CITYSCAPE: The Ultimate Guide

Knocking The Door Of Cityscape Photograhy

What do you understand when we use the term ‘cityscape’? Do you think we are talking about packing up your bags and escaping away from your current city, or is it counting all the towns of your states? Well, to your dismay, it’s none. The term cityscape is derived from merging two words, ‘city’ and ‘landscape’ meaning, the visual appearance of a city or urban area; more profusely, it means a city landscape.

In the visual arts, a cityscape is an artistic representation through painting, drawing, or a photograph by capturing a city’s physical aspects or urban area. A cityscape picturization is equivalent to an urban landscape, and the technique of capturing the physical elements of a metropolis or urban/suburban area is known as cityscape photography.

“Cityscape”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

Cityscape photography involves finding beauty in concrete and tall steel buildings by capturing the city with the right angle and light. As Destin Sparks says, photography is the story that one fails to put into words. Thus, cityscape photography is a medium that makes the city buildings, lampshades, and streets speak up boldly and recite their story to the audience watching that photograph. Unlike our cities that are generally divided by various boundaries and borders, cityscape photography does not follow any particular boundary lines or fixed set of rules except that the picture should be shot in city grids.

A cityscape can be a shot of a famous landmark lit up by street lights and well-dressed people at night or of an isolated building that has witnessed a lot of historical incidents in the past. The possibilities are endless in the cityscape genre of photography. All you need is a creative vision to make these concrete structures look beautiful with the right angle and light.

History of Cityscapes

Cityscapes have been a center of art ever since the birth of photography, painting, and printing. It’s always been a dream for artists to capture their city’s beauty and tell the stories of its magic and madness to the world. Urban landscapes started as a way of representing the lifestyle and vibe one’s city has to offer. It was more like a medium to attract tourists and travelers and introduce them to the city’s culture. 

“The Dam in Amsterdam (1660)”- Image Courtesy: Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde

Cityscapes took birth from paintings. The earliest example is of a fresco painting with an image of Baths of Trajan, which was painted in the first century AD. It was halfway through the 17th century when ‘cityscape’ became an independent genre in arts, and the 18th century is considered the flourishing period for cityscape painting. It was because of efforts of several artworks and artists like View of Delft, which Johannes Vermeer painted, and it was finally in the 19th century when cityscape came into fashion with the invention of the camera and photography. 

“View of Delft (1661)”- Image Courtesy: Johannes Vermeer

Brassaï and Bresson are celebrated for photographing Paris in an unfading, powerful, and striking way, transforming everyday moments into grand visions that are magical and inspirational. The Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank documented America in the 1950s with an eye so creative that it turned the mundane concrete buildings into something captivating and unforgettable. He has also written a very famous book, The Americans, which marked a high bar for cityscapes and cityscape photographers.

“Downtown, NYC (1954)”- Image Courtesy: Robert Frank

The maestros Brassaï, Henri-Cartier Bresson, and Robert Frank were amongst the earliest champions in the cityscape genre of photography and are credited for giving all of us the vision to see city buildings and lifestyle as a piece of art, something worthy enough to capture.

“Hotel Des Invalides, Paris (1969)”- Image Courtesy: Henri-Cartier Bresson

Cityscape Vs Street Photography

The general public and even the photographers get confused within these two photography genres because of the similarities they often seem to have. However, we can term cityscape photography and street photography as distant cousins but not as identical twins.

“Moments from the street”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

As you all know, Chiiz has pledged to solve all your photography-related confusions and concerns so let us dig deeper and understand what makes the cityscape genre different from street photography style and end the confusion and dilemma forever. 

DEFINITION

Cityscape is a city landscape, and this genre mostly focuses on the skyline with tall buildings and city landmarks. They are the beautiful grand shots that give all limelight to the city and urban lifestyle.

