Capturing Neighborhood Character in Photos

Advances in digital photography have made it possible for almost anyone to take photos with ease. Even skilled professionals follow a set of guidelines when shooting photos. When hosting a photography workshop you can help neighbors capture not only a photo of their house, but neighborhood character, the essence of the life that goes on – the unspoken stories of the street.

Step one: Walk your neighborhood. Tour your neighborhood so you can help workshop participants become careful observers. Take note of the following, so on a walking tour with your group, you can point out focal points for photographs.

  • Architectural features and conditions of homes, businesses and other structures
  • Special features in yards and streets (porches, swings, brick work, window treatment, roof line, landscaping, trims)
  • Placement and design of signs
  • Close up and distant views
  • Walking distance to most distinctive features

Step two: Lead a neighborhood tour based on your findings. Lead the tour and point out the features you have identified as potential photo opportunities. For those who take a self-guided tour, be sure to have handouts available describing characteristics of the neighborhood, walking distance and information on photography basics. Learning how to observe helps everyone, even when taking photos of their own house and nothing more.

Step three: Present photography basics. The following approaches to shooting photos apply to all situations and serve as a neighborhood beginner’s guide as residents capture the “story” of their homes in the most attractive way possible.

Subject. Are neighbors photographing the exterior of their house, front or back yard, details of the interior, the street, posted signs or people?

Photo composition. With a little guidance, neighbors will learn how create balance in their shots. Composition consists of selecting shapes, colors and textures. How can the photographer make best use of shadows or leading lines? What details can the viewer see close up vs. the story that is told at a distance? What is the focal point of the photo? What is the point of view? The rule of thirds divides a scene into nine equal parts. The boundary lines help the photographer select which box offers the most dramatic presentation of the scene.

Light. Outdoor light is always changing. Observe the position of the sun at different times of day and weather, such as sunrise, sunset, a cloudy day or rain.

Exposure. This refers to the amount of light that reaches the camera lens. How wide open is the shutter? How quickly does it open and close?

For more information about how to take great photos, visit

National Geographic Photography Basics


About Janice

Janice is an accomplished writer and passionate about sharing and telling stories of people, places and animals in the wild.
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