Is there a more iconic photograph to depict a big city than a beautiful photograph of a skyline? Skylines can provide stunning photographs that have a big sale potential. But to capture those wow shots you have to plan for them in advance and to allow time and effort to capture them. Here are 7 tips for photographing skylines.
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Plan In Advance
Like any type of photography, you will need to plan and research in advance when you want to photograph skylines. These shots are all about finding the right location. So before you even get on the plane you should have an idea of where you might be able to get a good view from.
With Google Maps it is now easier than ever to plan your skyline photos. Start by looking at where the city centre is on a map and identifying vantage points around it that could give you a good view. Keep in mind that if want to capture a wide photo of the skyline you will need to be a fair distance away.
Parks, riverfronts, lakes and harbours generally offer a good view of the skyline (if they are in the right direction). So look for these on a map and make a note so that you can scout them out when on location. You can also research image libraries to see what already exists and that could give you an idea of what views are on offer.
Speak To Locals
There’s nothing better than speaking to locals about good places to photograph skylines from. After all, the people who live in a city will often go beyond the postcard locations. They might be able to offer you advice that gets you a unique image. For example as a Londoner, I know that most people head to the river or one of the numbers of bridges across the River Thames to get a photo of London’s skyline. But you could actually get a very unique view from places like Canary Wharf, St Jame’s Park or even Hamstead Heath.
Lenses, Tripods, Filters
I’m one of the biggest advocates of not carrying too much equipment. But when you are photographing skylines it’s best to ensure you have what you might need. These include:
- A tripod if you are photographing early morning or late afternoon. Or at any other time that you might need long exposure times
- A wide-angle lens is usually what you would need. But there might also be occasions where you would need a telephoto lens as you are so far away from the skyline
- An array of filters. These could be anything from Neutral Density filters to Polarising filters
The key is to make sure you have everything you need as you might not get a second chance. So it might be worth paying for a taxi there and back to avoid having to carry lots of equipment if you find it is too heavy.
Early Morning and Late Afternoon Light
It’s not a coincidence that most of the skyline photos that wow we are usually taken at dawn or dusk. The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset give a beautiful light that can transform any scene. In fact, you can get two very contrasting photos taken from the same place at different times of the day. But instead of getting to your location at these times aim to get there half an hour earlier so that you are set up and ready to go.
Wait for night
After the sun has set it is tempting to pack up and go home. But one of the best times to photograph the skylines of a city is at night when the whole thing lights up. So wait around for an hour or so and you can capture the city skyline at its most glamorous. You will definitely need a tripod if you are planning to photograph at night. You will have long exposure times so make sure you leave your home or hotel room with it. Remember to keep safe at all times and ensure if you are photographing at night you are in what is considered safe parts of the city.
Utilise Your Hotel
One of the best places to take photographs of a city skyline is from your hotel. A lot of big hotels in cities have amazing open-air swimming pools or rooftop bars with beautiful views across the city. This means you can get great photos right from your doorstep. So before booking your hotel room keep this in mind. Then when you arrive at your hotel you can always ask if they have a room with a view of the skyline. I have lost count of the number of times I was able to take skyline shots from my hotel – and sometimes even from my room!
Add a Point of Interest
Most city skylines have been photographed thousands of times. So sometimes it’s good to take a step back and add a point of interest to the foreground. Not only will this give you another differentiating shot from the same location but can also tell a different story. One which can sometimes be completely unique. Be on the lookout for people admiring the view. Or a runner or cyclists which all make great foreground points of interest.
There is no doubt that skylines can provide some striking photographs. They can be stand-out shots on their own but also work as part of a portfolio. But like all types of photography, it takes planning and perseverance to ensure you capture the photos that will do the scene justice. Follow these simple tips for photographing skylines and you’ll be on your way to some great photos.
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Kav Dadfar is a writer and photographer who has written over 500 articles on photography. He is also a judge on the Wanderlust Travel Photography of the Year competition and a speaker at camera clubs and events. He has years of experience shooting assignments with his images having been used by some of the biggest brands in the world.
7 Tips To Help You Capture The Best Skyline Photos article is subject to copyright. Words and photos by Kav Dadfar and Jordan Banks (That Wild Idea). Copying or reposting of photos or the article elsewhere is strictly forbidden.