surfaces, mirrors, wet streets, puddles of water, water features, rivers, and highly reflective materials used on building exteriors all provide the perfect surface for creating interesting impressionist images.
Reflections will also vary in intensity throughout the day as the strength and direction of light changes. Additionally, some materials won't reflect an image, but they will reflect colour and light with varying degrees of intensity that you can use to create a visual excitement in your photographs and stimulate the senses of the viewer.
Remember that your goal is to express an emotion or a feeling and mood, so try to only suggest detail rather than focus on it. Also try to emphasise colours and shapes and the relationship between them. Free your mind from what you know (or think you know) about your subject, and respond directly to the pure visual sensations of colour and light. Perhaps the greatest challenge of impressionist photography lies in its unpredictability to some extent, even in the hands of experts. This can be a daunting experience at first, but with a bit of practice and careful planning you will quickly learn how to control your camera to achieve the desired effect. Embrace and approach each technique with the spirit of experimentation.
Don't be too quick to give up. Remember that everything takes time and patience. Some of the impressionist photography techniques may take on a mind of their own, but this is all part of the excitement.
Experimentation is the key to good impressionist techniques; try things, and if they don't work, try again until you master them.
Amongst the many ways of achieving an impressionist feel in your photographs, perhaps the most popular is the use of blur. There are many kinds of blur: lens blur, motion blur, panning/zooming blur, filter blur (Vaseline, hairspray, stockings, cling wrap, etc…), each lending its own look and characteristics.
Blur offers many opportunities for producing extraordinary images, and which blur to use will depend of your own preferences. Apart from strictly aesthetic reasons you should also consider what kind of mood each technique lends the image with regard to the chosen subject and a message that you want to communicate. For example, blur patterns produced by panning support the illusion of motion as well as recording time in a single frame. Lens blur will suggest ambiguity and mystery, whereas hairspray will add a romantic feel to the photograph. Look at the subject matter, lighting, colours, shapes, and textures, and decide upon the emotions you wish to convey in your image. Blur can be a highly effective way of achieving this.
Strive to make photographs that viewers will respond to emotionally.
One of the most common mistakes of the beginner photographer, regardless of the technique used, is not paying enough attention to the background. All the elements in an image should work together, so before you push the shutter release button, switch your attention to the background to make sure that there is nothing there to detract the viewer from the main subject.
The next time you photograph an urban landscape and its vibrant colours,bold and graphic shapes, and intriguing reflections, allow yourself to be led by light. Hopefully you will find subjects that will inspire you to take risks and explore new ways of seeing.