HIPA (Hamdan International Photography Award) 2014 finalist Rustam Azmi, and award 2015 silver award winner for Cityscape category will share with us some tips about how to compose and post-process cityscape images. Here are his tricks:
If you’re visiting a new country, try to gather as much information about the location and its vantage points. The best website for reference is 500px.com and google. Try to contact the local photographer for their guidance and locations. The app the photographer’s ephemeris is the best app to keep track of sun position for sunrise and sunset. It’s good to just take a break first day and have a look at the city or the place and scout for some locations.
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The composition is most important factor in cityscape and landscape photography. It’s recommended to have a tilt shift lens for architectural or cityscape shoot but any ultra wide angle lens such as nikon 14-24mm f2.8, canon 16-35 f2.8 will do the job. I personally shoot with 17-40 f/4 lens at aperture mode, as it gives me freedom to shoot fast at sunset or sunrise shoot. It’s better to shoot at the sweet spot of the lens which is mostly around f/8 – f/11.
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The most important aspect of cityscape and landscape photography, most of the time is that single exposure is not enough. You need to use multiple exposure HDR (high dynamic range) from 3 brackets to 9 brackets. You can use photomatix to blend them or you can manually blend those exposures in Photoshop to get the best and natural results. Finally the verticals should be straight, no one wants to see a curved distorted tower or landscape. Now in lightroom or adobe camera raw, it can be corrected with a click of a button but sometimes you have to correct it manually which could be a pain. Always shoot in RAW as it is 14 bit compare to 8 bit jpg. It also has more information and detail compare to jpeg.
Adobe Lightroom is the one of the best software for processing the raw file. It is really easy as all the adjustment
sliders are on the Right side. Lightroom or Adobe camera Raw are the two best software for initial processing such as Highlight, Shadows, HSL, Lens Corrections and Detail before exporting it to Adobe Photoshop.
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Luminosity Mask and Adjustment Layers
After some Basic adjustment in Lightroom and exporting multiple exposures to Photoshop. I use Luminosity mask to blend multiple exposure. Luminosity Mask can be created manually or you can buy Raya Panel by Jimmy Mcintyre or TK PANEL 4.0. After Blending the Multiple exposures you can create some amazing effect using the Adjustment Layers (Curves, Levels, photo filter, etc.) or Nik and Topaz Filter.
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My Personal favorite is Nik Colorefex Pro4 it has some great filters such as pro contrast, tonal contrast, color contrast, Detail extractor and brilliance/warmth. Adjustment layers are really powerful tool, it can help you to get some effect at specific areas such as to increase an orange effect in an image. You can use in Photofilter-orange filter then just use the Black brush to remove the effect where it’s not needed. All the Adjustment layers can be used in similar fashion to get the desired effect. Nik AND Topaz Lab Extensions are must to have.
Dodge and Burn
Dodge and burn is the most powerful tool to create mood in your image. There are many ways to create a dodge and burn layer. The easiest way is create a new layer then go to edit fill- content 50% grey and then change the blending mode to soft light. Use a brush tool with lower opacity one black and another white or any desired color to create some 3D effect. Black will darken the image and white or any desired color will lighten the image. You can check some free tutorial by Jimmy Mcintyre on Youtube.
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The final steps are Denoise and Sharpening. After using some filters, adjustment and touchup; you tend to see noise showing up in the image especially in the sky and at the water. The noise should be removed before printing or before uploading it to any social website. There are some amazing third-party software for removing noise. My personal favorite is Nik Define it’s very easy for removing the noise.
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Topaz Denoise 5 is also great for Denoising. Next step after Denoise you have to sharpen your main subject The best and easy way to create sharpening is using Nik Colorefex 4 (Detail extraction) just be careful don’t overdo it. The second way for sharpening is high pass Filter. Just make a copy of your final layer and go to filter- others – High pass and use the radius around 2.5-5. Then change the blending of the layer to Soft light or Vivid Light mode and adjust the opacity accordingly and mask it where ever it’s needed. Then resize and export it to web or can save the document for print.
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Mohammad rustam azmi – I am an indian based in united arab emirates. One of the best place for cityscape photography. I started practicing photography in 2013 after getting inspired by many famous cityscape photographers. I am a cityscape, rooftopper, architectural and landscape photographer. Loves to travel to new places and meet local photographers of that area.
Gear: Canon5d Mark iii , Canon 24-105L f/4 , Canon 17-40L f/4 , canon 70-200L F/4, Samyang 14mm f/2.8