Tips for Photographing Skylines

Learn the Best Methods for Shooting Images of Buildings and City Skylines

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When traveling, most people either end up in a place with a lot of natural formations – mountains, lakes, and beaches – or with a lot of man-made formations – statues, museums, and buildings. Given a choice, most photographers will pick to photograph the natural formations. It’s tough to beat the beauty of the light fog over a large lake at sunrise.

Even though it might seem like photographing buildings in the city isn’t quite as exciting as photographing majestic mountain ranges, shooting architectural photos, if done correctly, can be a satisfying project.

Use these tips for improving your architectural and skyline photography.

  • Look for great textures. Not every building is constructed of the same materials or have the same exterior colors. If you can find a set of buildings with contrasting textures or colors, such as are shown in the photograph included here, it can give your city skyline photo a really nice look.
  • Shoot at interesting angles. Don’t always shoot a building from a distance. Instead, shoot from the base of the building upward. Shoot from a window in a building across the road. Use a wide-angle lens and stand closer than normal. If you can shoot from an observation deck looking down at the building, try that. Just keep an eye out for barrel distortion problems. Additionally, seek out and highlight some of the odd angles when photographing the buildings.
  • Contrasting architecture will be interesting. Look for contrasting buildings, especially if you’re interested in creating a photo essay featuring a particular city. Find a classic building near a building with modern architecture, and keep both in the frame to create a photo with an interesting contrast. Additionally, if the city is undergoing a lot of major construction projects, shooting photos over a series of weeks and months can help you document the changes, which is great for a photo essay.
  • Take time to search for interesting locations. When photographing a city skyline, make an effort to find a good location from which to shoot. Many times, if a city is located on a body of water, finding a bridge or dock from which to shoot – with the body of water between you and the skyline – can result in a great photo. If you can find a farm scene or open field that you can place in the foreground with the city skyline in the background, it can create a dramatic contrast in your photo.
  • Keep the sun low in the sky. Another interesting option for photographing a city skyline is shooting near sundown or sunrise. Place yourself so that the rising or setting sun is behind the skyline, which will leave the buildings in silhouette. Make sure you have several buildings of varying heights in the frame with this type of photo.
  • Try some night photos. Shooting a city skyline at night can result in some great photos. You also may be able to take advantage of the lights on a particular building to highlight some aspects of the structure’s architecture that aren’t visible or noticeable during daylight. Just make sure you have a tripod available so the camera will remain steady in the low light. You also may have to make use of a long shutter opening when shooting city night photos, so make sure you understand how your camera’s shutter speed settings work.
  • Keep track of and respect any local laws. Whenever shooting photos of buildings, skyscrapers, historical architectures, and large population areas, make sure that you’re following all rules and laws. If “no photography” or “no trespassing” signs are posted, always follow them. Don’t be surprised if security personnel ask to see ID or ask you a few questions when you’re shooting photos. Worries over terrorism may cause some hassles for photographers, but it’s better to be safe than sorry for security personnel, so don’t take any inquiries personally. Just follow the rules, be polite, and you’ll be fine.