Architectural Photography Tips
Architectural photography is a little like golf as in the ball is just sitting there; it shouldn't be that hard to hit a good shot! So it should not be hard taking pictures of a subject that doesn't move. Actually that's what can make it difficult. In this article I will share 10 helpful tips on how to make beautiful and impressive photos of architecture.
Your perspective and location (and thus, that of your camera) will alter the way you compose your shot. Do you want to capture a cityscape with the contrast of short and tall buildings? Or do you want to stand at the base of those buildings, look straight up and show a skyscraper extending into the infinite sky? For the former shot, you'll be far away; for the latter, you'll be very close. Choosing the right equipment is key in your decision.
USE A WIDE ANGLE LENS
One of the most important things that will help you improve your architecture shots is getting a wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens allows you to take in much more of the scene but it also tends to distort (or curve) lines, especially at the edges of the frame. Some architectural photographers use tilt-shift lenses, which allow for wide-angle shots with almost no distortion. However these are quite expensive, and you can always correct distortion later in Lightroom or Photoshop.
TRY SHOOTING INTERIORS
Architects design a whole building, both inside and out, so go have a look inside. The interior architecture can offer up new compositions and lighting.
Learn tips for better interior architecture shots at my post Interior Real Estate Photography: 5 Tips for Better Results.
Look for reflections in water and glass. Getting creative with reflections can add scale and atmosphere to your images. The Indiana State Museum along the canal walk in Indianapolis is a photographer favorite to shoot, but usually facing the other way toward downtown Indy. I thought I would try a different perspective. By using the reflection of the two intersecting bridges aligning with the canal's dogleg right, it adds a bit of interest to the image.
While shooting pre-dawn in downtown Detroit, Michigan, I incorporated this giant parking lot puddle to reflect the city's skyline and add depth to the image. I was able to add more drama to the image by shooting during the blue hour, which brings me to my next tip...
SHOOT DURING THE GOLDEN AND BLUE HOURS
With every form of photography, it's the light that makes the shot! Taking photos during golden hours, usually early morning just before sunrise or later in the evening during sunset, will help you capture ideal lighting situations, when the sun's angle is low on the horizon. In the image below, the rising sun is still low, casting soft colors into the sky above the buildings while making the their exteriors glow.
My favorite time to shoot is during the very brief blue hour. It only happens for maybe 15 minutes, before the sun rises and after the sun sets below the horizon. Sometimes it doesn't happen at all or it's dull and not that spectacular. But if you get lucky, as I did in the image below, it makes for a stunning image.
TAKE NIGHT PHOTOS
Night photography brings a new element to architectural photography, as many city buildings are specifically designed with night illumination. A glass building that is lit from inside adds different textures, as well as including a water feature or interesting clouds...which ties into the next tip on exposure.
USE A LONG EXPOSURE
Using a long exposure, usually anything over 5 seconds or so, will give flowing water a misty, almost ghostly quality to it. A cool cloudy sky will have the same appearance and when you time it with vivid sunset colors, it makes a more dramatic image.
In the image below I used a long exposure to blur a car rounding the corner, creating a bit of motion and drama to an otherwise ordinary scene.
DISCOVER THE LINES AND PATTERNS
Lines and patterns create interesting shadows that can make your image more complex.
SHOOT FROM A LOW PERSPECTIVE
Shooting low draws the viewer into the scene and leads their eye up to your picture's subject. Always include something of interest in the foreground; it could be a rock or some driftwood, or whatever happens to be there.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO INCLUDE PEOPLE (Architecture doesn't exist without them)
This used to be a no-no. However the self-proclaimed world's most visited architecture website archdaily.com disagrees. A February 2017 article reads, "Historically, there has been a trend not to include people in architectural photography, as if we somehow contaminate the pure, designed beauty. Fortunately, a number of high-profile architectural photographers are beginning to buck this trend. Architecture doesn’t and wouldn't exist without us—don’t shy away from recording our presence."
SHOOT STRAIGHT UP
When you look straight up, new composition choices will come to mind. Find an unknown angle and create a sense of asymmetry by taking photos of buildings looking straight up.
Just like the light can have an effect on the way the building looks, so can your position while taking the shot. Again, here is where time comes into play as an important factor. You want to make sure you have the opportunity to move around the building, shooting as you go. You also want to get as close to the building as possible, shooting straight up, for a different perspective. Pretend you are a bug or ant crawling on the ground—No one really looks up at a building from this angle, but it just might make the most amazing photograph you’ve ever seen.
On the other hand, getting as far away or as high up from the building as possible, to include the entire structure in one shot, could also create a unique shot. Play around with the perspective at which you shoot to really allow yourself to create amazingly unique photography. (source)
Apply these awesome techniques to shoot distinctive photos that people will love. If nothing else it will help you see things differently and maybe learn something new along the way. Cheers!
For more on interior architectural photography, view my post Interior Real Estate Photography: 5 Tips
Architectural photography is something that produces timeless images. Always think about lines and shapes, and look for patterns and colors. Remember you can convert any image to black and white later so look for images that are full of shadows and highlights. A building is a static thing and you need to move around it to find new perspectives and approach it as if it were full of life and character.
"There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are." -Ernst Haas