Night Cityscapes have a unique and vibrant feel to them, which can easily captivate an audience. They allow you to capture the energy and buzz of a large city along with diverse range of scenes and moods. Yet, there are number of difficult factors one has to take care of when shooting nightscapes such as moving vehicles, over-exposed or underexposed areas and taking pictures through glass from high buildings. Let us share with you few professional ways to overcome such obstacles and add more mood and energy to your night cityscapes. Here’s How To Create Stunning Night Cityscapes Like Professionals. Check it out!
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For best results, you need some extra equipment besides the camera. As you don’t want to shoot handheld long exposures, carrying a sturdy tripod [you might encounter little strong wind at higher altitude] is really necessary for great night cityscapes. And since you are using a tripod, you don’t need the lens vibration reduction or image stabilisation. This feature can work against you when using a tripod and result in unsharp images. Also, to avoid any extra shake, use a remote trigger. You can either use a cheap one with a cable or an expensive wireless one.
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You should also use a lens hood as there are thousands of light sources [street lights, traffic passing by, lights in trees or on bridges can all produce lens flare] that can produce lens flare, in spite of the sun being absent. Also, remove all UV and Polarising filters as they will most likely produce some kind of lens flare. Polarising filters work great during daytime when the main light source is coming from a certain direction but at night, these light sources are coming from all different directions. Also, a filter can reduce 2 or 3 stops of light and extend your exposure.
Shoot in Aperture Priority mode
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Aperture Priority is the best mode for shooting cityscapes as it allows you to control everything in-camera, apart from the shutter speed. The Aperture Priority mode offers huge advantage over Auto. In Aperture Priority mode, you can manually keep ISO low [to avoid noise], maintain an optimum aperture [for maximum light and desired depth of field] and extend shutter speed to compensate for the low light.
Always Use Manual Focus
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Although, the new improvements in auto-focus offer amazing speed and sharpness, the manual focus is still the best focussing option, specially if you have time on hand and don’t need to worry about capturing fast moving objects. Manual focus will allow you to get consistently sharper images than auto-focus, specially in low-light situations.
You need not rely on looking through the viewfinder while focusing. Just, switch to Live View, use the magnifying glass buttons to zoom into your area of focus and simply rotate the focus ring until you are satisfied.
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Night Cityscapes can have an extremely wide dynamic range of light due to artificial lighting. There’s often a large difference between the brightest and darkest areas of the frame. unlike our eyes, our cameras are not capable of capturing scenes of such high contrast. So, to create a balanced image, it is sometimes necessary to take multiple exposures of the same scene. Otherwise, you may end up with heavily under/over exposed areas.
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The process of taking multiple exposures is known as bracketing. Some cameras also offer to do this for you. You just need to check if your camera has an ‘Auto-Bracketing’ capability. You can also blend the multiple exposures manually, using post-processing softwares. For example, you can use luminosity masks for exposure blending to create the sharp and clean image. There are several tutorials online including free luminosity mask actions, which you can use.
Adding Light Trails
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Light trails are a beautiful addition to your images and are also very easy to capture and process. First, shoot the scene to capture a sharp image without thinking about the car trails. Next, extend your shutter speed to capture long, sweeping light trails. Just use a smaller aperture to create a shutter speed of around 25-30 seconds. Take as many shots as you like to capture as many light trails as possible. Once, you have a handful of ideal exposures, you can easily layer the light trail exposures into our base exposure very easily in Photoshop. You can also capture light trails in a single exposure but use multiple exposures for optimal results.
Shooting Through Glass
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To get some of the best views, you might have to use tall buildings surrounded by glass. This glass is often dirty and reflects interior light into the lens, causing flare and softening of images. Still, there are ways to overcome this obstruction. First, place the lens as close as possible to the glass and then encase it in a dark cloth [to avoid interior light]. Next, to avoid dirt on the glass, just use a larger aperture. You can try shooting at various apertures until your image is free from dirt and adequately sharp.
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Along with earlier mentioned situations, you must make full use of modern post-processing softwares and techniques to create the best possible image. While shooting night cityscapes, you will end up with multiple exposures of the same scene with various moods and energy. Use the post-processing techniques to blend these into create an optimal vibrant and energetic final image. You can laos add different effects like reflections. There are various post-processing tools and tutorials online, which will help you further improve your pictures.
Hope you found ‘How To Create Stunning Night Cityscapes Like Professionals‘ useful. Please share your views with us in the comments section.