“Cityscape, London”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz 

Street photography, at its essence, means candid photography of people and humanity. A street photograph has to be a real, unposed moment that gives details about everyday life in a public place and focuses on capturing the raw street culture and candid strangers.

AREA OF FOCUS

The area of focus in cityscape photography is the city buildings, urban lifestyle, and to paint a landscape that is directed to give the viewers an idea of how beautiful the amalgamation of architecture and art can look. The focus is given to the architectural details of buildings built in the city.

“Focus on the Architectural Details, Cityscape”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

Street photography is more focused on capturing the emotion of the street and people walking on it during the time of the shoot. However, it’s not an absolute that people must be in street photography. 

HISTORY

Cityscape has been in fashion ever since the first century through paintings, and it became a photography genre in the 19th century as soon as cameras were invented. 

Street photography took birth from cityscape photography. It came into fashion with the invention of high-quality portable cameras during the 1890s. The cityscape branch moved towards capturing people in various situations and started neglecting previously essential aspects such as architectural details, serene atmosphere, and beauty.

PURPOSE AND VISION

The cityscape’s first and foremost purpose is to capture the city beautifully to attract people to that particular place. There is no room for imperfection and rawness. The whole vision is focused on grand domes, architectural details, and in the establishment of surreality.

“Urban Landscape”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

Street photography seeks to tell stories and carefully examine both people and places to capture why they are connected or perhaps disconnected to that particular corner or street. The vision is to capture candid strangers living in the moment and celebrating life in whatever emotion that particular street offers. 

“People and Emotions”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

Camera Options for Cityscape Photography

As famous cityscape photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson says, ‘for me, the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity’ we know and understand how every photographer feels about their camera and how important it is to have the right kind of camera for the perfect shots.

“The Camera at Work”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

To ease your dilemma and take away your burden of choosing the right camera, we at Chiiz have prepared a list of camera options you can look for while shooting for cityscape photography.

With these many camera options for you to choose from, choose something that works best for you and suits your style and comfort and begin your journey of clicking amazing pictures.

Tips To Ace Cityscape Photography

Now that we know what is cityscape photography, we can see you being excited to pick up your camera and go on a shoot where your whole city can play the model. Let us learn some amazing tips to capture the most beautiful landscape ever.

FINDING THE RIGHT LOCATION

The first thing that any cityscape landscape shot needs are the right location. For a perfect cityscape, all you need is an unobstructed view of the skyline and a suitable place from where your camera is seeing the targeted buildings or landmarks crisp and clear. You can choose a home with a view of waterfronts for capturing cityscapes because of water reflections. Another great location could be high viewing areas such as capturing towers or skyscrapers. 

“The Fountains and the City”- Image Courtesy:Chiiz 

You should plan out and research your location carefully before heading out for a shoot. After finalizing the shoot location, check out and search for the area to shoot the targeted building or area. It is also advised that you check and analyze the weather beforehand while deciding the shoot day. You can also use smartphone apps such as Photographer’s Ephemeris to limit where the light will be during the day and plan accordingly. 

UTILISING THE CITY SPACE

“Night in the City”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

Photographing cityscapes is a game of making cities and urban lands look grand, filled with splendid patterns that highlight unique perspectives to the viewer. Remember to take advantage of the angels that bring limelight to the targeted city’s build and structure. Your focus area should be to attract the audience to the captured town by showing its architectural details; thus, fill your frame with buildings and leave little room for empty hollow skies and other non-essential things that are present under the structure.

MERGING NATURE AND MAN-MADE

The art of drawing an urban landscape through a lens is limited to capturing tall concrete buildings. It includes all components and things of beauty present in that particular shooting space. From the big blue sky to that little fountain and the bridge connecting the two cities to high standing mountains and welcoming green trees and blooming flowers – it’s all a part of a cityscape.

