This paper critiques a common research method, image-based studies, in assessing environmental references. The method is used, in particular, in the fields of environmental psychology, landscape studies, and health studies, here called empirical environmental preference studies or EEP studies. I argue that the established view in the EEP field that nature is inherently experienced as more aesthetically appealing and restorative than urban environments may be biased because of the image-based method. This paper presents a literature review of EEP studies, discussing them in a framework of environmental and everyday aesthetics. The conclusion is that EEP studies may strip cities of their physical, socio-cultural, and aesthetic layers; and comparing nature and cities as places of restoration may be unfruitful as our relationship with nature and urban environments is dissimilar.