50 Stunning Examples of Urban Decay Photography

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Aquil Akhter

Aquil Akhter is a web graphic designer and has been working in...

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Urban decay photography is the form of photography that deals with the techniques of taking pictures of deserted buildings. Although the buildings have been abandoned for more than a few years or more, the expert photographers make them look absolutely stunning. After all, the magic of great photography is to make an ordinary and to expose its hidden beauty and their unique interesting qualities.

In this post, we have compiled 50 impressive shots of urban decay, each of them emphasizing its damaged, destroyed look.

Urban Decay Photography

The old winery

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Urban Decay2

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Beams – Beelitz-Heilstätten

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HK2009 – 12

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Urban Decay [~01~]

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Buick

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Abandoned Asylum “Sv”

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Down the well

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Memories

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Urban decay and decline . . .

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What’s for dinner?

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Spiegelzeit – the fair on fire

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une porte rouge

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Stairway to heaven

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If my heart had windows

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59660003

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Tyersall House

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Decay – the door

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A Moment Suspended In Time

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Urban Decay

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Beautiful Decay

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Urban Decay

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Alley wall. Harmonie Park.

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Alley wall. Harmonie Park.

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Pile up

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Strike

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2009 Portfolio

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Broadway

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Urban living

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Urban Decay 9

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Doors and Windows

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There’s nothing on the box tonight love

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Hellingly Corridor

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Crumlin Court – Belfast

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Urban Decay

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Convent with church

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Divinity

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Denbigh abandoned asylum

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Cane Hill Asylum

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Supernatural

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Singapore :Be Seated ?

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Stille nacht, ruchlose nacht…

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decay

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Close cover – {P8095782_3_4_5_6_7}

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The Mothership…

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a-Maz(e)-(a)zing

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Epicenter

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Hopital DR

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Terres rouges

La vie en rose…

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Aquil Akhter

Aquil Akhter is a web graphic designer and has been working in this field for 8 years. He also runs the blog webdesigncore.com, which focuses on free web resources and inspiration for designers and developers.

85 comments

    1. Absolutely agreed. So many of these could benefit from a lot less, or no, HDR (probably the most overused effect of the last few years).

      In fact, contrary to the idea, most of these give a hyper-alive, not a neglected, decaying perspective.

    2. Agreed — HDR is so overused on most of these that the technique overshadows the subject. A lot of these are really nice, but they could tone down the overprocessing just a bit to make far more compelling images. As it is, many of them scream ‘played with Photoshop for too long.’

    3. Yep. None of these images benefit from HDR, none of them are improved by it at all. It’s no good turning such an emotive thing like decay into a computerised algorithm.

  1. I am totally blown away by the beauty of this photos. I love them more than I have the words to express.

    I wish I could find out where these places are and visit them – they are still lovely for all their age and awful decay. The pictures allow these places to still look proud and evocative for all their aging grandeur.

    Some images can make you almost weep for their loveliness.

    1. I agree. They are absolutely wonderful. The staircases for me are the most beautiful. How ghastly our modern buildings are in comparison.

  2. Beautiful, but it’s too bad they are almost all shot in hdr and we don’t get to see what the places actually look like.

  3. Awesome! I want to go into ALL of those places and just breathe the history! Photoshopped or not! AHHHH!

  4. I went back through the shots and found myself once again staring at the Cane Hill Asylum picture. Throughout my entire life, I’ve always found old hospitals and ‘sanitariums’ to be the most beautiful and yet morbidly horrifying to me. It is pictures like these that I get lost in, and I would like to thank each photographer for taking the time to bring these places to life in their own special way. I think part of the reason why we like shots like these is because they are REAL–the ghosts are not ethereal and cinematic, and they aren’t found in the shadows–No…they are found in rusted bedframes with shoddy mattresses and long forgotten wheelchairs. Tread carefully, and take in as much as you can, because it is here that you’ll find what remains of the Afterlife.

    1. hey there, photos of old abandoned asylums are pretty amazing, aren’t they? my art has been totally influenced by these sorts of images as well as researching the history of some of these places — my latest record was even inspired by the old asylum “central state hospital” at millidgeville in georgia… have you seen that place? amazing!

  5. I think most of those pictures are way to overprocessed. I do like HDR and I do like Urban Decay Photography but I think Urban Decay works better if the image is not that much overprocessed. For me the black and white pictures like «A Moment Suspended In Time» and «La vie en rose…» are the best.

