Tips for Urban Skyline Photography

Skyline photography displays the partial or overall view of a city’s various buildings and structures with the sky in the background. They can also describe photos of the artificial horizon created by a city’s structure. Some city skylines are immediately identifiable, such as the skyscraper-filled skyline of Manhattan with the iconic Empire State Building and Chrysler Building or the Seattle skyline with the looming Space Needle.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to capture a city’s skyline, even for amateur photographers. There are several tips to ensure that you take photos that you will be proud to display.

To get started with taking urban skyline photos, especially in a new and unfamiliar city, it might help to take a walking tour. Whether self-guided or done through a tour company, this can be an easy and fun way to see different city landmarks. If with a tour guide, they can point out specific characteristics of a building or give tips on the best vantage point to take a photo. It’s also important to be familiar enough with your camera settings so that you don’t have to take too long to compose the perfect shot. However, you might want to treat the tour as a walk through, remembering particular spots that you favored, and come back at another time to have the optimal lighting conditions and as much time as you want to take photos.

Although it might be interesting to take photos in the bustling city center, it’s hard to appreciate the large skyscrapers from up close. Get outside of the main district and find a vantage point that can help you capture the entire urban skyline. For example, some may want to head to Brooklyn to photograph the Manhattan skyline or across the Charles River to Cambridge to capture the Boston skyline.

When you find your vantage point, experiment with different angles and play around with your camera settings. There’s nothing like coming home from a trip and being disappointed that you didn’t get that perfect shot so take as many pictures as possible. You can always sort through your photos later and find your favorites, but you might regret not having taken one more shot.

Urban skylines at sunset or at night can also make for a unique photograph, especially with the illuminated buildings and structures, although it may take a little bit more finagling with camera settings because of the changing light. Some might want to use the camera preset for nighttime photography as a starting point. The darkness could also make it more tricky, not just because of crime, but because of busy streets and difficultly being able to see.