Setup I used for Night Cityscape Shots

I always wanted to capture beautiful cityscapes, specially night cityscapes because of the spectacular view of buildings with different lights and colors. This summer, when I was visiting Cape code, MA, I happened to stay a night in Boston downtown city and got a chance to capture Boston downtown cityscape. I am writing this blog post to share my experience and ideas on how did I capture those shots.

First of all, when you want to capture night shots, specially those long exposure shots to capture cityscapes, you must have sturdy tripod with you. Any shutter speed slower than your lens focal length usually results into blurry image if taken handheld (without using tripod). You may also want to consider wide angle lens as well to capture wide angle view of cityscape which looks pleasant than only few buildings using telephoto lens. In these shots, I used following devices to get nice and clear shots.

Equipments I use for night Cityscape shots

1. Tripod (You need sturdy tripod to handle longer exposure. I used Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tipod in these shots.)

2. Wide Angle lens. (Wide angle lens enriches the view of cityscapes allowing to capture great variety of subjects. I used Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens)

3. Any DSLR camera that supports BULB, shutter mode. (Most of the DSLRs support only up to 30 sec of shutter speed in Manual mode but sometimes you need longer than 30 sec shutter speed and in that case you need BULB shutter mode which most advanced DSLRs have these days. I used Nikon D700 FX camera.)

4. ND Filter (It is optional device if you ever want to increase your exposure time. I didn’t use filter in these shots.)

5. Shutter release cable or Wireless shutter release remote (I use shutter release cable almost every time I use my camera on Tripod. This will help me to reduce vibration of camera while pressing shutter release button on camera. Some photographers use 2 sec delay method (camera takes picture 2 sec after pressing shutter release button) which also works great but I feel that technique bit tedious.

6. Finally, Timer (Usually when you are shooting into BULB mode with your calculated Shutter speed, you may want to use timer not to go too long for shutter speed than calculated. I used my iPhone stopwatch for this purpose.)

When you have required equipments, all you have to do is pickup the location, compose your shot and snap it. Location is one of the important constraint to choose right composition. If you missed right composition because of the location, all your hard work goes into vain. Usually, when I take night cityscape shots, I try to include wide range of objects such as bridges, ships, cruise etc which adds up variety to the scene. Here I have included three shots along with its camera settings; first two of which is shot of Boston Downtown City and the last one is that of Baltimore Inner Harbor.

Boston Downtown Cityscape

 Focal Length : 30 mm     ISO : 200     Shutter speed : 13 sec     Aperture : f/4

Boston Downtown Cityscape

Focal Length : 16 mm     ISO : 200     Shutter speed : 30 sec     Aperture : f/6.3

Baltimore Inner Harbor Cityscape

Focal Length : 16 mm     ISO : 200     Shutter speed : 8 sec     Aperture : f/11

If you have any questions or comments, I always welcome them and try to answer as soon as I can. Happy Shooting!


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Comments

  1. Thanks you! I have been doing some night photography, and mosrly used Aperture-priority mode setting F very large, like F/22. This forces the shutter to be very slow. I also increased the ISO to 800. I want to try it your way now, I think ISO 200 makes shots very crisp.

    • I like to use minimum ISO possible while shooting stationary subjects like this cityscapes and the reason is, it is stationary and I will be using Tripod. So even if Shutter speed is longer using minimum ISO, I don’t have to be worry about getting blurry image. But, when I shoot people at night with slower shutter speed, I boost my ISO, sometimes up to 6400, because people tend to move and I get blurry image (or motion in the picture) even if I use tripod.

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