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How to compose/frame shots with tall buildings without "just" sky? For example, Space Needle, Eiffel Tower, Hoover Building ... Most of my attempts result in lots of pixels of boring sky.

Here is what I have tried:

I like the long-exposure shots with the clouds moving towards the viewer, but am yet to try it.

My question is what are the alternatives? I am looking for in-camera techniques, rather than post processing. Novel ideas and suggestions welcome. Please provide an example image if possible.

Sure, there are different ways to improve the images I have linked, but I would like to start with the "boring sky" part of it. Apologies for linking so many of my images, my goal here is not self promotion, just to give you an idea of what I have tried.

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    A polarising filter may help to increase contrast in the sky, if there are clouds it should add interest – laurencemadill May 27 '15 at 8:52
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    Your examples are great. In fact, I might go so far as to say they really make up an answer themselves — I might suggest moving them from the question to an answer of your own. I know you're looking for more than that, but sometimes the answer is... "if you can't do one of these things, there's not much to be done". – mattdm May 27 '15 at 13:50
  • @mattdm, Thanks for your suggestion. I am not a photographer by training, hence I always feel "maybe there is a simple and well known way of doing this". But looks like there are great ideas out there; check Rafael's answer. – BiGYaN May 27 '15 at 18:12
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Very good question.

I'm not sure this is a question or just some thoughts on the subject.

If you have a boring sky... you have a boring sky. That is what photography is, what is in front of your camera that is what it capture.

A boring sky could be (in my opinion) boring by 3 factors (the lack of). Color, clouds, light (with variations and combinations).

Color

  • You can in some degree control in camera the color using a lens filter. Polarizing or a gradient color one. In my opinion it has not much sense buying a gradient filter while you can do that in post pro. But if you want to stick to the "onsite part" it is an alternative.

  • Perhaphs you do have some color, including the dust on the horizon. Either you play with the exposure or... again, go to post pro.

  • On black and white photography remember that you could darken the sky using a complementary color filter. Red.

Clouds

  • About the clouds there are 2 options. No clouds at all, or thin clouds. If you have thin clouds... again you can increase the contrast in post pro...

Of course there are some Hdri features in some cameras, but in my opinion that is exactly post pro, but done in camera.

Light

  • That golden hour thing, a long exposure in a night shoot, a lightning. But you don't have too many options.

Ok lets go back to the composition

Then you probably should take additional pictures of not the whole building.

  • A close up with a telephoto lens, an extremely close up photo using a super wide lens. Take a photo of the floor (not the tall building), architectural details.

  • Roll the camera 45 degrees, 30 or whatever roll you need.

  • Fake some close tree leafs (grabing a branch from the floor, or carry your own fake branch). Trow a hat or a cap of the nearest person, lay on the floor and take a picture of someones else hand. Buy a balloon.

  • Take the photo through your own "reflective lake". Sunglasses, a polished Ferrari parked outside, a bald's man glossy head... probably just the sunglasses.

  • Make a double shoot considering that space. Take a long exposure and make some ghostly shapes.

  • Use a prism filter.

Or go post pro...

  • Many thanks for the detailed answer. Appreciate the ideas on composition. While I love detailed shots, there needs to be at least one "full" picture. The carry your own things and photographing off my own surfaces are the ideas I liked most. Requesting you to link to images captures using the "double shoot" technique. ... Again, thanks a lot for your suggestions. – BiGYaN May 27 '15 at 17:33
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Another option might be replacing the original sky in a photo editor. You can create your own collection of interesting skies without other objects (just 100% sky). After you take a picture of a building with boring sky, you can cut it out and replace it with a sky from your collection.
This can very be easily done with simple blocky buildings but may take some time with complex ones. "Magic wand" tools in editors might also help here.

Be careful on reflections in windows and even in semigloss surfaces! Check the overall result if it looks natural.

There also is a Gimp Plugin Darla Blue Sky & Clouds with settable parameters that can "generate" new sky but you won't probably achieve very dramatic results.

  • Thanks for the suggestion and the plugin link. My original question is more along what can be achieved in camera. – BiGYaN May 27 '15 at 6:12
  • You should be able to do this without "cutting" anything. You have a natural "blue screen" over which to superimpose your masterpiece sky pic. – Octopus May 29 '15 at 21:01
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The first thing you need to do is decide what your objective is. The next is to be clear about your viewers - who are they, what will they expect, what will shock or disappoint them? Once these are clear, then you can start choosing technical 'answers'.

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    Could you elaborate a bit? Right now this answer doesn't say very much. – Hugo May 29 '15 at 7:18
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    because if you don't offend them its not art? – Octopus May 29 '15 at 21:04
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I personally do not have much experience photographing architecture but perhaps if you tired shooting the tall buildings with a tilt-shift lens could possibly eliminate more of the sky plus make your buildings have a better look to them. I am not sure on this, just throwing out a suggestion for you to attempt. Someone correct me that has used a tilt-shift if that would not help at all.

Also, if you're not opposed to it, you could always composite a more unique sky in post.

  • Just using TS lens does not solve the fundamental problem. There will still be empty sky around the top of the building. Did I understand you correctly? – BiGYaN May 29 '15 at 23:13

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