How to photograph an amazing cityscape

Cities are unique places to photograph. Its dynamism, the architectural elements or the different types of light that we find throughout the day, can be the protagonists of countless stories. Because the cityscape It is a scenario like few others where we can unleash our creativity, as well as a great opportunity to put into practice a large number of photographic techniques and knowledge.

What is an urban landscape?

Cityscape photography aims to capture the essence of an urban environment in general. That is, in an urban landscape, the city is the protagonist. Whether through details or more general plans, we seek to portray the soul of the city, just as in a natural landscape we seek to capture the soul and beauty of nature.

Ideal team

The ideal equipment is always the one you already have πŸ˜‰ but if you have a choice, the best one to go out and photograph this type of landscape is:

  • Camera with manual settings: To be able to play with the three variables of the exposure triangle (aperture, speed, and ISO).
  • Wide angle lens: It has a wide field of view so it allows you to cover a large portion of the scene. It also has a high depth of field, which will allow you to have more focused planes in the image. It is the one that will probably give you more game.
  • Medium focal lens: For closer shots, this type of lens can also be very useful. It does not create so much distortion in the lines and in a fixed format, you can find bright lenses at a very good price.
  • Telephoto: If you want to photograph details from a distance, this lens can be very useful.
  • Tripod: Just like for a natural landscape, the tripod becomes a very useful tool if we want a very sharp and shake-free image and an essential tool if you are going to animate yourself with techniques such as long exposure.
  • Filters:
    • Polarizing Filter: It will be very useful to eliminate reflections and achieve contrast in the sky.
    • Neutral Density (ND) Filter: Essential for long exposure daytime photography. These filters reduce the entrance of light without modifying the tonality of the image.

Recommended Settings

As for a natural landscape, an urban landscape should be treated in a similar way, looking for sharpness and a good depth of field.

ISO

Work whenever you can at the lowest ISO that your camera allows or at least keep it to low values. You already know that ISO is associated with the sensitivity of the sensor but also with noise.

shutter speed

Another aspect that influences the final sharpness of the image and that must be taken into account. Whenever you can, try to work at high speeds to avoid juddering in the image. Or use a tripod.

Depending on the objective, you will be able to work at more or less slow speeds. A good starting point for setting a minimum speed is to use this simple formula:

Minimum speed=1/Focal length

If you’re shooting with a 50mm, the minimum shutter speed will be at 1/50s, if you’re shooting with a 400mm telephoto lens, the minimum shutter speed will be above 1/400s. It is not an exact science but it serves to establish a minimum for each of your focal points.

diaphragm opening

It is the opening through which light passes through the lens to the sensor of your camera. The larger that aperture is, the more light you will have for your image. And on the contrary, the more closed that opening is, the less light will enter the sensor.

As a “collateral” effect, it happens that the more we open the diaphragm (more light) at the same time we have less focused area in the image. And the more we close the diaphragm, the larger the area in focus in the image.

That said, the most advisable thing in a landscape of any type, is have the largest area of ​​focus possible, so you should work at apertures around f/8 of/16 unless you want to blur the background for some reason or need a lot of light.

Here it is perfectly explained in case of doubt πŸ˜‰

diaphragm opening

RAW format

When you are looking for the highest possible quality, the RAW format becomes essential. This format stores much more information than JPEG, so the results when revealing the image in an editor are infinitely better.

white balance

If for whatever reason you decide not to work in RAW, you should pay special attention to white balance, since you will be working with different types of light (warm and cold) that can tint your image with their hue, and even with various types of light mixed together. .

I advise you to try it in manual mode, because if not, your camera may correct tones that you liked, such as the warm light of a sunrise.

hyperfocal

If you want to get as much in-focus area as possible in your image, I recommend getting familiar with hyperfocal. It will be useful for all types of landscape and even for street photography and in general all those photographs where you need to have the largest area of ​​the scene in focus.

light in the urban landscape

light is everything also in the urban landscape, with the addition that the landscape not only changes with the light and the tones that come from the sun, but also the artificial light typical of the urban environment is added to the scene.

