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6 Tips For Photographing Better City Scenes

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Towns and cities can be noisy, busy, stressful and congested but provide excellent subjects for photography. Taking great photographs of cities is not easy so here are six ideas to help you capture city scenes:

1) City Skyscrapers

Urban photography offers a great opportunity to document a cities environment.

On a sunny day, most photographers choose to head out into nature, where the coast or a rolling landscape is usually only a short drive away.

However, if you opt for urban landscapes, there are a whole manner of worthwhile subjects where you can point your lens. Skylines, architecture, famous landmarks and bridges are all beautiful examples of city elements worth capturing.

Cities dominated by skyscrapers are visually exciting and provide a wealth of interesting buildings to view and photograph. You could find strong patterns, symmetry, dramatic lighting and different textures amongst high-rise buildings.

Look for architectural or urban features that create interest and use a wide angle of view to convey a grander sense of the scene.

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Shanghai, China

2) A Nocturnal Cityscape

Cities are becoming more popular as destinations for short breaks. Overnight stays in cities provide an opportunity to photograph a nocturnal cityscape.

One key advantage of shooting a city at night is you can work in all kinds of weather such as rain, snow or light fog.

It is possible to do this because you are mainly focusing on elements that are characterized by darker tones with a few spots of color and light.

When capturing cities in the dark, you don’t need to concentrate on the usual shadows and tonal gradations that are relevant in the daytime. You work purely with light.

I suggest that you set yourself up before it gets dark so you can see what you’re doing and experiment with the changing light as it shifts from light to dark.

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3) Reflected City

Many buildings and city landmarks are so photogenic that they can be too familiar a subject to photograph.

Instead of shooting the usual perspective of just buildings, concentrate on reflective surfaces that mirror back the surrounding architecture.

You can find reflections in a pool of water, a polished surface or shiny glass (reflecting abstract patterns) and the bonnet of a car parked on a rooftop.

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Photographs of reflections are visually pleasing when executed correctly. To be most effective, select the maximum depth of field and aim to achieve an image that’s as sharp as possible.

4) City Scenes by Night

City centers become great light shows at night.

They give an array of color from buildings to lights of passing cars. One tip I recommend is you capture the energy and excitement of a nighttime scene by including a human element.

Doing so will make your images more dynamic and dramatic.

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Radcliffe Camera

If you are shooting at night, you will need a slower shutter speed to capture the scene. Use this to your advantage by recording flowing traffic such as buses and taxis or colorful clouds.

These can add motion to your city scenes or a splash of color to supplement the buildings in the background.

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Piran, Slovenia

5) An Urban Landscape – Day Shots of the City

Another way you can capture striking images of cities is to photograph the urban landscape.

Perspectives can be obtained from ground level or by capturing the city from above. Overlook a city from a tower or a rooftop. Find interesting patterns, contrasting buildings or views of street life to photograph.

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University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin viewpoint

When shooting from high elevations, if you have to lean out for your shot, make sure it is safe to do so. Secure your camera strap around your hand or neck to keep it safe.

6) City Streets or Cityscapes From Afar

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City streets provide intriguing and picturesque subjects such as human interest and variable light.

You may find yourself walking past a location every day and not realize its potential. Until striking shadows from the sun transform it into a great composition that brings it to life.

You don’t have to take pictures of city scenes only from close range. Take a step back and capture a wide shot of the urban landscape from afar. Seek out a viewpoint that allows you to obtain more context from an unusual angle.


Use these tips to go out and capture your best shots of city scenes and share your images in the comments below.

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Jeremy Flint
Jeremy Flint

is a UK based award winning travel and landscape photographer, known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. He recently won the Association of Photographers Discovery Award 2017 and the Grand Prize in the 2016 National Geographic Traveller and F11 Your Vision competitions. His pictures are represented by 4Corners images and have been featured in National Geographic Traveller, Outdoor Photography, Digital SLR Photography and national newspapers.

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