Cities are incredibly attractive to photographers and tourists alike, with good reason. They are vibrant hubs of life and energy that are very visually appealing to the naked eye. However, if you are a visual creator who has ever tried to capture these moments with a camera, you know how difficult it can be to capture a diverse range of scenes and moods.
Many factors need to be considered when taking a scenic photo of a city. From choosing the right settings and gear to determining the best compositions and subjects, and more. But fear not, here is a list of top tips on capturing stunning photos of cities.
Find the right location
Breathtaking photos don’t happen by mistake. They often happen because so much detail and planning have gone into them. It wouldn’t be possible to find the right shot without doing some proper research. If you’re doing a cityscape landscape shot, the goal is to get an unobstructed view of the skyline. Try exploring along the waterfront, or on bridges. You can even research the best viewing platforms for that specific city, such as towers, skyscrapers, or even rooftop bars. Use Google Maps street view to check out your location first but try to leave time to actually scout out in person.
Assess the light
The colour, quality, and angle of the light can make or break any shot, and it’s no exception when it comes to getting a stunning city shot. Outdoor photographs rely strongly on the available light. All photographers have their style when it comes to what time of the day they like to shoot. The golden hour, the period before sunset, is a favourite among many because of the soft golden light which can enhance any scene. But depending where you are shooting and what story you want to tell, you can use weather to your advantage. Mist or stormy skies can add plenty of dimension to your photo, so don’t be limited by sunshine and blue skies.
Many also love the blue hour after sunset, but before it gets too dark when the lights come on and the landmarks are lit up. You can incorporate some exciting details such as soft water, light trails or even atmospheric moving clouds during this time into your image.
Learn about composition
The composition can make all the difference between a mediocre shot and an impressive one. There are plenty of ways you can play around with composition to get a better picture. Using reflections are a great way to add interest to your photographs, such as lakes or rivers, fountains, puddles, windows, or other elements. The tricky part comes in ensuring you have an unperturbed reflection, so timing is of the essence (a polarizing filter is also useful and can help limit unwanted reflections).
Another great composition element is using leading lines to lead the viewer’s eyes to the main subject. This line can be a road, a path, a fence, pillars, or anything that fits the city that you’re photographing. Depending on where you’re shooting from, you may need to crouch down to the ground to find the leading lines or look down if you’re on a more elevated surface.
Framing your subject is extremely important. Once you’ve decided upon what you want to be the focus of your picture, it’s essential to frame your photograph correctly. The goal is to remove the less exciting elements of the scene and draw your viewers into your main subject. So really think about your composition carefully.
Include local elements
One of the most beautiful details that can be added to a city photo is a defining element. You want the image to tell a story, and part of that story is its location and history. If you’re shooting London, for example, it would be telling to include Big Ben or the London Eye, or even a red telephone box, or a member of the Queen’s Guard. Incorporate local elements of the city that you’re shooting into your photos, but try to do it in a different way that already exists out there. Try to avoid the “tourist” snap type shots and instead look for interesting angles or stories using these icons.
Play with your shutter speed
A common component to most cities is the hustle and bustle of people moving a million miles a minute, trying to get to where they need to be. While some photographers find that these fast and frenetic places are tough to photograph, an avid city photographer will see this as an opportunity. If you can find the right spot to be, you can use a tripod and use slower shutter speed to pick up a real sense of movement in your photograph. Including the chaotic frenzy of daily life also gives a specific mood and realism to your image, making it truly stunning.
Have the right gear
For successful shoots in cities, you also need to think about the equipment that you will need for the day. When it comes to shooting a cityscape, you are going to require a wide-angle lens. If you plan to shoot it at sunrise or sunset or at other low light times, you’ll also need a tripod. On the other hand, if you decide to crop into a small section of a cityscape, you may need a telephoto lens. Other accessories such as filters (graduated ND and neutral density filters) or a flash might also be needed. Make sure you don’t forget to pack plenty of memory cards and batteries as well.
All photographers have their styles and methods. These are just some of the tips on how to capture stunning photographs of cities. So apply them and you’ll be on your way to capturing awesome photos of cities.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.