This means that throughout the day we have completely different scenarios, just as the photographic opportunities that arise will be different.

the golden hour

Don’t be fooled by the “time” because it lasts only a few moments. It is the moment of dawn and dusk, when the light is warm, soft and lateral. It is one of the most loved lights by photographers for all types of photography, from portraits to landscapes, including the urban landscape, of course.

Its side light lengthens shadows, enhances textures and alone adds a fascinating element to your image.

the blue hour

Personally, it is the light that I find most fascinating in a city. It’s that moment just after sunset, when the sky has lost its warm tones and turns a deep navy blue. At that moment the lights of the city turn on, and the combination of that blue and the oranges of the typical lights of streetlights or buildings seems spectacular to me.

To learn more about these two famous types of light, I recommend you take a look at this article: How to get great golden hour and blue hour photos.

central hours of the day

Not only from the magical lights of dawn does the urban landscape photographer live. If you like the high contraststrong shadows and white light, this can be a nice touch for your urban photos.

In my opinion, each type of light has its magic, you just have to know how to find it ;).

In bad weather good photos

The lights of a cloudy, rainy or foggy day are the perfect setting to achieve different images, with unique lights and scenes that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.

Take advantage of the color of the umbrellas in the streets, of the lights of the cars or streetlights through the rain, the drops through the glass, or the atmosphere generated by the fog are just some of the many photographs that you can get with bad weather.

The composition

After good lighting, composing in a way that helps convey the message of photography is the most essential step.

Add a human element

Without losing sight of the fact that the theme is the landscape, you already know that adding an element increases the interest in the image in a natural way. Also, it helps add a sense of scale to the scene.

The rule of thirds

It is not a good idea to abuse this rule because it is widely seen, but it can help you in specific scenes, because no matter how worked this rule is, it is also true that placing the center of interest at one of its intersections greatly enhances that point of the composition .

horizon law

You must first think about which area of ​​the image you are going to give more prominence to. If it’s the sky, it should take up about 3/4 of the frame. If, on the other hand, you are more earthy, the city should occupy those 3/4 parts of the frame.

And remember, the horizon always straight, you can activate the help grid of your camera for it. Because, although you can correct it in editing, doing so always implies some cropping of the image.

The point of view

It is very important to vary the point of view in the compositions, be they an urban landscape or a portrait. Learning to look differently helps to develop the photographic eye, to find different and unique images.

  • Low angle shot: If you look up from your feet, you will see how different images of the buildings and constructions around you rise up.
  • Chopped: If you are in an elevated position, looking at the ground can offer you very different and interesting points of view.
  • Normal: It’s the most used, so it’s not usually the most exciting πŸ˜‰ Although that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t use it.

In short: Look around you, up, down, think before you press the shutter, is there any other way of framing that makes this image more interesting? With this simple gesture, your image will surely win points.

The reflections

In urban landscapes there are many opportunities to compose through reflections, since we have windows everywhere. Looking for interesting reflections can be a good way to find different images for your landscape photos: puddles, mirrors, windows, or any reflective surface you find interesting.

General plans

See the depth and breadth of your city through wide shots. A good idea may be to look for buildings that rise above your city to photograph it from above, or look for places where you have a good view of the skyline of your urban landscape.

The details

While we tend to think big when faced with a landscape of any kind, sometimes the image we are looking for can be in the most subtle detail.

Therefore, pay attention to details, experiment with minimalism and depth of field, sometimes in the little things the message we were looking for is hidden.

portrait format

I always like to remember that the vertical format exists, also for landscapes πŸ˜‰ , so keep experimenting with it. You will see that it fits perfectly with the vertical shapes of the buildings, becoming a great compositional ally for your photos.

the natural setting

Framing elements of our landscape through other elements such as windows, doors, walls, etc., provides different and compositionally attractive images.

Long exposition

I would dare to say that it is the star technique of any urban landscape. We all have in mind those scenes of a night sky with long trails of colors generated by passing cars, but there are many more…