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The Ultimate Guide to Shooting Cityscapes
Photo by Temi Ogunwumi

The Ultimate Guide to Shooting Cityscapes

Published on July 7, 2022
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There's nothing quite like a beautiful cityscape. Often dating back centuries, iconic cityscapes like that of New York and Chicago become the heart of the city, making anyone want to fully immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle. And even though with time many cityscapes have changed, photographs of them remain recognizable; especially those expertly shot. 

Filled to the brim with high-contrast elements, patterns, and familiar symmetrical lines, cityscapes are a photographer's dream come true. There are so many things photo geeks can experiment with when shooting a cityscape—varying weather, light, and perspective can come together to bring out something truly magnificent.

And it so happens that we have some useful tips for you.

Different Times, Different Results 

Figuring out what time of day to shoot is vital with any kind of photography, but with cityscapes specifically, there’s a lot of creative freedom you can enjoy. You’d obviously want to ensure the best lighting for your desired outcome, but an amazing cityscape photo is possible to achieve in all kinds of different lighting. You just have to make sure you do it right.

 

Photo by Ramon Kagie

Nighttime

A visual shorthand for the buzzing energy of an urban city or neighborhood, nighttime shots can turn out truly magnificent. With long exposures, you can capture all the light streaks that create movement in your photos.

If you wish to add some mood to your scene, opt for a mistier day rather than a clean one. 

 

Photo by Martin Adams 

Golden Hour 

Also known as magic hour, this time of day is the last hour before sunset. You might recognize this as the most popular time to take photos because the sun creates a breathtaking golden hue of soft and diffused light.

If you want to stand out, ditch the portrait shoot you were planning and go right to capturing a cityscape. The powerful color transitions you'll be able to capture are going to be top-notch.

 

Photo by Atharva Patil

Blue Hour 

The exact opposite of golden hour, the time before sunrise is brimming with photo ops. Taking advantage of this time of day is going to provide you with some beautiful photos with a bluish tint; mix that with a unique perspective and very few people on the street and you've got yourself a masterpiece.

Photo by Andrea Leopardi

Tips and Tricks to Capture a Cityscape 

Keep Your Lines Straight 

When it comes to a really good photo of a cityscape, it's all about the lines. And while you can always plan for it as you're setting up for the shoot, editing can also be a handy trick. But what you do need to be aware of is getting an accurate perspective so that your work in a post does not prevent you from getting the desired final result.

Long Exposure 

With any type of landscape photography, long exposures are always a go-to. Since you do not have to worry about your subject moving around, you'll be able to expose the photo for a longer amount of time, which can be extremely useful when shooting in low-light conditions.

If you do have elements in your photo that move (i.e. cars or people), then use them to your advantage to create bits of movement in your composition. Slight movement contrasted against still cityscapes can create a very unique perspective.

Bracket Exposure

A helpful technique in landscape photography as a whole, bracket exposure helps you in the varying circumstances of light and contrast; you're going to want to take multiple exposures of the same scene. Then you can combine them in post and enhance all the components of your photo and make it appear in the right light.

You can either manually bracket your images, or utilize the auto bracket feature if your camera has one.

 

Photo by Patrick Tomasso

Equipment You're Going to Need 

Every photographer has different access to various equipment, but that does not mean that you have to have one set of lenses or a specific camera to capture the cityscape of your dreams. There are, however, a few standard tools you're going to want to have in your arsenal.

Wide Angle Lens

If your vision involves the skyline in any way, a wide-angle lens has to be your go-to. This type of lens allows you to capture more of your surroundings. However, things can get tricky if you're a bit far away from your subject, so trying out a few different options before going out to shoot is a precaution you might want to take.

Mirrorless 

For urban photographers especially, it is conducive to have this lightweight piece of equipment. the new advanced technology has autofocus, longer battery life for long exposures, and better image quality especially useful in a cityscape setting.

Telephoto Lens 

This might be a bit of a controversial choice for cityscape photography, but believe us when we say that a telephoto lens is going to provide you with the most unconventional and unique results you can think of. Because the lens allows the background of your skyline to seem much closer to the foreground, you're going to get tremendous images.