A Guide to Capturing Better City Skyline Photographs

•June 11, 2009 • 31 Comments

Most of us see a city skyline every day of our lives, but capturing a photograph that does justice to it can be a little tricky. Here are a few ideas that can help you get that unforgettable shot of your home town skyline.

Tip 1 – Turn Off the Flash! – If you’re shooting a skyline photograph there is absolutely no reason to have a flash, unless you have the entire city under the world’s largest matte box. Light will bounce off nearby reflectors, shiny things, and even the balmy night air if the flash is bright enough.

Seattle Pan HDR

Photo by Papalars.


Tip 2 – Tri-pod – Unless you want your picture to be a blurry mess of sodium vapour streaks then I strongly suggest using a tri-pod. A Tri-pod allows you to take long exposure and time laps photographs. This one is a no brainer folks!

 City Flow

Photo by Pear Biter.


Tip 3 – Spot Metering – If you have a decent DSLR then you should have the option of putting your camera in Spot Metering Mode. What this does, is let the camera know what to properly calibrate for proper exposure. Do this with the most prominent feature in your composed photograph and the rest of the shot will fall into place.



Photo by Mugley.


Tip 4 – Compose Your Shot – Look for major landmarks in the skyline that will draw the eye – maybe a crane, or bridge or large building. Sometimes, getting out of the box will give you a unique shot, like focusing on a lesser-known subject or even a bird flying high above the city lights.

 September 11, 2006  New York City, NY

Photo by Sister 72.


Tip 5 – Use A Remote – Use a remote to trigger the shutter on your camera for night shots. You may not know, but just pushing the shutter button can allow enough shake to blur night shots. By using a remote, you can avoid this.

 Boston in Red

Photo by Werkunz1


Tip 6 – Use The Natural Gradient – Have you ever looked at a sunset or sunrise and wondered why the hell it was so beautiful? Well one of the reasons is because the gradient of the sky is so colourful and unique that you can’t take your eyes off it. Try shooting a city at dusk for dramatic effect, or even use the natural light pollution as a gradient for your photo.

 Sunrise over the city that never sleeps

Photo by Joisey Showaa.


For more more help on cityscape photography and skylines, check out these great articles: