Cityscapes offer a unique subject for photographers, especially if you plan on shooting around sunset or late at night after the moon has risen and the sky has turned black. The glistening, colorful lights and the tall buildings, when photographed properly, are a still moment in time representing an otherwise bustling city. And a recognizable cityscape can also be a lot of fun to photograph to produce prints for sale.
Always Use a Tripod
In order to capture the clearest, sharpest shots, you'll need to use a tripod to hold your camera steady, especially because you'll be using a longer shutter speed. You may also consider using a remote trigger or the timer on your camera to ensure it remains as steady as possible.
Take Advantage of Aperture Priority Mode
When it comes to shooting cityscapes, stick with aperture priority mode so you'll have control over all of your settings, aside from shutter speed. This will let you maintain a low ISO and the optimal aperture for a clear shot. To get more depth of field, go with f/8 or higher, especially when shooting during sunset.
Use Bracket Exposures
One of the biggest challenges when photographing cityscapes is nailing the right exposure. After all, you're looking at scenery that's filled with lights of varying colors and brightness. There could be big differences between the lightest and the darkest areas of your scene. To avoid dealing with too much contrast, try bracketing to get the ideal exposure for your shot.
Getting Trails of Light
If you're shooting in a city where you can also capture the light streams of cars speeding by, this is a great opportunity to get a uniquely beautiful photograph.
Begin by setting up the photo as you would if you were only concerned with getting the sharpest and clearest buildings in the frame. Once you've established your settings, you'll have to lengthen the shutter speed and go with a smaller aperture so that your camera will capture all of the lights of the cars as they go by.
Start by setting your shutter speed at around 25-30 seconds and experiment until you get the best shot. The challenge will be timing it out just right if there aren't many cars passing by at a time.
Cityscapes and Bridges
Bridges look really great when they're lit up at night. If you can get to a place where you can capture a bridge in the foreground and a stunning cityscape across the water in the background, you'll have a dynamic photo with a lot going on for the viewer to enjoy. Using your tripod will make it easy to position the camera in a way that will frame all of the most interesting elements in the scenery.
Set your camera on aperture priority mode with the aperture at f/16, or perhaps more. Also aim for an exposure that's long and between 1 to 30 seconds. This will make the water look silky and add a really nice effect.
If you're hoping to capture warmer colors in your photo, be sure to change the white balance to the daylight option.
Learn More and Become a Better Cityscape Photographer
If you're just starting out shooting cityscapes, it may take a little practice until you get the best shots. To join a community of fellow photographers and gain access to advice, tips, and lessons on how to photograph a variety of cityscapes and landscapes, subscribe to the PT community and take your skills to a new level.