Using Distance To Strengthen Cityscape Composition

Often we try to get as close to our subject as possible, we try to eliminate obstacles like people and buildings.  While trying to reduce distractions (which is often a good thing) we tend to take interesting things that could have strengthened the composition right out of the photograph.

For instance, the photograph above has a strong composition primarily because of the factory to the left as well as the road and building leading up to the city.  The city is the obvious subject but the foreground greatly increases the interest in this photograph.

Look for locations that have leading lines like a railroad heading towards the city, a road, or the roofs of buildings.  If you can frame the city between two large walls in your foreground, in an alley perhaps, you can direct the viewers attention right where you want it.  I also recommend shooting from bridges to get a view of the city from above factories like I did in the photograph above.

I prefer using a longer lens like the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G at 135 – 200mm because of the effect telephoto lenses have on images (it compresses the image pulling your background closer to the foreground objects).  I’d recommend staying away from wide-angle lenses for this type of cityscape photography, you’ll render the city a far off dot and include too much of the foreground which will cause confusion.

Next time you want to photograph something like the skyline of a city consider getting further away from the city rather than trying to be right across the river from it (like most of the Pittsburgh skyline photographs you’ll see on the internet).

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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2 replies on “Using Distance To Strengthen Cityscape Composition”
    1. says: John Barbiaux

      Yes, 31st bridge. One of my favorite views of the city. Would have had a great panoramic shot but the wind has been relentless lately. Hope you are doing well!

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