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Skyline Photography

Time of Day

The best time to photograph is, most often, early or late.

Weather

Weather that's awful for photographers and their cameras, may be the best weather for photographs.

Use a rain cape.

Flash Light

If you're photographing early or late, bring a small flash light.

Battery Power

Long exposures use up your battery quickly.

Make sure your battery is fully charged.

Bring a spare if you have one.

Tripod

A tripod allows you to use:

• Slower shutter speeds.

• Lower ISO settings, for less noise.

Use the self-timer to trip the shutter, or a remote release.

Using a tripod may improve your composition, as well.

If you don't have a tripod, place the camera on a surface.

A plastic-bag filled with rice or beans makes a good support for your camera.

Grid Lines

If your camera can display grid lines in the viewfinder, do so.

Use the grid lines to make sure the horizon is level.

The grid lines may also be used to apply the rule of thirds.

Foreground

All photographers pay attention to the subject.

Avid photographers integrate the background with the subject.

Many of these same avid photographers ignore foreground.

When looking at a scene, consider ways you can use foreground.

Shoot through something, for example, to frame the subject.

If you want to blur the foreground, use a physically large lens opening, such as f/4.

Save as Raw Files

If your camera can save your photographs as raw files—and if you have editing software such as Photoshop Elements—do shoot raw.

The advantage of raw files is that you can adjust the exposure and white balance easily.

You can also "develop" the same raw file, twice.

Once, for the bright areas, and again, for the darker areas.

Then, you can combine the best parts of the two exposures.

Go to Processing Raw Files.

Go to Combining Two Exposures.

White Balance

The color will be better if you set the white balance to the icon matching the existing light.

For example, at dusk, try the light-bulb icon (tungsten).

This white balance setting will make light-bulb lights (tungsten) in the windows less orange, and the sky more blue.

Auto ISO

Don't use auto ISO.

The camera will probably set the ISO to a high value, which you may not need or want.

Set the ISO manually.

Exposure

Experiment!

Use exposure compensation to bracket, vary, your exposures.

Go to Exposure Compensation.

The exposure compensation feature is limited on many cameras.

You can only vary the exposure by two stops.

If your camera is like this, use manual exposure to bracket your exposures more widely.

Go to Manual Exposure.

Consider using Photoshop Elements, or high-dynamic range (HDR) software, to combine the best parts of several exposures.

Go to Combine Two Exposures - Levels & a Mask and Combine Two Exposures - Levels & the Eraser Tool.

Go High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography.

Depth-of-field

If you don't know what depth-of-field is, you can skip ahead to the next section.

Depth-of-field isn't a consideration for most skyline photography.

What's depth-of-field?

When your camera focuses on the subject, that's where the scene is sharp.

However, there's a zone in front, and behind the subject, that looks sharp.

This zone is called the depth-of-field of the photograph.

Depth-of-field is greater when you're using a physically small lens opening, such as f/16.

It's also greater the further away you are from the subject.

When you're photographing a praying mantis, there's very little depth-of-field because you're close.

If everything in the viewfinder is more than about twenty feet away, depth-of-field is at its maximum.

Everything is acceptably sharp.

Subject Motion

If the subject is moving, decide whether you want to freeze or blur the motion.

If you want to freeze the motion, use a faster shutter speed, such as 1/500th of a second.

If there isn't much light, increase the ISO setting so you can use a faster shutter speed.

To blur the subject, use a slower shutter speed, such as 1/8th of a second.

If the light is bright, lower the ISO setting.

Streaks in the Sky

If you use a slow shutter speed, and are photographing at night, airplanes will be recorded as streaks of light.

The streaks may add to the photograph.

If not, clone them out with Photoshop Elements.

Go Clone Stamp Tool.

Noise

Noise is anomalous specs of black and white, and green and magenta.

Noise is most evident in shadows and areas with the same  tone or color.

To reduce noise:

• Use a lower ISO setting.

The volume on the "photon amplifier" is turned down, so there's less noise.

• Use shorter shutter speeds.

Long shutter speeds heat up the sensor, creating noise.

If your camera is a recent model, you can probably use higher ISO settings without getting objectionable noise.

If you're using full-second shutter speeds, check your camera manual for a long-exposure noise compensation feature.

The feature may be called dark-frame subtraction.

After the camera takes the photograph, it records the noise on the sensor.

Then, the camera subtracts the noise from the photograph.

BTW—noise can add to a photograph.

It isn't always detrimental.

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Skylines often have a wide range between the bright areas and the dark areas.

Use a graduated neutral density filter to tame the contrast.

Go to Graduated Neutral Density Filter.

Judging Exposure & White Balance

The LCD screen on your camera isn't as good as a computer monitor.

And, in bright or dark light, it may look different.

So, wait until your home at your computer before judging the exposure and white balance.

Until then, check the histogram on your camera.

Go to Histogram.

Sunny? Use a Polarizing Filter

Use a Polarizing filter to darken blue skies.

Go to Polarizing Filter.

Flare & Ghosts at Night

Use a lens hood to block light from causing flare, which looks like haze with colored circles.

Go to Flare.

At night, a ghost image of the subject may appear.

For example, if you photograph the Empire State Building, you may see a faint inverted image of the building above the actual building in the photograph.

Safety

Plan to be safe.

Bring along a friend.

Look around every once in a while to remain aware of your surrounding.

If you're photographing at night:

• Visit the location during the daytime, so you spot the drop off or other dangers.

• Wear reflective clothing if you're working near cars or bikes.

Related

Christmas Lights

Fireworks

Moon Photography

Night Photography

Stars & Star Trails