Photography is an art of capturing moments and preserving them from becoming history. One of the most beautiful shots you can take are the cityscape shots, because they portray the culture and the interaction of people in everyday life. The combination of the skyline with typical things like skyscrapers, people and cars gives the photo momentum, as it represents a captured movement of life in that area. Therefore, to capture such beauty you need to know how and when to use your camera to get the best possible results.
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We have put together this guide to Cityscape photography for you, with ten tips to take the perfect cityscape photos.
1. Use the right lens
When going out to capture skylines and cityscapes, you need to be properly equipped in order to get the best results. For a professional and good-looking shot, make sure to use a wide lens, which can capture the skyline and include buildings in full length without you having to be too far away from the actual picture. It is best to use a 12-35 mm focal length lens to be able to get a full short of what is in front of you.
2. Know your settings
When you’re ready to take some cityscape shots, make sure to have your settings in order before you leave for the adventure. Sometimes, an image worth capturing might disappear in seconds, meaning you have to be ready with your camera to get the shot in time. Therefore, set your camera up for cityscape photography before getting out on the streets.
The recommended aperture mode for these shots is around F8 to F18. Make sure to set ISO to the lowest your camera will allow but keep in mind that most cameras have trouble focusing when the ISO is low. In this situation, switching into manual focus will fix the issue.
3. Take advantage of the right time
Hunting for cityscape shots is best done right after sunset or right before the sunset. During these periods, the sky is darker but not completely dark and the city lights blend in perfectly, creating a balance that looks peaceful and adds harmony to the shot. This combination of lighting is also the best one for the lens, as the images will be high quality and sharp. Most people prefer taking cityscape shots right after sunset, as they don’t feel like waking up too early. However, the pre-sunset “golden hour” is perfect for taking amazing shots and totally worth getting out of bed for.
4. Get a steady shot
One thing that can ruin cityscape photos is blur caused by shaking the camera a lot. Even if your hands are as steady as a surgeon’s, you will move the camera a bit while pressing the shutter button. Therefore, to get the best quality and sharp shot, make sure to use a tripod and set the camera on the ten seconds timer so that you don’t have to touch it to take the shot. If you don’t have the tripod with you, improvise by finding a spot to put the camera down and stabilize it to take the photo.
5. Experiment with exposure
Using long exposure in cityscape photos will create that motion effect and the feeling of fast movement. Set your camera to long exposure and find a good spot to capture the traffic. The long exposure will cause light lines that create that blurred movement. These shots are highly marketable and professional-looking and will definitely add some style to your photography portfolio. The position from which you take the shot is crucial. Curvy roads and intersections are the best for this kind of photography.
6. Get creative
Add some beauty and originality to your shot by capturing close up objects with the cityscape in the background. For example, photographing fountains in this setting is a great idea. Don’t be afraid to get closer and focus on the water drops and play around with angles. However, make sure your camera is protected if it isn’t waterproof on its own.
7. Capture people
Shots of the moving mass of people in a busy city are the best representation of a culture and tradition in the area. Capturing moments of interaction between people can add a sense of emotion and feeling to the photo. You can also take photos of people in large masses, play around with shadows and create fading effects to get the best shot.
8. Don’t fear the weather
Unless your camera is not waterproof, you should most definitely take advantage of rainy weather. Rainy shots add a special feeling and the sky usually looks much better. You can make use of reflection in the water puddles to create stunning effects that are going to make your shots outstanding. Find the right angle to capture areas of the city reflecting in the puddles for the best results.
9. Always shoot in RAW
This tip is not only for cityscape photography but photography in general. However, in cityscape shots you will find the RAW format extremely useful, as the uncompressed RAW image file can be edited more effectively in terms of changing white balance and adding certain effects. Whereas, the JPEG image file is a compressed file and, while you can still change the lighting and some features in Photoshop, you wont get nearly as good results as you would with a RAW file. Therefore, if your camera has the ability to shoot in RAW, make a good use of it!
10. Follow the rule of thirds
Again, this is a general rule in photography but also very important to mention when capturing cityscape shots. When using the rule of thirds in this type of photography, make sure the sky is one third of the photo and the cityscape is the remaining two thirds. Even though these measurements may sound boring, this rule is proven to give the best results in terms of high quality photos. To make it easier, use the grid option on your camera to scale the image.
With these ten tips for photographing cityscapes you are guaranteed to get amazing results next time you head out with your camera. Make sure to take shots at the right time and with the right settings and equipment.