Improve Your City Break photography
with the Alpha 7C
with the Alpha 7C
My name is Ron Timehin and I am a professional photographer and Sony European Imaging Ambassador based in London. I initially found my passion for photography during my travels as a young musician, adamant that I needed to document where I was going and what I was witnessing. Fast forward 10 years and photography is now my full-time profession, in which I specialise in shooting cityscape, portrait and commercial photography.
Using the power of Instagram, I have successfully grown an audience of around 60,000 followers, to whom I share my images and provide insight into how they too can become better photographers.
With all this said, being able to test and try the Alpha 7C was something I was incredibly excited about. I had been looking to add something compact, lightweight and full frame to my arsenal of gear. The design and ergonomics of the Alpha 7C make it not only practical to use, but joy to look at. The fully articulating screen, something I’ve been dying for, means that I am now able to shoot from interesting angles with ease. With a 24MP sensor, I find that the Alpha 7C has become my everyday camera and I use my other Sony bodies for specific shoots.
Ron Timehin with his Sony Alpha 7C + FE 35mm f/1.8 lens
Basic Exposure settings to shoot in cities and street photography
I use “M” mode (manual) and this gives me full control over the shutter speed, aperture and ISO and allows me to expose the image as I see fit.
When it comes to exposing for street photography and general city break photography, I like to make sure that my shutter speed is fast enough so that there is no camera shake visible. To compensate for this, I will often push my ISO up a little, so that the image remains at a good exposure. 1600 ISO is normally that most I recommend for maximum quality.
For aperture settings, I find that using f/8 allows me to keep most of the scene in focus. If I want to separate the subject in the image from the background, f/4 serves me well. For low light street photography, I will open up my aperture as wide as possible to let as much light in as possible. Something around f/1.4 works well.
© Ron Timehin | Sony α7C + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/40s @ f/7.1, ISO 3200
Which lens to choose?
35mm is my favourite focal length without a doubt – it is flexible enough for all types of shooting in the street like cityscape, portraits or quick snapshots.
For street photography in particular, I also love the 55mm f/1.8. This focal length is something close to what the human eye perceives, and it also provides a beautiful compression of the background with lovely bokeh. Shooting with this lens at f/2 really separates the subject in frame which is great for focusing the eye. Lastly, the compact size of this lens, coupled with the small Alpha 7C, makes it the ideal street photography combination. It’s very discrete and unobtrusive which is perfect for capturing intimate moments.
Why shoot with a full-frame camera?
The most noticeable difference when shooting on a full-frame camera is the increased depth of field (amount of blur in the background) that you are able to achieve. It makes street and portraiture photography in particular look even more beautiful.
Having a larger sensor size also means that you have a lot more flexibility when it comes to editing. You will be able to pull details from the shadows that you might not have been able to on a crop sensor camera. That being said, highlights are still precious, and details are not as easily retainable as the shadows. So, to combat this, I always slightly underexpose my images by 1/3rd of a stop, to make sure that my highlights aren’t blown out.
© Ron Timehin | Sony α7C + FE 35mm f/1.8 | 1/125s @ f/8.0, ISO 1600
How to take great city skyline pictures with the Alpha 7C
Before I even pick up a camera, research has to be done. Location scouting will enable you to be efficient and accurate in capturing the images you desire. I will often use the internet and google maps, to locate interesting locations of a city.
My favourite times to shoot are sunrise, sunset, golden and blue hours. The light during these times normally provide lovely consistent light, whilst also producing deep and rich colours. The added benefit of photographing very early in the morning at popular locations, is that you will avoid the crowds and tourists, which ultimately makes for cleaner imagery.
For finding amazing skyline views of a city, I recommend searching for public viewing galleries and rooftop bars! Something to note is that sometimes these establishments can be strict around the use of big cameras, however I found that with the Alpha 7C being so compact, it often passes as a camera for general use.
© Ron Timehin | Sony α7C + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 1/250s @ f/8.0, ISO 400
Basic exposure settings and framing.
Exposing for skyline imagery follows the same principle as mentioned above. I will always underexpose slightly to retain detail in the highlights. This is especially important when it comes to photographing at sunrise or sunset, as you want to keep as much of the colours in the sky as possible.
Another way in which to get a great exposure when shooting skylines, is to bracket your exposure. This means taking three or more images at different exposures and then blending the images together in a postproduction software. You would normally shoot one image underexposed to capture details in the highlights, one image exposed for the mid-tones, and lastly an image overexposed to capture details in the shadows. With all three images blended together you get an HDR photo that is highly detailed.
For the aperture, I recommend using f/8 and above to retain as much detail throughout the image as possible.
Any other tips for a great city skyline shot?
I also recommend using a tripod. You want to try and keep you ISO as low as possible to be very slow to let enough light onto the sensor and retain the maximum image quality. A tripod will allow you to keep your camera perfectly still and have your shutter speed as slow as you like. If you don’t own a tripod, then try to find a stable surface that you can prop your camera on. I also suggest using a 2 second self-timer when taking long-exposure photos, as this will further reduce any camera shake that might be induced by pressing the shutter button. You can also use the Imaging Edge application on your phone to trigger the camera to avoid it as well.
© Ron Timehin | Sony α7C + FE 55mm f/1.8 | 30s @ f/13, ISO 100
How to get creative city pictures with the Alpha 7C
I love getting creative with my cityscape photography! It’s not only fun, but it helps your images stand out from the crowd! Here are some techniques to help create effects in your images.
One of my favourite ways to shoot cityscapes creatively is to look for unique perspectives. Getting low and taking photos from street level can produce really interesting results. The Alpha7C has a vari-angle screen that makes it easy to frame when you are shooting really close to the ground.
I also constantly remind myself to look up! Looking up when in a city with a wide-angle lens can provide great converging lines from converging buildings. Leading lines in general are also great attributes in an image that draws the viewers eye into the photo.
© Ron Timehin | Sony α7C + FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA | 1/320s @ f/5.6, ISO 320
Playing around with long exposures can also make for interesting imagery. They add that extra wow factor. Again, for this technique, I would recommend using a tripod and start by exposing for up to 30 seconds this time. Keep your aperture and ISO as low as possible to lower your shutter speed to that extreme. I recommend keeping an eye out for buses or trains that can give cool colours in your trails. Another way for shooting light trails would be to capture multiple images shot from the same position and then blend the light trails from all of the exposures together in post. It will give you more consistent and dramatic light trails.
© Ron Timehin | Sony α7C + FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS | 10s @ f/18, ISO 250
"Photography provides the ability to process, appreciate and interpret the world around me. It allows me to express myself though a medium that simmultaniously documents moments in time. In essence it's my creative, visual diary."