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Urban landscapes are a little bit different than capturing wild places and beautiful sceneries that are hard to get to. There are a few particular things that make this type of photography have its own rules, but there are also similar guidelines that are similar to other types of photography.
Here are our top ten tips for photographing urban landscapes.
1. Pick the right time
Just like in a "normal" landscape, light is everything and if you go out shooting at 2 PM, you'll most likely end up with some bad looking shots with horrible light. Urban landscapes are better to be shot at dusk, or around the very popular golden hour.Now the thing to remember about the golden hour is that it's actually a limited time frame that doesn't allow you to waste very much time. Depending on the location, that beautiful light lasts between 5 minutes and a half an hour, with rare exceptions. So tip number one, make sure you pick the right time to go out shooting.
2. Use a tripod
This is probably something you'd expect, but it still has to be on our list. Don't go shooting urban landscapes without a tripod. You want to be able to use the lowest ISO value and get some good looking long exposures.
3. Use the camera's Manual Mode
This is one of the most popular pieces of advice beginners come across when looking for video tutorials and educational articles. The main reason for using the M mode is that your camera, no matter how advanced or expensive, doesn't really know how you want the photos to look. When you leave it on Auto, TV, or AV modes, all it does is apply a series of mathematical calculations that rarely give you the desired look. Stick to M mode for the best results.
4. Include leading lines
Leading lines are a composition trick that will direct the eyes of the viewer towards the key elements of the frame. In urban landscapes, leading lines can be formed using traffic, bridges or rivers, but these are just some common examples. You can adapt to each specific situation and creatively use the elements in front of your camera to form leading lines.
5. Have the three vital elements
In most landscapes and cityscapes, there are three major elements that every photograph should have. A foreground, a middle ground and a background. Most beginners make the mistake of composing their shots using middle ground and background, and completely forgetting about the foreground. This is one of those little secrets that will surely put more impact in your images. Have an interesting foreground in your photos, one that communicates with the rest of your image and a more powerful visual impact will be guaranteed.
6. Use the right apps
Some iPhone and Android apps, like Sun Seeker, will help you determine the exact minute when the sun will hit a certain building. It is a great tool that helps you stay ahead of the game and be exactly on time when the light is at its best.
7. Keep things simple
Don't leave any unnecessary elements in the frame. Try to get rid of cars or people and go for a simple look. Simplicity has a lot of potential with urban landscapes and it will contribute to that balance of composition that every pro photographer is looking for.
8. Use a remote
The idea of using a tripod for urban landscapes is to get no blur. There is a lot of detail to look at in this type of photography and you want everything to be nice and sharp, from one corner of the image to the other. But achieving this flawless sharpness isn't guaranteed by just using a tripod. Even a sturdy one can transmit vibration to the camera and that will result in blurred shots. The way to handle this issue is to use a chord or wireless remote trigger. By keeping your tripod untouched, you will eliminate the chance of having any blur in your pictures. If you don't have a remote control for you camera, simply use the self timer feature in the menu.
9. Expose for the highlights
Exposing for the highlights means aiming to get a perfect exposure of the brightest area in the frame. Naturally, that will leave the mid tones and shadows underexposed. So why should you go for the highlights? Because it will give a lot more to work with in post processing.
10. Find a unique view
At the end of the day, the difference between an impressive shot and an average one is the view point. The more interesting the perspective, the better the photo will look. Add a good composition with leading lines, the right kind of light and you will surely end up with an amazing photograph.
For a more detailed perspective on these tips, check out this video made by French photographer Serge Ramelli.