I love shooting cityscapes and I always spend some time researching good locations when I visit a new city. Sometimes, it’s hard not to shoot the obvious view and get the same shot as everyone else. So here are a few tips to get more creative with your cityscapes. I’m also including examples from a variety of cities across North America.
Convert to black and white
I think a lot of people don’t think of black and white for cityscapes, but it can be very effective. It works great with long exposures or gray weather.
To give some context to your image, use surrounding buildings to frame your cityscape view. Here, I used the harbor structures in Queens to frame the New York skyline.
Fill the frame
Oftentimes, cityscapes appear in neat, clean skyline images. So go the other way, and fill the frame. It’ll give a very different feel to the image, as if you were in the city, experiencing the scene.
If you have an interesting sky, especially at sunset, it might not be useful to keep details in the shadows. Using a silhouette will make your shot interesting, while still showcasing the skyline.
If you can find still water, reflections are a great way to add interest to your image. Rivers, lakes can be still enough sometimes. Fountains and infinity pools are good alternatives.
Even though you are likely shooting in the city, you can find nature to include in your shots! Would you think of LA as a city with a lot of nature? Probably not! Yet, I found a good spot in a park to give the impression that downtown LA is surrounded by greenery.
Shoot with interesting weather
It might be unpleasant, but shooting in dramatic weather will definitely make your shots more interesting! Bad weather like storms and rain can work, as well as winter conditions, like in Toronto in the image below.
Find an elevated position
In a lot of cities, you can easily find an elevated position. It can be an observatory (think the Empire State Building or the CN Tower) or a hill, like in Pittsburgh.
Another option available today is to use a drone, as it’ll give you access to points of view never accessed before. Using a small plane or a helicopter are great alternatives.
Include a foreground or a background
To give context to your image, you can include a foreground, as I did at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Including part of the building gives you a sense of where the view is from.
A background works too! In Seattle, you can see Mt Rainier in the distance, make you understand what the landscape is around the city.
Use long exposure
Long exposures are a great tool with cityscapes, especially when your composition includes a body of water or some moving clouds. Below, I used a long exposure to smooth out the water and the clouds, making the city pop!
Shoot a panorama
A lot of cityscapes are pretty wide, especially when shooting skylines. So, adapt your composition and shoot a panorama. Step out of the usual 3:2 or 4:3 ratios.
Hopefully, this will give you some creative ideas for your next cityscape photoshoot! Don’t forget to share your images in our Facebook Group!