    1. My thoughts exactly. I’m no expert, but I thought the exaggerated colourization effects pushed many of these beautiful shots into kitsch territory.

  6. Everything will change in this world… Nothing is permanent… Except the true love… Love is God… :-) Nice Photos…

  7. These would be more impressive if they were ALL photos, but many are digital art or maybe even painted.

  8. Those fake HDRI are just the ugliest way to deal HDR image. You are killing them. And it’s a fashion. Damn!

  9. I think it’s a wonderful collection. I have to question the guys bagging the HDR effect, have you shot much urban decay and abandoned buildings? I’ve done a bit and sometimes these buildings are so dark and dingy it’s the only reasonable way to present them to a standard able to be published on the net or elsewhere. If you didn’t use HDR the pics would be unusable. I think it gives them a sort of poetic ‘this is a flash of their former glory’

  10. I have to agree with the posters who dislike the HDR. @ Troy, while I understand that sometimes elements out of the control of the photographer beg for photoshop or HDR to be used to enhance them, there are also techniques with the actual camera that could be utilized to create an authentic photograph. Additionally, many of these do not appear to be “too dark” to see them without HDR, they are simply for the sake of using HDR. I am getting really sick of people being impressed by HDR imaging; the real world is beautiful enough and this type of “photography” creates an unrealistic illusion of what the real world looks like. To me, it’s lazy photography.

    1. I agree with you 100%. It seems to me that some sort of balance can be struck. I wold prefer that the image enhancement, if any, would be to present the image in the best light possible without looking so fake and over-processed. I want to see the decay without the sugar-coating.

  11. Some of these are truly remarkable. Great inspiration. How come stairways are so interesting when (correctly) captured by a photographer?
    Now where did I put my camera?!

  12. Cool pictures, but i’d really like to see the originals before they were processed.

  13. I love urban decay and often find myself hunting down locations myself to find those great shots but I feel these images are way too over processed. They don’t feel real. Urban decay photos need to feel gritty, real and get under your skin. That is the essence of what you are capturing. If you have to push the saturation and photoshop the image to death, then the original image was not saying much. Truly NOT an inspiring collection.

  14. Wonderful work
    I just published today my last documentary photography on urban decay (the tragic story of a once beautiful castle near Paris, France, built in 1855 and which lays dying today, tagged and decayed, on the verge of disappearing

  15. over processed but I don’t think that takes away anything; they are visions of the artists. Probably the post title is a bit off but the images are great.

  16. HDR photos SUCK. Urbex/Urban Decay photos should not look surreal. They should look natural with lots of texture.
    dfjslkadfad hate hdr so much.

  17. Thank you for this vivid collection of what I call haikyo photos, since I started doing urban exploring when I lived in Japan, and haikyo is what they call it there. I thought most of the HDR shots included were not overly tonemapped and quite within reason.

    I believe I had the first exhibition of Japanese haikyo/urban exploring photographs in the U.S. during my exhibition in November 2009. There was not a single HDR shot among the 61 photographs on display.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2009/10/30/haikyo-urban-decay-from-japan-exhibition.html

    1. Really, the first urban decay photography exhibit in the US was November 2009, 8 months ago? Ten seconds googling it shows up dozens before then. It’s pretty much as old as photography itself.

      1. @AG-chicago
        Jason Collin Photography said “I believe I had the first exhibition OF JAPANESE haikyo/urban exploring photographs in the U.S. during my exhibition in November 2009”

        underline JAPANESE :) so yes… he may well have been the first.

      2. Thank you for that pene. Easy to just jump on someone and say they are wrong like AG-chicago did when I stated nothing of total certainty, and since I was one of the pioneers of non-Japanese photographing haikyo in Japan, and I was the only American I knew of doing it, not much of a stretch to say my exhibition was the first of its specific kind. Plus, I promoted my exhibition as a “haikyo” exhibition, which for the same reason listed above, to my knowledge, is the first and only of its kind.

        AG-chicago, here is a Google search for you, do a Google image search for “haikyo” and you will see my image come up first.

        Anyway, haikyo is just a hobby for me and something interesting for me to photograph besides wedding and events, although I know a lot of people take haikyo/urban exploring and the competition involved with it quite seriously.

  18. I think it’s called irony folks! take it at face value! I love what the HDR does for the photos. And if their goal was to inspire us… mission accomplished.

  19. These images would have had way more impact if they hadn’t been in HDR. HDR is a curse on photography, another one of a long line of “fads.” It just goes to show how much of an impact advertising and special effects has had on the younger generations. I have been a photographer for many years, and the usually when a photographer resorts to “effects” and color filters it is an attempt to make otherwise mundane photographs into something special. Down with HDR!