“Rainbow, Sky and the City”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

However, as beautiful as this depiction sounds, capturing and creating something like this is equally problematic. Cityscape requires you to merge geographical wonders with the city’s grand sky-scraping infrastructure, and it would be great if you can show nature, industries, and city life as companions, not as competitors. Make sure whatever part of the city you decide to capture includes some natural elements. You should be clicking in such a way that nature and urban life blend perfectly and compliment each other in the photograph.

ILLUSTRATING ESSENCE OF CITY LIFE

Life in a city or an urban setting is always in action and witnesses a change every second. The essence of city life is people continually running and moving fast from one place to another and nearly zero rest moments. As it is said, a city never sleeps. Hence while clicking cityscapes, you are required to put that fast-moving and speedy vibe in your photograph to illustrate the idea of city life to your audience.

It would help if you used extended exposure techniques in your cityscape shoot as it creates a trail of light when you are shooting after sunset in ambient natural lighting. The light trails are made mostly by moving motor vehicles and often create an attractive bright pattern in the photographs. The light trails created by prolonged exposure shots symbolize and illustrate the fast-paced life of people in cities and transfer the idea of continuous movement of urban lands to the audience. 

“City never sleeps” – Image Courtesy: Chiiz

Long exposures that are captured with the right angle and vision contribute to the photographer’s overall visual design as they become the optical path to guide the viewer’s eyes and help them in traveling across the frame. 

MANAGING THE DETAILS

Cityscape photos mostly capture very busy and fast-moving scenes. Cityscape images are often filled with incredible details that make a city look luxurious in the photographs. With so many points in the frame, there are also so many different colors popping out in the picture from various light sources like the sun, street lamps, lights from cars, etc., which reflect their rays on different kinds of surfaces and objects. 

Even though these details and bright lights are integral parts that make cityscapes look so splendid and attractive, having too many colors and details in one photograph or frame could ruin the visual design by taking away the focus from the leading focused and desired subject. 

The various tones in a photograph can often clash and create a chaotic shot; hence, cityscape photographers need to choose the details they want to focus on and eliminate the excessive colors popping.

“Yellow Skies, Grey Cities”- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

Suggestions By The Cityscape Photographers

As cityscape photography is something that gets polished only through regular practice and experience, we thought of bringing you some first-hand experiences, tips, and stories from some fantastic cityscape photographers around the world.

  • According to Matt Nielsen cityscape photographs turn automatically beautiful if you have added the sky in your frame as most people living in the city are used to viewing their world from street level so giving them a new, higher, and natural perspective through your photograph makes things exciting.
  • Richard Schnieder suggested in one of his photography workshops that while capturing cityscapes it is important to look out for leading lines as they add perspective and depth to an image and take the viewer on a journey from one point of the frame to another.

‘’Moving in Detail’’- Image Courtesy: Chiiz

  • Photographer Alex Wrigley advises the photographers that while shooting cityscapes look for water bodies. Water can transform a cityscape image in all beautiful ways, and capturing the water’s reflections invites double drama, attention, and other excellent compositional elements in your cityscape photograph.
  • Jimmy McIntyre suggested a cityscape must be shot in aperture priority mode for a crisp, sharp, and clean image.

Conclusion

Photography is an art that comes from practice and experience. If you are new to photography, master it by attending various live online workshops regularly by us on our events website. Also, head to our blog for more tips and tricks about photography. You can subscribe to our digital magazine through Magzter or Issuu to delve into more organized and well-furnished photography content. And if you think you have learned a lot and you want to give it a check, then, proceed to our contests content, participate there and win astounding prizes.

Lastly, while you are on a journey of clicking amazing pictures, remember to be patient with yourself and your artwork. We at Chiiz would love to see your work and we are cheering for you.

HAPPY CAPTURING!

About the Author



Abhilasha Chauhan
 is a teenager who comes from the land of poets and culture- Lucknow. She is pursuing psychology so her life goes around observing people, knowing their stories and then, writing about them. She has been hooked to writing from a very early age. Since writing provides her with an essential escape from mundane life experiences.

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