Cityscape Photography: Shooting with Symmetry and Perspective | Jamal Burger | Skillshare

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Cityscape Photography: Shooting with Symmetry and Perspective

teacher avatar Jamal Burger, Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Planning Your Shoot


    • 4.

      Shooting: Symmetry


    • 5.

      Shooting: The Stride-By


    • 6.

      Shooting: The Lookup


    • 7.

      Closing Thoughts


    • 8.

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About This Class

Join Toronto-based cityscape photographer Jamal Burger (aka @jayscale) for a 20-minute class as he walks us through his process of shooting three specific compositions: Symmetry, the Lookup, and the Stride-By.

You'll learn Jamal's techniques for composing your shot, taking advantage of natural light, capturing interesting characters juxtaposed with beautiful architecture, and overall just having fun pushing your photo skills no matter what level of experience you have.

Whether you're a complete beginner, a seasoned shooter or an Instagram enthusiast, Jamal's process will inspire you to take your cityscapes to the next level.


Meet Your Teacher

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Jamal Burger



Canadian based photographer Jamal Burger shifts focus between the city and sport through his work. Born and raised in Toronto, his surroundings have inspired his black and white perspective.

Since 2014, Jamal has been sought out by acclaimed brands such as Jordan, Nike, Apple and more. On a social level, he has amassed a following of over 200 thousand followers organically.

His fascination with documenting the now to showcase years down the line has brought him into new, exciting places to expand his perspective and further gain experience in his everyday photography.

From Tokyo to New York, Jamal finds his niche in the city, where high energy and constant movement are prevalent. Jamal sees the camera as a means to capturing the fleeing moment in a con... See full profile

