Cityscape Photography – Tips and Tricks

The skyline of any city can be imposing to any photographer, no matter how many times he or she has captured it on film before. While you would think that shooting buildings of concrete and steel is not glamorous or interesting, cityscape photography holds exciting and adventurous possibilities.

cityscape tips photography

Photo by Phil Dolby; ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/40-second exposure.

From people to places to situations, there are many photo ops just waiting to be discovered within the heart of a city and its suburbs, so if you have your camera and your interest ready, here are a few ideas and tips to help you along:

  • Cityscape photography is not just about the buildings and the stupendous skyline. In fact, many city photographers choose to shoot people as they go about their business or find humorous or interesting signboards and localities.
  • Some photographers find that shooting the sky when standing in between two skyscrapers (or tall buildings) allows them to capture a great shot of the tops of the buildings with the sky peeking through.
  • Glass facades of tall buildings make great subjects for your photographs if you’re able to capture the reflection of other buildings or people at certain times of the day, when the light is just right.
  • If you’re shooting at night, make sure you change the light settings of your camera to offset the intense brightness of city lights.
best cityscape photography tips

Photo by Alessandro Baffa; ISO 320, f/2.3, .3-second exposure.

  • Silhouette cityscape pictures look beautiful if you’re able to capture the right light setting. Some people get it right the first time while others have to keep working on their technique before they’re able to get the perfect silhouette shot.
  • One of the best times to photograph the city skyline is during twilight hours when the sun is just setting and the light is not too harsh.

There are a few precautions you need to take when photographing city skylines and other views that are unique to a city:

  • If you’re a professional photographer, you may need permits to shoot at certain locations, even if you don’t plan to use the pictures for commercial purposes. It’s best to procure the necessary permits so that you avoid unpleasant and awkward situations with law enforcement officers.
  • Because of the recent terrorist acts, you may raise security concerns if you’re observed to be photographing buildings that are historic, that belong to the government or are important in other ways. Rather than arouse suspicion and court arrest, seek permission first before you begin to shoot.
cityscape photography techniques

Photo by _T604; ISO 100, f/11.0, 20-second exposure.

  • If you’re using a tripod, ensure that you don’t inconvenience pedestrians or get in the way of moving traffic.
  • If you’re shooting a person or a group of people, ensure that you have their permission in order to avoid potential embarrassment and/or legal action.
  • People today are very wary of their privacy, especially if they have something to hide. So always get permission before you shoot pictures with people in them.
  • Stay away from localities where crime is rampant and where your chances of being mugged or even murdered are high.
  • And before you visit a city, take some time to familiarize yourself with its history and culture, and also make a list of all the important and historic buildings and locations that sound interesting.

If you’re into technology, one neat software program that could guide and show you the way in any city is Google Maps. With the Latitude application, you can pinpoint your exact location in the city and find your way to any place you want to go. Latitude also helps you find restaurants and other public places in your vicinity.

About the Author:

This article is written by Kathy Wilson, who writes on the subject of Photography-Colleges org. She can be reached at her email id: kathywilson1983 at gmail.

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3 responses to “Cityscape Photography – Tips and Tricks”

  1. Taking pictures of cityscapes is an art in itself. This is a good article, a lot of good tips. It is honestly just the commotion and the multitudes of people that make this such a difficult thing to do.

    Those are some beautiful examples you posted as well.

  2. Those are wonderful tips. Truely valueable (as I always find my self in trouble when shooting buildings)
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Joshua Camp says:

    The author is ludicrous to assert that you should always ask permission before shooting. It’s always better to ask forgiveness than permission, and every photographer should be aware that you every right to shoot whatever you want in public. The general rule of thumb is that if it’s in public, it’s ok unless you are using the image to promote a product – your coffee table book of street photography can be sold, however, without concern. If someone questions you shooting a building, politely remind them that you are legally allowed to do so, and for God’s sake be friendly – you won’t have trouble 99/100 times if you don’t argue, but if you must – you’ll win in court anyways. Know your rights.

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