Top 5 Tips for Photographing Skylines

During a recent trip to Asia, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Hong Kong. This city is home to a spectacular array of buildings and skyscrapers epitomizing modern architecture. I took advantage of this perfect opportunity to hone an important photographic skill: capturing a city skyline. Here are my top 5 tips for helping you to get the most out of your next travel opportunity.

Do your homework!

That's right: preparation is everything in photography. Before you are on your way to your next destination, pick major landmark buildings that you definitely know you want to photograph, and know how to get to them from where you are staying.

Bank of China Hong Kong
The famous Bank of China building, designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, was definitely on my list of sites to see.

 Take your photos from outdoors if possible.

It is easy to photograph a city from the comforts of indoors, perhaps while sitting in a lounge chair drinking a martini. However, one of the biggest hinderances to a good skyline photo can be the glass between you and your subject. If possible, find vantage points from open-air rooftop bars or observation decks to avoid unwanted glare, reflection, distortion and just plain old dirty glass!

Hong Kong Night Skyline
Hong Kong at night: unfortunately, my otherwise fine photo is degraded by reflections off the windows of my restaurant, causing unwanted duplicates of the neon logos.

Look for photo oppotunities from a city's waterline.

Many cities have beautiful harbours. Take a ride on a ferry to see your subject from a different perspective. Include ships, piers, mountains, art or other recognizable and distinguishing features to liven up your shots.

Star Ferry Hong Kong
One of the famous green-bellied Star Ferries that ply the Hong Kong Harbour complements the city's skyline. 

Look for interesting perspectives and subjects to liven up skylines.

A great way to add life to your skyline photos is to include a city's people in your shots. In this particular case, an indoor scene does work!

Victoria Peak Cafe Deco
From the interior of Victoria Peak's Cafe Deco, there is a unique perspective unmatched from even the tallest skyscrapers.

  The best shots can be those taken from moving transportation.

Some of the best photo ops you will have will come from your trips in taxis and buses, so don't put away your DSLR when you get into the cab. Photos taken from moving vehicles may be less than perfect when it comes to sharpness and composition, but they can really capture the most elusive quality existing in the best photos: a feeling.

Mira Hotel Shopping District
Taken from a speeding taxi, this bustling shopping district near the Mira Hotel shows off the "open 24/7" feel of the city. At 10pm in the evening, things were just getting started!

I want to leave you with a final thought. If you have the time, do try to take the frames necessary to create a panorama. When you get home, just throw these photos into one of the multitudes of available photo stitching software programs. If you're lucky, the resulting image may be one you can use to amaze your friends. Let me know if this advice helps you on your next trip. Bon voyage!

Hong Kong Panorama
A four-shot panorama of a beautiful city.

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