Cityscape photography is a super fun niche that is all about capturing landscapes in urban settings, which is the horizontal silhouette of a city.
The way natural views are the subject of landscape photography, concrete jungles like streets and tall buildings are the focus of cityscape photography. Not only that, many adventures and shooting opportunities are waiting everywhere in cities to be discovered by a cityscape photographer.
A person walking on a street, a bird flying by a building, light shining on an architectural structure making a pattern, skyline looking breathtaking above the tall buildings; all these things might not be important for general people, but a treasure to shoot for a cityscape photographer. Being an enthusiast of this genre means finding opportunities at every step you take in an urban setting.
Cityscape vs. Architectural Photography
Most of the time, cityscape photography is confused with architectural photography, a sub-genre of commercial photography. Though architectural imagery involves shooting cityscapes and akin structures a lot but generally, both are separate niches. Architectural photography intersects with cityscape a lot because most of the architectural structures are found in urban cities.
On the other hand, being a cityscape photographer means being passionate about the city. This type of photography is beyond any limitations and boundaries.
Your cityscape can be a photo of a popular street light at night or footprints of a person at the seashore, or an old building or a wide or panoramic photograph of a city business area at a very high point, or a snow-covered road with narrow lanes of light. Until or unless your photography is reflecting any aspect of city life, it’s a cityscape.
The purpose of cityscape photography
A good cityscape features unnoticed/forgotten details that remain unavailable until you decide to open your lens in this regard. A cityscape is powerful enough to show people aspects of a common thing they might not even notice. It may also show something that is thought to be completely normal in a unique way. Looking at a cityscape would even make a person passing by the scene all the time think, “I never thought of looking at it that way.”
Just like abstract photography, a single object is a different opportunity for different cityscape photographers. One can say it overlaps with Abstract photography when it comes to imagination.
For an enthusiastic cityscape photographer, whenever he is roaming around in the city, the only question that pops in his mind is “How can I show this in my way?” after that, it’s all him and his imagination. Using the power of a camera lens and his imagination, he can always find another way to look at what everyone already knows.
This photography niche might seem straightforward, but in reality, it is very artistic and technical. The colors of the aesthetic beauty of the cityscape are not easily visible to the naked eye. A cityscape is powerful enough to repaint what a person might be perceived in the same way from years.
The real trick of a balanced image lies in a combination of light, texture, lines, texture, and color. When a camera viewer frames this image, it produces an old image that the viewer rethinks the part of the city that, at a glance, is simple and boring.
Essential equipment for Cityscape Photography:
Even if you are totally a beginner in this niche or already practicing some other genre of photography, you can start right away. You do not need to buy any special gadgets to start with it. As a beginner or hobbyist, even a smartphone camera or a simple DSLR will do the job.
Here are some of the basic equipment you should consider carrying in your cityscape photography backpack.
As aforementioned, you can start with any DSLR camera. Once you get to know basic tips and techniques and basic camera settings and looking forward to getting into more technical things, then consider investing in a professional-level camera.
A wide-angle zoom lens (16-35mm equivalent) or a mid-range (24-70mm) is ideal for cityscapes, especially for night cityscape photography.
Tripods are generally used to make the images steady. If you want to capture a perfect image of a city at night or in low-light situations, you must invest in a good quality tripod. You can set up your camera without having to worry about changing focus and other distractions caused by sudden movements.
Besides cityscape, it will come in handy in all types of photography.
Remote Shutter Release
You can use a remote shutter release alongside a camera tripod for long exposure or close-up shots. It will not allow anymore the camera movement before the shot is taken.
If you like having straight vertical lines in your cityscapes, use tilt-shift lenses. With these lenses, you can explore multiple wide angles.
It’s by no means a must-have, but it would be fun to play with it.
Tips for Cityscape Photography:
Plan the shoot
It isn’t impossible to click a perfect image by accident, but the probability of that happening is very low. Either you are shooting cityscape or doing any other type of photography, planning is a must. It will save you a lot of trouble and make sure you can bring your imagination to life.
Choose your shooting site and evaluate it in your mind. Draw a complete picture of your output in your head. And according to that picture plan, camera gear, weather, and other things you need to get that perfect shot.
Shooting full skylines
Cityscapes are not limited to shooting buildings and structures but always shooting the full skyline whenever you imagine something similar.
Shoot skylines with a wide-angle lens. These are good at shooting the whole line without moving miles away from the urban area to get a perfect image. We recommend a wide-angle lens with focal lengths between 12-35mm.
Using wide-angle lens
If you want to buy something for your cityscapes shooting ventures, invest in a wide-angle lens.<- Affiliate link 🙂
Cityscapes most of the time involve covering a lot of areas, and a wide-angle lens will make your job easy. These will increase the area and allow you to include an entire skyscraper in a vertical format.
Use a Telephoto Lens
Besides the wide and ultra-wide lens, if you look for versatility, try using a telephoto lens.
While wide-angle lenses add depth, telephoto lenses remove them. Using a long lens is a good way to compress subjects into a cohesive image. Moreover, telephoto lenses enable the photographer to capture a remote and long distant scene. This can be useful for capturing skylines from scenic parks and hills.
Golden and Blue hours
Golden hour is the signature warm glow of the sun right before sunset and after sunrise. Compared to that, the blue hour has very cooler tones, and it comes shortly before sunrise and after sunset when the sun’s position is just below the horizon.
For a cityscape photographer, these two are perfect shooting opportunities every day. No filter can achieve the effects perfectly, which these can add to your footages.
To capture the twinkles of city lights, the blue hour is the best time. It is the perfect time to capture both natural lights and artificial lights at the same time. During the bright daylight, you can only capture natural light, whereas at night time, only artificial lights.
Just like the blue hour, there is a perfect balance of light in the golden hour too. The combination of tones which is in these hours is impossible to catch at any other time.
Tripods are essential for steadying your shots. You can have a perfect shooting situation, perfect equipment, and an expensive camera, but a little shake can ruin the total footage. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Especially shooting the night cityscapes, make sure you use the tripod. Night light photography involves using high ISO settings and high shutter speed, an open invitation to shakes and blurs.
If you do not want to go for a tripod, consider using a self-timer, especially wide-angle and low-light shots.
Look for leading lines
Leading lines are an important part of cityscape composition. They offer perspective, depth, and fascination to photographs and create coherence and pattern.
Cityscapes come up with a new set of challenges for a photographer. It’s like photographing the life of a city. It’s not easy, but it provides you with a lot of opportunities. Our cities are constantly transforming. New construction, destruction, new stores, fundraising, changes in city planning, and infrastructure present new opportunities.
Cityscapes with images are a direct descendant of city life art. If you look at cityscapes from ancient times, it feels like time has ceased. So go out and save something for the reminiscence of your city.