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7 Common Cityscape Photography Mistakes

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Do you also make these mistakes when making cityscapes or urban photography? Taking photos in a city is both exciting and most have easy access to a lot of interesting locations, either in the city you live or when travelling. Yet, if you take a look at many of the cityscape images uploaded on social medias, you will find that many of them include at least on of these mistakes, if not several. Check out below if you make any of these mistakes.

Buildings Falling Over

One of the most common mistake when doing cityscape photography is buildings falling over. This happens because of using a wide-angle lens, which causes distortion. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid wide-angle lenses for cityscape photography, quite the contrary, wide-angle lenses are great because of how many elements from the environment you can compress in one image and the depth you can create with a wide-angle. You just have to remember to correct the distortion later in post-processing. You can easily do this with the distort tool in Photoshop. The short explanation is to press CMD+T (mac) or CTRL+T (for windows) to activate the transform tool. Then while pressing and holding the CMD or CTRL button drag image corner until the side of the building become straight. Next do the same with the other image corners. When yo first get a habit of doing this you cannot fail to notice, when a building is “falling over” again.

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Lack of Interesting Foreground Elements

Many cityscape photos end up looking flat and uninteresting, even though we found the scene very interesting while we were there. This is because we experience things in 3 dimensions while the photos we capture is restricted to 2 dimensions. Therefore, we have to work a little harder to create a perception of depth in our photos. You can create depth by including an interesting foreground element or leading lines in your photos. As an interesting foreground element, try to work with whatever you have got at the scene. A fountain, a bench or a person can really spice up your photo. By adding a foreground element, the viewer can suddenly see a distance between the foreground and the background which creates depth and therefore your cityscape photo will no longer look flat.

Including Too Much Sky

Many photographers take get amazed at a beautiful sunset and make it the main subject in their photos and without any other interesting elements. Even though the photos might have nice colors you can take it up a level by finding a good subject at the ground and let the sky compliment the subject. Try to only let the sky take up one-third of the frame, while reserving two-thirds for the subject you have found. You can also work with lines leading towards the sky or sunset.

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The Subject Is Too Far Away

Not getting close enough to your subject is a common mistake in all types of photography, but it is highly relevant in cityscape photography. There are times when it is a good idea to remove your wide-angle lens and replace it with another lens with a telelens. Many cities have water canals running through them and you might be tempted to make a skyline shot of the other shore, but with a wide angle, the buildings in the horizon will seem so small that they don’t have enough weight or power in the image to be the main subject. This is when you should put on the telelens to pull the other shore closer and make the skyline more compact.

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Tilted Horizon

Ever too often photos shared on the web are tilted to a degree that buildings should begin to slide to the left or right. Don’t let your photos be one of those. Of course sometimes you on purpose angle the camera to create a dynamic composition. But this should be on purpose, and visible that the titled horizon is made on purpose, which you can achieve by exaggerating it (like 25-30-degree tilt). But with only 5-10 degrees tilt it looks accidental. If your shot is tilted use the straighten tool in Lightroom’s crop-mode to straighten up the horizon.

Too Many Reflections

Reflections are not necessary a mistake. It depends on your intention with the shot. But, since there are many sources for reflections in cities, such a windows, water, metal surfaces and the like, you need to consider, whether you want them in your image or not. If your answer is that you don’t want it, the use a polarizer filter, since reflections are very hard if not impossible to remove in post processing. Clever use of reflections includes the below image where reflections are used on purpose to add another dimension to the shot.

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Overdoing in Post Processing

Applying too much sharpening and saturation is a mistake that is common for both landscape and urban photography, but you don’t find it nearly as often in e.g. street photography or wildlife photography. If you begin to see a halo around building or trees you have probably sharpened your image too much, even though it can also come from removing chromatic abbreviation. When you are sharpening your image, zoom in on the edge of a building, and only apply sharpening until right before a halo begin to appear. In Lightroom if you keep the sharpening radius around 0.6-0.8 halos you can, in general, apply more sharpening before halos appear.

Another problem with post-processing that is common in cityscape and landscape photography is oversaturated colors. This often happens with HDR photos. In a quest for dramatic photos, many oversaturate their images. In a sense, our eyes become used to looking at it, so apply saturation with care and do it gradually. Make a habit of using the vibrance slider in Lightroom more than the saturation slider. The vibrance slider adds more saturation to the least saturated pixels and adds less saturation to those pixels that are already well saturated. The saturation slider, on the contrary, adds saturation to all pixels no matter whether they are already well saturated.

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Final Thoughts On Avoiding Mistakes In Your Urban Photography

When you avoid these common mistakes in your cityscapes, you will soon find that your images will look better. Do you know of any other common issues that you encounter in urban photography? Share your thoughts below!

1 thought on “7 Common Cityscape Photography Mistakes”

  1. Hi Peter, i enjoyed your Affinity course maybe you could make a second course with more advanced projects… just a thought. Regards Terry


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