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1. Introduction: My name is Jamal. I'm from Toronto. On Instagram, I go by jayscale. So, I'm going to be talking about CDC photography, there's a couple of things that we're going to try and highlight. We're going to try and highlight symmetry, we're going to try and highlight the lookup, and we're going to try and highlight the stride by. The main goal with me in this class is help you guys find your perspective. How you can put your own spin and the way you see things into the photographs that you are taking. Things I want you to take away from this class; stem from lining of your shots, angling yourself, putting yourself in a position to help you capture more or less, to leave, to get things in the photo, and how to keep things out of the photo. These three shots are all shots that I took when I started. The lookup, the stride by, and symmetry. These are all things that I was taking photos of with my phone when I started. So, it's really cool in the sense that we're working on that today, because one, over time, I've learned about how I can make sure I capture that photo if I only have a second to capture it. I've also learned how to line up better. I've also learned which lens I prefer to shot with when I'm in those scenarios. So, when it's a lookup, I might prefer a wide, like 14, or when it's a stride by, I might want something more realistic, like my 35. So, in these scenarios, I feel like it's the perfect opportunity to show you guys how it's done, and how you can improve on it. The goal is to be as creative as possible. I wanted to showcase one of the three shots that I'm going to take today, and show you guys how I do it, and some key tips that I incorporated while I'm taking these photos. So that, one, you could take that away and apply to what you're taking, or capturing, and two, you can learn as you go. 2. Equipment: This is pretty much what I go outside with. My go-to is a 35. 35, because it is not too wide, but it's not too tight. It can essentially act as a 50 if I was to take two steps in, or it could act as a 24 if I took four or five steps back. So if I was to roll with one lens, it would be my 35. So that's why that's on this camera now because going outside today that's what I'm going to keep on it. Secondly, for portraits, I have an 85. 85 helps me in a lot of scenarios. One of my favorite lenses because the aperture goes all the way down to 1.2, and the fact that the aperture goes down to 1.2, it lets in a lot of light, and I can get it super, super, super crisp image if I really want to. That's like if I'm taking a photo of somebody in particular, if I'm shooting with friends, or if I'm trying to capture a subject, or I'm shooting products, whatever. But I keep that on me in case I want to shoot portraits when I'm most out with my friends. I got this 24 if I want to capture a street shot or a symmetrical shot or a shot that involves capturing as much as possible but still maintaining that realistic approach or like that realistic perspective because anything under 24 just starts to look distorted. So I have this on me in case I need it for that situation, as much as possible, without it looking distorted. Then I have a superwide, which is a 14, which helps in scenarios like today when we're taking lookups. When we go to take lookups, it helps if you want to capture everything in front of you. It pretty much allows you to see where the photographer is. I keep this on me in those scenarios. Also, if I ever get that chance looking down on something or being up high looking down, the 14, superclass in that scenario. So, I got that. Then, most importantly, I got my phone. My phone is the best. The best camera you have is the one in your pocket. I mean, I'll always take cool photos with my phone like on Snapchat, and I'll post it on my Snapchat just because it's so simple. I don't edit. I just post it there and the composition is appreciated for the composition. But you can see that some of the greatest photos are taken on a phone because if you have that split second, your phone enables you to do that, so that's why I always carry my phone with me, and I have it ready to take photos as well. I have my phone. I have these three lenses, and I usually keep the 35 on it. To be honest, I don't think there's anything else I need. If I'm ever working, I have a 70-200. I usually keep that at home because that lens is probably heavier than all of this put together. But besides that, that's what I roll in. 3. Planning Your Shoot: Right now we're at the Hudson River. It's really close to the Financial District. I'd say it's a five-minute walk, and we're proud to head in there and take some photos. It's dope because it's cloudy, not super cloudy but it's cloudy enough that the light's not crazy bland or it makes the streets boring and what not. So I'm excited to get in the Financial District. What I'm probably going to be looking for most often is interesting characters, characters that kind of represent that area. So it could be a businessman with a suit, or it could be the businesswomen with the long strides and their really nice trench coat, whatever, kind of thing. So, hopefully, we can capture some of those people in the Financial District and incorporate that into a stride-by or a symmetrical shot, something along those lines. It's very versatile in the sense, where it's you're not limited, or there's not one type of shot. It's really up to you in terms of what's going to be captured. It can be tough trying to get like that unique shot sometimes. But to me honestly, if I can walk away with one shot in the day, I'm happy as opposed to getting like five or six shots at anyone else's like anyone could grab essentially. So that's pretty much the goal of my day-to-day life. The last thing I want to do is take something that everyone is taking a photo of. Right. So it's more important to me to capture that one golden moment as opposed to five that are just okay. I think the most important part when you're in an area where there's a lot going on or you're unfamiliar with it essentially, I think the most important thing to do is stay open-minded. Let your eyes wander. Look around. Pay attention to the people walking by. If you see something even if you're not sure, make that attempt to grab that photo, because, I guess, in all honesty, you might not have a chance to take that photo again. So, it's very important to stay open-minded over here. I think for me when I'm in this area, I'm obviously looking for iconic landmarks or like super interesting architecture because that just adds to the photo. It just helps to photo you taking. You might be a good photographer, better like the photo. If there's something really cool in the photo, it just makes it look that much better. I tried to look for that because I'm trying to make the photo as interesting as possible. From interesting buildings, from interesting architecture, all the way to interesting characters like if you could combine interesting character with interesting architecture or like phenomenal architecture. That just makes the photo that much better. So that's some of stuff that I'm looking for when I'm out here. I'm also looking for maybe the lights will be hitting a building in a particular way that it's only hitting it at that time, and you got to be very quick about it, and