1. Use a Tripod
In order to capture the true essence of a city when shooting Urban Landscape Photography, I prefer to shoot at night. At night, you can capture the lights and the shadows of the city and get a sense for the movement of the nightlife. I like to catch the movement of the lights with as little people in the frame as possible. Utilizing a tripod, you will be able to keep your shutter open much longer and still have crisp clear pictures – this is especially helpful when you are shooting in the dark.
2. Shoot early in the morning starting around 3am
I like to shoot during the early morning hours. This usually minimizes the amount of pedestrian traffic that I would have to otherwise work around. Of course, if you are looking for people to be in the shot, you could always go earlier. I find that usually by 3am, most people have made it to where they are going for the night, so I have the streets almost to myself so I can concentrate getting shots of the architectural aspects as well at the lights of the city.
3. Take a Friend
I have always found it to be a whole lot more fun to drag someone out with me when I shoot at 3am. There is a certain wisdom to travelling in groups at night, especially when you are toting around thousands of dollars of photography equipment. The best part is, after catching the sunrise, you and your friend can then go to breakfast.
One of my fondest memories of shooting early in the morning was with three of my pals in New Orleans. Around 4am, this drunk guy who was rather loud approached my friend and said, “Hey, what are you guys dong?” My buddy quickly responded, “We’re playing Baseball.” We are still laughing about that. So by all means, go out and enjoy with friends. It won’t matter that you are shooting the same locations, you will end up with something different, I guarantee it.
4. Be Creative with the location where you shoot
Don’t be afraid to get creative with the location from which you shoot. For instance, I was visiting Israel and the view from our hotel pool was amazing. I climbed into the planter box and set up my tripod – I got some great pictures and some interesting looks from other guests at the hotel.
Every time someone comments on the picture that I took, I like to tell them I was standing on one leg, in the planter box of my hotel on the pool deck. You’d never know that I was that I holding back a bunch of palm fronds out of the way of the camera. If you see and opportunity for a good shot, take it!
5. Use a Remote Shutter Release
Aside from the using a tripod at night as previously mentioned, I suggest using a remote shutter release. When shooting Urban Landscape Photography, you want to minimize movement of your camera by all means necessary, so a remote shutter release allows you to fire your shutter without even touching the camera. This is definitely the optimal solution. If you do not have a remote shutter release, then you can always use the 2 second shutter timer in order to fire the camera and then let go.
6. Shoot with Manual Settings for complete control
You may have a great camera that is very intuitive to use, but when it comes to shooting Urban Landscape Photography at night, I would suggest shooting with manual settings. Shooting on Manual will assure that you have complete control over the scene that you capture and allows you to make fine adjustments along the way.
7. Use Live View to fine Tune your Focus
I see many photographers look though the viewfinder to fine tune their focus and if that works for your, then great. Personally, I prefer to utilize the Live View on the back of my camera and then digitally zoom into a particular subject in order to fine tune my focus. Generally, I will use something with straight lines such as a window or a corner of a building. Once I am focused to where the corner is a well defined straight line, I know that I am good to go.
8. What ISO should you shoot?
When shooting Urban Landscape Photography at Night, I try to shoot at 100 iso as much as possible. This usually will give me the cleanest image. Of course, shooting at 100 iso in the dark means that I have to increase my shutter speed to allow more time for light to get to the sensor and get my exposure. If you are shooting from a tripod, this is not an issue. When shooting urban landscape photography at night, I will generally start with an aperture somewhere between f6 and f8, depending on the depth of my subject. That ought to be a good place to start.