Photographing Cities at Night

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Cities offer a wealth of amazing photo opportunities, and at night they really come alive. With all the amazing architecture, street scenes, and lights aglow, it’s as if this was all done with photographers in mind. Although sunsets can be amazing in a city—especially if you have a great view of the skyline—once blue hour hits and then darkness descends it’s prime time for some amazing photography.

By the way, all of these photos in this article were edited using the Luminar Photo Editor, which gives users incredible control over contrast, saturation, exposure, color balance, and much more. I’ve been having fun testing it’s new features.

Here are some ideas to help you capture beautiful cityscapes at night:


There are so many lines in a city that it can be overwhelming to find ones that your eye really wants to follow. Traffic lines work great as do natural bends in a street or pathway, chain links, fences, and walls. Even overhead power lines for trolley cars could work, or the train tracks they move on. Once you start looking for lines, you will see them everywhere.

In this photo from Fan Pier in Boston, Luminar was used to increase the colors, make some color shifts to enhance the mood, and slightly brighten the foreground.


Boston — Before

boston edited

Boston — After

Light Trails

Just about everyone has shot light trails at some point, and for good reason—it’s one of the simple joys of photography. Allowing passing traffic to blur out, leaving just the headlights and taillights visible, is a fun shot to do and adds a bit of interest to a photo. Find a good spot, set up and then begin your exposure just as a vehicle is about to enter the frame. Depending on the light, this could be 3 to 5 seconds or longer—even over 10 seconds. Sometimes you may go as long as 30 seconds. Just experiment with it until you find what works best.

This photo from London was adjusted in Luminar, with edits made to increase the exposure, balance the light, and make minor color adjustments.

london light trails

London — Before

light trails london city photography

London — After

Neon Signs and Building Lights

Neon signs can be fun to photograph, and at night with a dark sky they really sparkle. Lacking that, you can always find building lights that illuminate the scene and add a little glow to the shot.

In this photo from the Temple Bar in Dublin, Luminar was used to adjust the color balance, change the temperature and tint slightly, increase contrast with the curves tool, and make some minor lighting adjustments.

before editing city photography

Temple Bar — Before

dublin night photography

Temple Bar — After

Street Scenes

Streets shot at night are just compelling subjects. You expect them to be full of people, so if you can find them partially empty then they become even more interesting. Especially in Europe, where the streets are often made of cobblestone, you can find some really beautiful subjects.

In this street photo from Dublin, Luminar was used to change the color balance and color temperature, some cross processing was gently applied along with some lighting changes, and a little bit of soft glow.

editing nightscapes

Dublin Street — Before

dublin night photography

Dublin Street — After


Shooting skylines can be an incredibly rewarding experience, whether it’s from an elevated viewpoint or ground level. If you can get to a rooftop observation deck, be sure and arrive early to claim a good spot. If shooting from ground level, consider finding something in the foreground to anchor your shot and fill up some of the empty space there.

In this photo from Bratislava, shot from a rooftop overlooking the city, Luminar was used to adjust color balance, temperature and tint, saturation and luminance levels, and some tonal adjustments.

rooftop photography

Bratislava — Before

how to edit night photography

Bratislava — After

Cities are spectacular photographic playgrounds, and at night they really come to life. Your choice of subject matter is extensive, and adding in the glow of the city lights can make your photos sparkle. Give these ideas a test run and capture some amazing cityscapes!

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6 responses to “Photographing Cities at Night”

  1. Honest H says:

    In most all of them. I liked the before

  2. Neil says:

    Hmmm…I’m in agreement with that: seems to be a pink cast over the ‘afters’

  3. robert says:

    The London one particularly was much nicer before it became over saturated but agree totally with above, especially the Dublin one which had a neutral feel with some warmth from the lights, which while got a bit of soft glow in the after totally killed the WB. Bratislava crushed the blacks

  4. Wally Schrubkowski says:

    I’m glad to see that the other comments were similar to my thoughts. I, too, thought the original images looked the best. The London shot seemed particularly odd to me. Adding some light to the London picture was fine, but the color cast is particularly unpleasing to me. The blues and pinks were unnatural in the other images, in my opinion.

    I did like the compositions; had Mr. Jacobs tamed his enhancements, they would be fantastic.

  5. Ian says:

    I wouldn’t call those “minor” adjustments. A bit overboard in my opinion.

  6. HB says:

    Yay, the after pics are often worse than the before… :-/

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