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How to Photograph a Cityscape

There are a few things you will need to keep in mind when photographing buildings and landscapes. To create a visually dynamic image, keep your horizontals and verticals straight, make use of the negative space and watch for leading lines to catch the viewers eye and drag them toward the subject. Planning ahead using afternoon and morning light can also be beneficial but nothing beats being in the right place at the right time.

How to Photograph a Cityscape

1 x DSLR Camera

1 x Wide Angle lens (around the 24-35mm)

You do not need to go too wide as this may generate too much distortion to vertical lines.

1 x Lens Hood helps prevent lens flare and hazy images.

1 x Circular Polarizing Filter, used to promote a punchier colour, reduce glare and reflections.

1x Tripod and Pan and Tilt Head. Can be achieved without a tripod but accuracy may be sacrificed.

1 x Remote Cable, beneficial if you are wanting to capture activity in the photograph. You can watch and shoot without the need to bend and look through the viewfinder.

1 x Lens cleaning cloth, you will need this near the beach or in a dusty environment. Give the lens a quick wipe before shooting to promote clarity.

1 x Camera Bag, will keep you equipment out of the elements until needed.


1. Most great landscape images are taken after much preparation, seeking out the perfect vantage point, many trips to the location help work out when it looks best, tidal times and a lot of waiting for that perfect moment. Just having the right gear can find you in the right spot at the right time such as in this case. Heading down to the beach early in the morning or later in the evening will produce a more aesthetically pleasing final result.

2. When looking for the best angle you will need to take into account a few things used within this image. Foreground interest is used to show depth or add character to a shot, here the lifeguard board is used but you could use a rock, tree or a person sun baking for example. Leading lines such as the tide line is used to draw the eye from the front to the cityscape in the background, while negative space is used quite cleverly in the top left corner.

3. Now you have your vision, set up your tripod and attach your camera with lens (keep items in the bag as long as possible and try to have the lens already attached prior to going on the beach), make sure it has locked in securely. Keep your lens cap on as much as possible to help prevent damage from sea spray, remove it and screw on the circular polariser, put on the lens hood then re-attach the lens cap. If you manage to get the lens dirty use a lens cloth and wipe it down before use.

4. Connect the shutter release cable, this may not be necessary dependant on the available light you may also use the self timer if you do not have a remote cable. Using self timer can result in missed opportunities for instance if a beach ball rolled into shot the timer is not instantaneous enough to capture action.

5. Remove the lens cap and compose you photo. You can use the rule of thirds by imagining the frame is cut into three sections vertically and three sections horizontally. By placing your horizon and verticals on these third lines will generally make for a more visually pleasing shot however, in this instance they have used the aspects mentioned in step two to create more impact. Try to keep your lines straight regardless where you decide to place them.

6. Once you have the image you are after turn the circular polariser until the sky darkens and start taking a few test shots. You can manually expose this shot by using an aperture setting of F16, the higher number here allows for more sharpness throughout the image from the foreground to the background. Set the ISO to 100, a low ISO number gives you more clarity in your images. Now try the shutter speed setting at 1/125 second and drop to a 1/60 for a brighter image or 1/250 to make it darker.

Remember you will need to adjust this accordingly as the sun goes down or comes up.

You may also want to try the automatic landscape mode in your camera to achieve this result. Landscape mode is the image of mountain peaks on the main dial.

7. Now you are set you can stand back with your remote and fire when ready, you can wait for something to happen or capture a more serene landscape, it's totally up to you. Remember if there are moving objects you will need a faster shutter speed otherwise they will appear blurred.

Note: keep your lens clean and try to be patient. You can get some great effects before the sun rises and after it sets.

8. Shoot like no one is watching™

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