Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Tips for shooting cityscapes

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Taken in London on a bridge over the Thames looking out at Big Ben and Parliament.

I love to shoot cityscapes.  Living in New York I often feel like everything I see is a potential photograph and I like to challenge myself to constantly be looking for ways to make an every day scene look dynamic and interesting.  Here are some tips for shooting fun cityscapes and to get you thinking about pushing yourself to see a little bit differently.

1.  Choose a zoom lens

When you're shooting on the street and you can't control the scene or the light or pretty much anything else, I like the versatility of a zoom lens.  That's not to say that a prime lens (I love my 50mm f/1.4) is never appropriate or useful for cityscapes.  But, I prefer to shoot them with a zoom so I can be prepared for all those beautiful surprises and details that happen and that you can't always physically get to if you don't have a lens that can get you up close quickly. 

2.  Pay attention to the details

Look for unique situations and think about composing them in equally unusual and interesting compositions.  I like to looks for organic and man-made lines.  Observe the architecture and the way the light bounces off of the side of the buildings, watch shadows, photograph people in their natural element.  In other words, try to tell a story with your pictures.

It sounds so cliche but think outside of the box, stretch your creative muscles and try to come up with different ways of photographing popular subjects or scenes.  I love taking pictures on the street right after the rain (or while it's raining) and I also really like taking abstract photos of the street.  I feel like I've got a different perspective when I put my camera on manual and letting a viewer use their own imagination to interpret a shot.

3.  Play with composition

You don't always have to shoot horizontally even though it will feel most natural do so.  Point your camera up, down and sideways, follow the lines of a scene and don't limit yourself to anything, least of all what you feel comfortable with.

4.  Follow the light

People talk about the "magic hour" for photography and there is a reason why.  My favorite time to shoot is either in the morning before 11am or in the afternoon after 4pm.  Taking photos in the middle of the day can result in super harsh light conditions.  Sometimes you can fix the bad lighting in post-processing but it's best to try and get the exposure right the first time.   When the light is golden and beautiful I shoot into it, away from it and use it all to my advantage to take photos that are accented and lit perfectly.  Take a few shots using different white balance so you can see how the light looks in your camera and to choose the best setting for a particular scene or day.

5.  Shoot Raw

I've said it before and I will say it again and again, if you can shoot raw with your camera, then you should.  This is especially helpful for cityscapes when you have so little control over the important things like light and exposure (you can try to set it perfectly but it doesn't always work).

Also, check out my tips for shooting landscapes since they can be helpful here too and can find my other tutorials here.

Do you have any tips?

Here are some other favorite cityscapes from my archives and you can see more here and here, if you'd like.

Cabs at rush hour.

After the Rain
Just after the rain the sun seemed to light everything on fire in Miami.  You can check it out in black and white here.

...te desprendes de mí, yo me quedo en vos... 

The Boy at Home on the River
Bangkok, Thailand.

In New York Freedom Looks Like...Too Many Choices

Street Stories
Another personal favorite, black and white is here.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Black and white works beautifully for cityscapes too. 

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Copyright Monica L. Shulman
Taken last month in London.  I featured this one over on Facebook as my Photo of the Week this week. 

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

Of a Curious Nature
One of my all-time favorites taken in Buenos Aires on a really rainy afternoon. 

The Way Out - The Way In
This photo is from 2006 when I first started experimenting with digital.

on the way up and down
Taken in Paris in 2007.

We Are All Shades of Grey
New York City.

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