you have to get very lucky at the same time. 4. Shooting: Symmetry: One thing I do when I'm shooting for symmetry is I check the focus points on my camera, and I try to put that line of middle focus points, like in the middle of the matter that I'm trying to capture symmetrically. So I line up the middle set of focus points in between the buildings or the architecture that I'm focusing it on, right. So, maybe I want to capture a stride by that incorporates symmetry, one thing I'm going to do first is I'm going to line my shot up, and then after lining up my shot, it comes down to waiting for the right person across by, right? Usually, I like to capture one person in the photo, but there's also the rule of odds, the rule of odds is essentially our eyes are nationally more attracted to sets of people in a photo, whether it's one, three, five. If it's like two or four or we sometimes get distracted without even thinking about it, so I try to incorporate that as well if I'm going to shoot something against a wall, or like in this setting, the idea of symmetry. The building is symmetrical, so I was trying to incorporate a person into the photo, whether it's astride by someone's walking by, and showcase the two things put together, so that's what I'm trying to do in that situation. I'm at this time of day, you kind of have, based on the scenario, if you want to capture that fast one, I usually shoot aperture priority. Wherever you have your aperture at, your camera's going to adjust the settings accordingly. So you pick an aperture, you pick an ISO, and then it picks the shutter speed based on the scenario that your in. So if you want to capture that super still shot at his leg or that stride happening, it's better to have a higher ISO, maybe like 400 and 640, but and it's still super clean. You get no grain from that level of eyes is on the camera I use. I use a Canon 5D Mark III and right now I have the 24 on my camera because it's very versatile in the sense that if I want to shoot a wide stride by I can, but if I happened to see a lookup and I want to capture that I can as well. So if you're going to go out here with one lens, I'd recommend a 24. There's literally two girls walking on the opposite sides at the same time. So I don't necessarily like to have two subjects in the photo at one because I could find it to be distracting sometimes, but it is symmetrical in the sense that there's one person on each side, so it's kind of cool. I actually find it kind of interesting. So, it works. I got a cool photo. So I got one shot that was symmetrical with the two girls, but then I also take one more shot where I kind of use the two middle rails as leading lines into the photo. So it's kind of like a depth play on the depth of field. So I pretty much lowered my focus to 2.0 and I kind of planted my lens against the, I planted my lens against the railing so that the railing kind of blurs and then kind of comes into focus as a transition. So, I naturally leads to the center of the photo with that interesting subject as a focal point. So right now we are in the financial district and the World Trade Center lines up perfectly in-between these streets. So a perfect opportunity capture a symmetrical shot in the sense that the two sets of buildings will line up perfectly along the World Trade Center being in the middle. So, that's the goal I have here. And then from a post editing perspective, I'm already thinking about how to make the building in the middle pop and using my cover net for example to like darken the surrounding area so that the focus is strictly on the building. In this scenario, I started standing up and I was this kind of looks very ordinary, it looks like very anyone could just go stand in the middle and take the photo. But to kind of make the building a bit more imposing, I kind of leveraged it by kind of kneeling down and pointing my camera up because it kind of makes the building look a bit more like, I guess, I already said it, but imposing in the sense that it's coming at you, you know what I mean? It's more, you see the scale of the building a lot more than you would, just like straight up pointing it out instead kind of gave it an angle to kind of give you a perspective of the magnitude of how big this building actually isn't. There's also something here that's interesting in photography. It's called juxtaposition, it's just the concept that involves two extremes. So, in this scenario, it's like a relatively new building that has been around for less than 10 years, while others buildings standing out have been here for like 50, 60 maybe even more. So there's a strong juxtaposition there. Then, I think that's just an added element to this photo that includes symmetry. So in the project if you can never capture elements that just like in coincidentally work with the photo, that's a bonus, that's just like, that just makes your photo that much better you know what I mean? 5. Shooting: The Stride-By: I'm going to take another stride by, or a stride by, in this situation. I'm also going to incorporate symmetry, so, I'm lining myself off in between the frames of the windows, so, there's two on the left, and two on the right, and I'm going to position myself in between those sets of windows, and I'm going to wait for the right subject. So, I have my 35 on it right now, and I want the subject to pop. So, I'm going to have my aperture at about 2.0, if I'm lucky, I'm going to try 1.4. I'm going to try capturing one or two but I don't have my ISO at 200 right now. The main thing here, is I'm trying to capture a quick snap. When you're shooting a stride by for example, you want to make sure that your camera is leveled with the wall that you're taking a photo of. Because the automatic instinct it suggests put your camera and shoot, well, you're forgetting sometimes that if it's tilted up a bit too much, or if it's tilted down too much, then the lines are going to converge, they're going to come more into the photo at the top, or they're going to gear away from the photos as they go to the top or to the bottom based on whether you tilted inward, or you tilted out. So, one thing I've become very conscious of is having my camera as flat to the wall as possible. So, I got the shot, but because he was walking so fast, it's off in terms of the symmetry. When we talk about editing, I'll show you how you can take a photo that's not necessarily symmetrical, and you can make it symmetrical on your own. Ideally, you want this photo to be as symmetrical as possible in the beginning, because, then you have more to work with in the editing process, but it's never an issue to turn something that's not symmetrical, into something that is symmetrical with some careful and particular cropping, and using the aspect ratio. So, adjust and manipulate the photo, so that it does appear symmetrical. Sometimes, what I try to do, when I'm taking a photo, I try to imagine what I'm going to do to it afterwards before I even take the photo. So, like in this situation, or like this is going to be another stride by, but one side of the wall is a lot darker than the other, so just thinking about it I'm just like, "Oh, I'm going to make the site photo, a heavy contrast." I'm going to wait for someone wearing something dark to enter the light area, so that when I edit in post, I can darken up that dark area, brighten up the bright