Photo tip of the week: 7 tips for better cityscapes
Everywhere in cities you are going to find people out taking photos of what is around them. Photographing metropolitan areas up close or from a distance is done all the time, whether you are travelling or just heading into town to take photos. There can be a lot more to it than just pointing your camera in the direction of it and clicking the button. Here are seven tips that will help you get some great cityscapes.
1 Using long exposures to get the clouds moving
Neutral Density Filters have come a long way and now you can do some incredible images using them for long exposures. Getting the blurred clouds as they move over the city can help give your images a timeless effect. Then it becomes more about the architecture with the sky disappearing with the long exposure.
Find places where you can get the building, or buildings, without too much in the way of the sky. Set up your tripod to get the movement of the clouds. If you are doing this in a busy street make sure you are out of the way. You don’t want someone coming along in the middle of the exposure and bumping the tripod.
If you give the image enough time people walking through the scene will not be visible in the final image and it is a great way to rid your scenes of them. You can end up with images that really are just the buildings.
2 Using water for the foreground
Using a river or ocean for the foreground is a good way to take your city photographs and is a very popular compositional tool used by photographers. Get on the other side of the water to the city and take your photos. If the water is still and the buildings are reflected in it, then it is even better.
Long exposures of the water and the clouds can be very effective with the city in between. Depending on the time of day, you might get the buildings reflected in the water, or their shadows.
3 Sunset and sunrise
Having a brilliant sunset or sunrise in an image is something most photographers try to get, and cityscapes are no different. Getting those brilliant colours as the city awakens, or as it ends, can give you incredible images.
What is happening on the other side of the sunset, or sunrise, is an aspect that is often forgotten. When you are looking at one, turn around and look at what is happening behind you. There can be a serene pink sky that will a different feel in it. When you go out to do photos at that time plan for the opposite side and take photos with the intention of getting that pink in the sky for your images.
Make sure you know where the sun will rise or set. There is nothing worse than going out to get a cityscape shot with, for example, a sunset, and then miss it because the setting sun was obscured by buildings because you didn’t know where it would happen. If you plan ahead, you can make sure you know exactly where it will be. You can now get apps for your phone that will tell you exactly where that spot will be.
4 Do your research
Researching an area that you want to photograph is valuable. With the internet there are so many resources available to help you find good locations to shot and to give you ideas.
Your best friend is Google Earth. You can use it to visit places virtually to give you an idea of what is around. It doesn’t replace being there in person. but will help you plan where you want to go and what you can photograph.
Use Social Media platforms like Instagram and search using the hashtag for the place you are photographing. You will see some amazing images, and get plenty of ideas of where other photographers go. If you can’t work out where the image was taken, ask. Many photographers are only too happy to share that kind of information.
5 Night photography
Without a doubt one of the most popular forms of city photography is done at night. The city with all the lights turned on can be magical and if you set yourself up in a great position you will get some great shots.
Using the water again you can get photos with the lights reflected in it. The longer exposure that you get with nights, makes the water look very smooth. If you go before sunrise and the water is still you can get mirror images of the city in it.
Light trails is another form of night photography that many people like to do. In Melbourne there is one spot that everyone tries to get the trails of the cars at night as they go through the intersection in front of Flinders Street Station. It has become quite an iconic scene for photographers to capture, however, there would also be similar places in other cities.
Look for places where there is an interesting building that cars drive past that you can use to get those light trails. Don’t think just cars, also consider trams, buses and trains as well. Even a horse and carriage that is lit up for night can give you incredible light trails.
You could set up on the side of a road that leads into the city and get ready for when trams or buses go by. As they get close click your shutter button and see how the lights appear on your images. It is quite addictive.
6 interesting architecture and street art
Most cities have buildings that have something unique about them that make them interesting to photograph. Include the ones around those and use them to highlight it which will give you a good cityscape. Interesting streets can also make great photos. Some have architecture with interesting histories. If you know the history of a building or street it can give you a different focus for photos.
Cityscapes can be a lot more than a series of buildings. Street art falls into it as well and graffiti. Look for anything in the city that will help you capture a different cityscape. Melbourne has lanes that are full of graffiti and they can look good in your photos.
Most cities have statues, or sculptures, around the streets that you can incorporate into images. Take photos of them with the city as the background. Or you could use them to lead the viewers into the heart of the place.
7 Leading lines
If there is one thing that the city has lots of, it is leading lines. They are everywhere. You can use them to lead your viewer into your image, like a road will take you to the city. You can use streets, bridges, walkways, even light trails. Also look at buildings, they often have lines in them that you can use as well.
Photographing cities is exciting, and you can get some great images. They are big, and you can stand in one place and photograph a lot. Take photos of all the buildings and experiment. Try different compositions, use the tips in this article and have fun.
Leanne Cole is a Fine Art Photographer, with a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victoria College of the Arts (VCA), who is passionate about the environment and likes to photograph it as much as possible. She is from Melbourne and spends a great deal of time photographing the city and the surrounding area. Leanne is a regular contributor to Digital Photography School and spends time writing for her own blog as well as guest blogging on other sites. She is also a teacher and mentor to those that want to learn more about photography or how to be a fine art photographer.
See more of Leanne’s work on her website.