Urban: The Human Element | Montreal Urban Photography

I am sometimes asked what I look for when I am making images on my urban photo walks.  Some days it is the lines in the architecture, other days it is a certain colour that just pops.  But mainly, as with most of my photography, I try and tell a story with a single image.  And for the last little while, I try and focus on adding in a human element (ok, sometimes it’s a cute dog or fugly pigeon) that helps add a bit more to the image.

Here are some captures from a photo walk I did just last night, where I feel that if the person was not there, the image wouldn’t be as interesting.





However, this means that I either have to be REALLY quick to capture the image as I see the person coming into the frame or the composition is good only for a few seconds.  This is often the case and it provides the most frustration as you have to be spot on to pull off the image.  The image right above at the Palais des Congres, I saw the guy walking and almost ran into place to try and grab him in an interesting place in the frame, while adjusting settings and avoiding random dog poop.  He helps add perspective and scale in the image.

And sometimes, you miss your image, like this skater coming down the street where I missed my focus.


And other times, it means that you see the shot, know what you want, but are missing the human element.  So you wait, and wait….and…yep… wait.  Like this one below of the Capitol in Washington DC.  It was somewhat cold and rainy when I was there.  I loved the feel of it.  I took some shots with no one, but spotted this guy way in the back.  I waited for about 8-9 minutes standing in the rain (my friend kinda wanted to leave haha) in the hopes that he would walk into my frame in a decent place…. and he did.  Without him, would still of been a nice image, but with his umbrella and cradling his papers, I now have gone from an image to a story.


So there is no secret.  Just be patient.  Try and see the shot before you take it.  Here are a few more images where I feel the person adds that little extra.


(snowy day in Montreal’s Old Port)


(jogger on the boardwalk at Cony Island, NYC)


(cyclist slowing traffic in NYC)


(Was going for a selfie in a mirror and this guy was also there… and seems kinda happy)


(no worries! in Dublin, Ireland)


(3am leaving the pub, all blurry, in Dublin… ok, leaving the 6th pub of the day)


  1. Thanks for the insight, I like the first photo the best, I’ve often found myself in the same contemplative position alone in a restaurant. What lens did you use for that shot.

    1. all my shots from last night were done with a 50mm. I’m not one to drag a crap load of gear around, usually just 1 lens, maybe 2. The problem is that its a 50mm f/1.4, which isnt a pro level lens so the focus is slow… which is annoying when you have a split second to focus.

  2. The Cony island jogger is my fave, Such a wonderful shooting view. Excellent work Pierre , I need to join you in one of your walks !

    I’m guessing concert photography is a great training to improve the quick capture technique 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’ve always said that each style of photo can teach you something for what you do every day. Quick focusing in shows helps for urbans and weddings… urban eye for quick composition helps for shows and weddings… dealing with bridezilla in a wedding helps for dealing with artists at shows 😉

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