area, and keep that subject dark, and it's just going to pop, and that's my plan in this situation. So now, it's all a matter of me waiting for someone to enter this spot. It could be 30 seconds, or it could be 30 minutes. Hopefully, it's 30 seconds. So, one thing you can do when your taking a stride by for example, you can shoot on live mode if your camera has that, in this situation, I'm going to have my aperture at 5.6, because anything can happen, and it gives me that larger space for error. Honestly, in this situation, the most important thing to do is be patient, but the other thing is to not get too hung up on something. If something passes you, and you were really excited about capturing it, don't hang your head if you're not capturing it, or if it's simply not happening anymore. Because, it's already gone. You can't do anything about. You just have to move on, and try to make the scenario better. This dude will be perfect, if I get him by himself. Where I'm trying to capture this person right now, is I'm trying to catch them on the line of the rule of third, so, like in the bottom right corner. I'm trying to capture the person there. I think I might be able to do it right now. 6. Shooting: The Lookup: So over here, I can probably take a lookup. When you're shooting a lookup, 24 is wide, but I mean, if you have that opportunity and you have that flexibility, a 14 or an 11 or 24, you can capture so much more. I don't want to be able to capture as much as possible and I'm taking this photo so. Saving for 24. I'm probably going to use my 14. In this scenario, because I'm shooting up and there's a lot of buildings and I'm not necessarily focusing on one subject but I want to capture the entire image and I want to capture the details and all the building that I'm about to focus on, I'm going to have my F stop at something like 5.6 or a 8.0. One of those two based on situation and again, I'm using aperture priority. So if I'm going to have my aperture at 5.6 or 8.0 and I'm also going to bump up my ISO. So I get that quick shutter and it comes out sharp. So I'm probably going to put 5.6 right now and I'm probably going to have an ISO at about 400 because it is relatively bright outside so it shouldn't be that much of an issue capturing a still photo at the same time as making sure everything's in focus and sharp in this image. One thing you can also do like when you're taking this lookup, because your lens is only so wide that if you want to capture more or you want to capture less, you can raise your camera up or you can lower it and that just helps with what you're capturing. So the photo is nice but I want to see what it looks like when I'm capturing more. So I'm going to kind of duck down for this photo and this is going to enable me to capture that much more in this photo that I'm taking. All right. So we've been out here for a bit and say we're going to be here like a hour, two hours and I got a few shots that are I'm pretty excited to edit. I was even excited before taking the photo because I had an idea of what I was just going to do beforehand. Along the way there is some like bump psych in terms of people getting into shot or missing opportunity but there's some shots that I feel like really work from today and I'm excited to go edit them and photos that I know are really cool are the ones I'm mainly excited about but I'm also really excited about editing the photos and making some changes to make photos that may not have looked that gray on my camera would better post editing. 7. Closing Thoughts: If you made it this far, thank you for watching because I know sometimes my tone of voice could be boring, I'm not sure. But I hope by paying attention to the class that you saw some of the key factors that come into play on a day-to-day basis. For me, if I'm out shooting, whether it's for work or whether it's for fun, I take a serious approach to it and I have to take a serious approach to it in order to improve and in order get better. So, all the tips and all the other things you see me doing today's class, if you can take any of that and apply it to what you do on your own, that's awesome. You don't have to do exactly what I do, but I'm really big on being inspired by influence. So, seeing something that somebody else does, and if you feel like you can improve on that, then do so. I know I'm not perfect, I don't think anyone is perfect, but if you could take things that you notice that you think can help you and you can make it your own, then power to you. So, my advice from this class is to; one, if there's anything that you've never seen before, actually try and apply that to what you do, see if it works for you, make it your own, personalize it. Secondly, just being honest and trying to develop your own perspective, there's so many photographers and the fact that there's social media and Instagram and all these platforms, it's really hard to differentiate yourself, and if you want to differentiate yourself, you're going to have to spend that extra five minutes at a spot or that extra 10 minutes at a spot, maybe an extra hour at the spot if you want to get that photo, or you might have to lay on the ground in public, you might have to jump, you might have to run, you might have to make yourself look- you might just have to stand out in general. If you want to stand out with your work, you're going to have to stand out in general. Try to be yourself and try to exemplify that and convey how you are as a person, and who you are as a person through your imagery, and whether it's like taking a photo of something that you think is funny to you or interesting to you, make it your own. There's so many photographers that the only way you're going to be successful with it as if you are yourself in it. You don't have to become a professional photographer to take my class or to learn something from this class, you could literally just be starting today. The point is to just be patient and to not be hard on yourself things aren't going your way, the most important thing is making an effort, making an effort to put together a finished product. As long as you do that, going on a project to project basis, you are going to get better. Just in general, one thing I've learned from being a photographer in this being my full-time right now and how I make a living, don't wait for someone to approach you, approach them. If you have a question, ask. If there's something you wanna do, try and make it happen yourself. So, with this class, taking the class and I'm trying to take that shot, that lookup or that symmetrical shot, maybe it's one of each, maybe it's three of one type, there is a Project Gallery. In the project gallery, you can share your best photos there, where I'll be looking at them and others who are watching this class we'll be looking at them. You can get feedback, you can get inspiration, and your photos live on this project gallery page for good. So, it's like it's there, and I'll always see it and it will always be a part of this for me and it'll be cool to see what you guys produce, whether you live in Toronto, New York, Chicago, wherever it may be, any city. The more people that participate in this, the better, because at the end of the day, I can gain inspiration from you guys the same where you're gaining inspiration from me. 8. Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare: