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Article: How to Take Great Cityscape Photos

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How to Take Great Cityscape Photos

People are drawn to cities. People like to congregate and people like to build. The upshot of this is that as photographers, we have incredible photo opportunities both in the rural areas, where there is no sign of civilization and the stark contrast with a towering and bustling cityscape photo. As well as being homes to many people, businesses and cultures, cities are packed full of energy, vitality and power, and if take the right photo you can capture all of this.

Mood Factors

The ultimate factor that encapsulates the feel of a cityscape is the time of day the photograph is captured. Early morning cityscapes often give off a feeling of calm and peace (as long as it’s before the morning rush hour!), whilst the bright lights and movement captured at night can portray the city as a living entity. It’s often the case that people who are living in the city, forget to take in it’s beauty and magnificence. Capturing it in a photograph can highlight this and bring home to people the brilliance of where they live. Cityscape Mood Factor (Courtesy of Another key factor is season. The season will play a key part of the mood in the photo. A low sun in winter will cast completely different shadows and lighting when compared to the high summer sun. Seasons also possess the power to capture nostalgic memories. I for one have gasped at the beauty of a ice encrusted City scene in the depths of winter - it’s a powerful image that can bring home a range of emotions all in one go.

What to Capture

A really great cityscape will often show the amazing landmarks in the city and show a contrast between tall towers and lower lying buildings. However, it’s a very personal thing and a fresh not often seen cityscape has the power to entrance and enthral just as much as the typical photo. We’ve all seen the typical New York City scape showing the Empire state, statue of liberty and various other key landmarks overlooking the water - it’s a great image, and each one is unique given the amount of variables involved in it’s capture. BUT how about taking a different perspective? Shining the light on a different area of New York is going to attract attention, especially from people who haven’t been to the city or are used to seeing it from one particular angle. Seeing this new perspective can in itself, change an invidual’s perspective of the city and cast it in a new light. Take this atmospheric shot from Liberty State Park for example; New York Different Perspective Cityscape

Top Tips

Whenever you capture a Cityscape bear in mind these tips to create the best work of art possible;


If you’re not trying to capture the entire city, then choose an interesting subject. Draw the focus to an item. Perhaps something colourful or even a person or group of people.


Background is as important as foreground. Be sure to pick a shot with interesting background detail, even if it is blurred by the camera focus. A mix of eclectic background colours can look great with a smooth background Bokeh effect. Cityscape Background Detail

Reflection and Shadow

Keep your eyes on the floor. Shadows and reflections can play an important part in creating the right image. Cityscape Reflections and Shadows (Courtesy of


Remember, there is always room to crop. If you camera has a high enough mega pixel sensor, then you can easily swap the dimensions of your photograph from a standard 4x3 to a panoramic shot. The beauty of this is, once you have your photo, you can crop until your heart is content. So often it’s better to get the larger picture than to limit your range. Panoramic Cityscape Picture

Keep it Steady

If you have tripod, use it. This is especially essential for night time photography, which require long exposures. Holding a camera at night can create arty effects if that’s what you’re seeking. But for clarity you need a tripod, or at least a stable wall (which you camera won’t fall off!).

Celestial Bodies

Capturing the moon at night, towering above a city can create a dramatic scene. However, when it comes to the sun, it’s often best to keep if behind you, as it will cast light onto your scene. Of course if you’re aiming to capture the sun peeking out from behind a tall building, then exceptions can be made. Moon peeking out of clouds over City


Your camera setup is critical, and ensuring you have the best exposure for the season, time of day and environment is important. It can also be useful to use a camera timer or remote at night so that you don’t cause unnecessary vibration and blur your image. Ultimately, whatever you do, the most important thing to do is to have fun. If you have fun whilst capturing your Cityscape then you’re scientifically proven to create better images, every time* (*may not be scientifically proven, but it’ll definitely help!).

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