7 Tips to Improve Your Skyline Photos
Is there a more iconic photograph to depict a big city, than a beautiful photograph of its skyline? Skylines can provide stunning photographs that have a big sale potential, but to capture those wow shots, you have to be prepared to plan for them in advance, and to allow time and patience, as well as determination, to capture them. Here are some tips to help you capture striking skyline photos.
1 – Plan in Advance
Like most types of photography, you will need to plan, and research, in advance to get the perfect skyline shot. It’s 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, and with Google Maps it’s now easier than ever to plan your skyline photos. Start by looking at where the city center is on a map, and identify 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, river fronts, lakes, and harbors generally offer a good view of the skyline (if they face in the right direction), so look for these on a map, and make a note so that you can scout them out when you’re on location. You can also research image libraries to see what already exists, that can give you an indication of what viewpoints are available.
2 – Speak to Locals
No one else knows the city better than the residents and locals, so get friendly and take advantage of their knowledge. After all, the people who live in a city will often, over time, go beyond the post card locations and might be able to offer you advantageous advice, which gets you a unique image.
For example, as a Londoner, I know that most people head to the river or one of the number of bridges across the Thames to get a photo of London’s skyline, but you could actually get a very unique view from some of the amazing bars such as the Vertigo Bar.
Speaking to locals means you could get unique views that others won’t see.
3 – Lenses, Tripods, and Filters
I’m one of the biggest advocates of not carrying too much equipment, however 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, late afternoon, or at any other time that might need long exposures.
- A wide angle lens is usually what you will need, but there may also be occasions where you need a telephoto lens if you are far away from the skyline.
- An array of filters – these could be anything from Neutral Density filters to Polarizing filters and more.
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 heavy equipment or leaving something behind.
4 – Early Morning and Late Afternoon Light
It is not a coincidence that most of the skyline photos that wow, are usually taken at dawn or dusk. The hour after sunrise, and the hour before sunset, give a beautiful light, which can transform any scene. In fact, you can get two very contrasting photos taken from the same place at different times of the day. 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.
Early morning and late afternoon light is a great time for photographing skylines.
5 – Wait for Night
After the sun has set it is tempting to pack up and go home. However, one of the best times to photograph the skylines of a city is at night, when the whole place lights up. Wait around for an hour or so after sunset, 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, as 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 that if you are photographing at night, you are in what are considered safe parts of the city.
At night, the city lights make it come alive.
6 – Utilize Your Hotel
One of the best places to take photographs of a city skyline is from your hotel. A lot of the big hotels in cities have amazing open-air swimming pools, or roof top bars with beautiful views across the city. This means you can get great photos right from your doorstep. So prior to booking your hotel room, research and keep this in mind, and 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 own room (use the polarizer to eliminate reflections from the window)!
These are just some of the photos I’ve managed to take from my hotels.
7 – 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 it will also tell a different story which could be completely unique. Be on the lookout for people admiring the view, a runner with a dog, or cyclists, all of which make great foreground points of interest.
An example of how adding a point of interest can make a photograph tell a much more interesting story.
There is no doubt that skylines can provide some incredibly striking photographs which can be stand-out shots on their own, but which can 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 and you’ll be on your way to capturing great skyline photos.
Do you have any tips or advice for photographing skylines? Share them and your skyline images below.