Cityscape photography can be some of the most awe-inspiring that you have ever seen.
Large towers reaching up to the heavens, buildings that seem to stretch on forever, bridges dramatically arcing across wide bodies of water.
But how can you capture those idiosyncratic city shots? Well, you have to think outside the box when it comes to city photographs.
Consider some of the less visited hotspots that show the city from a completely unique perspective, whether it is from the water, from the sky, or from the busy roadside.
So, what is the best location for your cityscape photograph? What types of buildings should you be looking out for? What is the best type of lighting for city photography?
Well, we have some great tips that you can follow to get the most fascinating and exceptional photographs.
Why Do Cityscape Photography?
Cities are amazing, so varied and vast, they can be both majestic and intimidating at the same time. If you shoot them from high up in the sky, then they look beautiful. If you shoot them from below, they can look frightening.
Even though people are taking city photography all the time, there is always a new angle that you can shoot from. It is all about luck and timing.
Getting the right person to walk in front of the right building or catch a skyscraper in the right light requires patience and skill.
You might think cityscape photography is easy, but you will need stamina. Cities can go on for miles, so you’ll need to make sure that you have a lot of energy and a decent pair of shoes.
If you get good enough shots, then you can also sell your cityscape photography for quite a bit of money.
People are looking for city shots for their homes all the time and if you have great shots for a reasonable price, then you can be sure to sell a lot of prints.
So where are the best locations to go to that most photographers might not have thought of? Well, check out some of these amazing locations.
Great Locations For Cityscape Photography
You’ll need to think about the kind of angle that you want for your cityscape shot first and foremost.
Do your research and find some existing pictures of the city you want to shoot. Rule out the ones that you don’t want, or you feel have been done repeatedly. In your mind, you can then build up a picture of your picture.
1. Get Outside The City
If you want to get as much of the city in your shot as possible, then we would recommend that you travel far outside its boundaries.
If you want to get tall skyscrapers with the blue sky in the background, then you’ll have to go a mile or so outside.
You should try and find a hill or a slightly raised surface so you can get more of the bottom surface to create a better contrast in your shot.
Also make sure that there are no buildings surrounding you, as you won’t want them to get in the way or eclipse your shot.
If you have a wide lens, then you can get more of the city in your photo. However, even if you don’t have a wide lens, getting far enough out of the city is a great option for securing as panoramic a shot as possible.
2. Find Unique Locations Inside The City
Now, you might think that famous locations are the last place you want to go, as they have been photographed to death. However, this is still a great place to start, especially if you want to get a sense of the city.
You can always find something special about even the most photographed landmark. All you need to do is keep taking pictures. If you take 100 pictures of the same monument or building, then you can be sure 1 or 2 of them will be usable.
Try and find an area near your landmark where nobody is standing. Most of the photos are taken where the crowd gathers, so go off to the side and maybe you will find an angle nobody has seen before.
3. Find A Focal Point
This can be anything, perhaps a person or a building. If you are looking for a building, then try and find something that is symbolic of the city. You can contrast this image in the foreground with the city in the background.
You can also use the inside of a building as a framing device. Go inside a building and use a window to form a border around your city image. This will provide a nice contrast between different lighting states as well as different perspectives.
4. Seek Out City Festivals
If you are looking to capture the unique spirit of a city at certain times of the year, then we can think of no better way than by shooting a festival.
Try and find existing photographs of festivals such as the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, La Tomatina in Valencia, Spain, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
A festival usually still has the city as its backdrop, but the people and decorations in the shot help to paint it in a whole new light.
If you get far enough back or even high enough, then you can feature human subjects in the foreground with your cityscape behind them.
You can find out all the local events in your shooting city by subscribing to events lists on the internet or simply asking the locals if you want to do it old school. You can also use festival apps that will tell you what is going on in every city.
5. Find Yourself A Boat
A lot of these cities are surrounded by bodies of water, so if you want to get far enough out, then chartering a boat might be the only option for you.
Also, a lot of people would not have thought to get their shot from the water, meaning that you’ll end up with a unique picture from a fresh angle.
You can take as many shots as you like as you sail across the water. This is also a great method of getting multiple pictures from many angles and you won’t have to move an inch! We would recommend finding an angle of the city during sunset for the best lighting (see also “Best Sunset Photography Ideas“).
However, you don’t always have to use a boat to get an ‘across-the-water’ shot. You can simply go to the nearest shore (usually connected by a bridge) that faces the city. These are easily accessible via car.
If you take a water shot during the night, then get the city lights reflecting in the rippling waves. This can be incredibly pretty and night cityscapes often sell very well, especially if you use the right lens to get a clear shot.
6. Get To The Roof!
In a city, there are plenty of tall rooftops that will give you the perfect vantage point of the whole city. You can get a glimpse of buildings and monuments that you wouldn’t be able to see from the ground too.
You can also shoot from the inside. Just book yourself a hotel room for the evening and dedicate yourself to shooting photographs of the city.
However, you’ll need to make sure that your glass is clear, has no smudges, and is angled such that you won’t see your reflection.
However, if you want to get a clear open-air shot, then make sure that you have permission from the building owners or managers before you head up to the roof.
Going up on the roof obviously comes with its own dangers and you’ll have to stand far enough from the edge to keep you and your camera safe.
There are often much higher speeds of winds at the top of a skyscraper, so remember to brace yourself. Some photographers even carry weights in their pockets to prevent them from getting blown over.
You’ll also have to check whether you can use a tripod, as these are often prohibited on open-air rooftops.
7. Find A Good Bridge
A bridge is another elevated perspective that will get you a more panoramic view of the city, including all the buildings. Often a bridge is the only way that you can get a decent angle on a cityscape.
Once again, make sure that when you are taking pictures from a bridge you are not standing too close to the edge, as this is another location where the wind can pick up at high speed.
Some bridges are very hard to photograph from, as there might be nets or struts that get in the way of the shot, so getting an unobstructed view might prove difficult.
We hope that our guide to getting a decent cityscape shot has helped you to improve your photography.
Remember that you just have to use your environment to your advantage and dare to tread where nobody else would go for that extraordinary shot.