Photographing a city is one of the best ways to explore. By picking up your camera, you’ll inevitably discover any city’s unique niches, intricate facades, and varied skyline views.

Photo by Edward Barnieh

Before shooting, determine what tone of light you want to illuminate your cityscape shot. Keep in mind that the time of day you shoot will also impact the amount of traffic and pedestrians in your picture. Photographing right after sunrise will yield light with a dreamy quality (and mercifully little traffic if you’re shooting on the weekends, but be aware that you may catch commuter traffic on the weekdays). Evening’s Golden Hour is another gorgeous time to shoot, as is its predecessor, Blue Hour. You’ll be able produce a magical quality in your images by photographing the city at these times.

Taking a photo of the city’s skyline is a must, and you’ll find that capturing the entirety of any city is easily achieved with a wide angle lens. Consider using a 12-35mm lens (or similar), which allow you to snap the shot without having to physically back up too far. Wide angle lenses can also help photographers capture vertical shots of towering skyscrapers. Shoot on aperture priority mode, as you’ll want to ensure a deep depth of field, which will capture all of the buildings in focus.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Tripods are essential for steadying your shots. While photos taken during the day generally don’t need this additional stability, it can be helpful to use a tripod when shooting during low-light situations or at night. Use the self-timer on your camera to avoid shaking when you push the shutter button (if you don’t, unless you have incredibly steady hands, you’ll end up with unwanted blur in your images).

Photo by Marko Morciano.

Most importantly, get creative with your photos — take long exposure images over busy intersections, around pedestrian thoroughfares, and on waterfronts. For this you’ll need a tripod, a longer shutter speed, and a good amount of patience. For helpful tips on snapping long exposure shots, check out our guide!  

Add visual interest to your photos by searching for a city’s patterns, leading lines, splashes of color, and moving elements (like active fountains and strolling pedestrians). These all contribute to a city’s unique personality, which should be captured, celebrated, and shared in your photographs!

Can you add something about photographing city scenes? Like what camera settings people would want, shutter speed, how to avoid shadows, etc.


  • Think about what kind of light you’d like to capture, and shoot at the time of day that fits accordingly.
  • Use a wide-angle lens to capture both skylines and skyscrapers.
  • Experiment with long-exposure shots by utilizing shutter speed
  • Keep your eyes open at all times — look for and capture elements of the city that make it unique!

Header image by Irwin Chan

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Camille Danielich
Camille is a writer, traveler, and visual storyteller from New Jersey. She has lived in the Czech Republic, Thailand and in New York. She's always looking forward to her next adventure and probably won't stop instagramming her food anytime soon. Follow along on instagram