  20. Why knock the HDR? If you can make a toilet, an old piano, or an abandoned fridge look beautiful with this art form, why not? It is all about beauty, and definitely in the eye of the beholder! I loved these shots!

  21. I’ve been to a fair few of these places, and seen enough “Urban Exploring” pics to last a lifetime lol, and while I’m by no means a professional photographer I always think a well taken photograph looks so much better than the over-processed surreal hdr rubbish. the thing thats always made me love this type of photography other than the atmosphere and textures, is that feeling you get when you look at a photo and can imagine actually being there. I know for a fact I’ve never thought that looking at a HDR image.

  22. What’s the point of using a camera when your software is the only thing people see in the result. Maybe two pics in this whole group worthy of even being called a “photograph”. Peeps need to step away from the photoshop and HDR’ing.

  23. The article’s title should be changed to “50 Stunning Examples of Photoshop-overuse Photography”. Someone once said, if a photography is good enough, you don’t need too much post production. I also think the real justification of photoshop is when is mean to give a new interpretation to the image, which I seldom see on this list. This list is a sample of how lots of teenagers with fast computers, pirated software, spare time and no passion for telling a compelling story within the frame of the image spend time trying to wow someone else, instead of learning the basics of visual storytelling.

  24. I’m from Belfast and love that a picture from Crumlin Court was included. It’s even more beautiful on the outside though, and Crumlin Gaol has even more resonating impact.

  25. Even though some of the images are over-prosessed, there is a beauty in the architecture that would not have been seen without these images. Natural light and even more black&white would probably have added to the appeal of the collection. We are so spoiled with technology – one should try and use the camera as if there will be no second chance to get the shot.

  26. It seems to me as if the photographer is more interested in beams of light than the objects and places in the pictures.

  27. Amazing photographs. They reminded me of the atmosphere in many of Thomas Ligotti’s horror stories.

    Excellent work.

  28. I have to buy into the HDR argument. Our eyes can percieve many more shades of light than the camera can portray. Hence HDR is totally appropiate to these shots.I think the thing that turns people off is the artist allowing unreal colours to dominate.Convert these into B/w and you’d get a lots less adverse comments imo. And for the person who made the comment about photographing beams of light instead of the buildings…..guffaw!

  29. Some great shoots here :D I love this little discussion on the use of HDR , i think it really captures the places great , everyone has there own opinion on photography . HDR is just a new style just like the digital revolution . Some would even argue if its not film its not a real photo . Different styles make the photography world an interesting place . Things would sure be boring if everyone took photos the same .

    PS i took the Asylum “Sv” shot .

  30. Great photographs, all of them.
    I wish people would stop slagging off great photographs and these are great. Photography is art, not just point and shoot! HDR is another tool in the bag, use it, don’t use it, the choice is yours, but don’t slag it off!
    Do you think Turner, Lowry, Picasso et al painted a picture exactly as they saw it – absolutely not! But they ‘created’ memorable images that have stood the test of time. I rest my case.

  31. Going towards the dentist and feeling comfortable and confident is rare. Folks are always anxiouos and worried when it comes to visiting the dentist. If you knew much more about your dentist, and you trusted him, you would feel a great deal much going towards the dentist. That’s why I believe that no one really should ever go to a dentist that they barely know. Often do some research on your dentist so that you’re prepared for whatever might come. It would make your life significantly easier should you knew your dentist was poor before you really went in for an appointment.

  32. Just a few words on hdr and photo processing. HDR is just a digital version of film techniques we used to use. The key is not to overdue it, because in the end you want the scene to look just like you experienced it with your eyes. Cameras cannot capture the range of light that we see, so these techniques are useful for correcting such issues. A lot of these photos would not have worked without the use of hdr as they would have been extremely dark images with blow out where the light was streaming in. You would have had extreme contrast with very little detail. I think it’s a beautiful gallery, again the key is not to overdue the effect. Remember also that the photographer is the artist, and in the end, it is what they visualize. You can like it or not, that’s what’s so great about art, it is subjective! Just my 2 cents worth!

  33. a lot of these places have the potential to be beautiful and usable once again if someone took the time and energy into fixing them up, gorgeous

  34. Brilliant photos. I am doing a digital camera course and the exercise for next week is for three photos of urban decay . I found the above photos very imformative and very well executed. Thanks a mil

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