Palacio_del_Rio_Christmas_Colors-AC4x6Over the past two years, I have discussed several different Rules of Photography. From Leading Lines to Color and Contrast, we have covered it all. Now that we have a firm foundation on how to shoot, I want to delve into different scenarios in which artists can use the rules and bend them to suit their needs.

We had already begun bending the rules during my explanation of using and abusing shutter speed to shoot April’s Blood Moon. Now I want to take that train of thought a little further. In this case, let’s talk about cityscape photos and how they differ from landscape shots.

Let’s Get Started

At first glance, a budding photographer might expect that cityscape photos would be shot in the same way most landscape shots are. However, the photographic subjects of cities are very different from those in landscapes and those differences can cause serious frustration for people not used to adapting to them. One of the major reasons why is because landscapes rely heavily on the Rule of Thirds while cityscapes usually rely far more on Leading Lines and Framing.

Dynamic landscape photographs are defined by the relationship between land, water, and sky or some lesser combination thereof. These shots require a specific balance between their different composing elements and the Rule of Thirds because landscapes so often feature strikingly different textures thrown together such as: mountains, water, grass, trees, flowers, sky, hills, sea, and/or more. The Rule of Thirds helps to order the seeming chaos of so many different elements into something structured. It is this order of thirds that helps move the viewer’s eye seamlessly through the photograph without causing distraction and confusion.

In contrast, dynamic cityscape photos are often defined by the relationships between different pieces of architecture. By necessity, architecture is usually created using straight lines, points, and angles. Instead of the softer curves that often dominate natural scenes, cityscapes are dominated by hard lines and sharp angles. Of course, cityscapes can have within them a relationship between sky, land, water, or other more natural elements, but those elements are almost always dominated by elements of architecture. Consequently cityscapes demand a certain amount of softening on the part of the photographer. This is why Leading Lines are often far more important in cityscape photography than in landscape photography. To see my point, let’s compare a few examples of cityscape and landscape shots.

Let’s Break It Down

Cityscape Leading Lines

“Steel Sun”

“Fair Fare”

“Wharf Wheel”

Cityscape Framing

“Needle Arcs”

Cityscape Flanking

“Welcome to Texas”

Landscape Rule of Thirds

“Sunset Twigs”

“Sun Dabbled Dune”

“Lone Tree”

There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule that landscape shots are usually governed by Rule of Thirds and cityscapes are usually photographed using Framing, Flanking, or Leading Lines. I have listed a few examples of these exceptions below for you.

Landscape Framing Exceptions

“Twig Window”

Landscape Leading Lines Exceptions

“Split Sea Falls”

“Ice Streams”

“Dune Trek”

Cityscape Rule of Thirds Exceptions

“Midnight Carnival”


For this assignment, I want you to shoot cityscapes practicing the rules of Leading Lines, Flaming, Flanking and the Rule of Thirds. You must choose based on the photo’s intended subject, which of these four rules will best showcase your photograph’s subject. I want to see a minimum of 20 good photos captured using these techniques. Once you have done that I want to see another five photos in which you find some creative way to bend on of the above-mentioned rules. I highly suggest using static subjects for this bit of homework, although that is not mandatory. Good luck and have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia