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8 Architecture Photography Tips

Architecture Photography

8 Architecture Photography Tips

Architecture photography has a long history. In fact, the world’s oldest surviving photo, View from the Window at Le Gras, is an example of architectural photography—and it was taken in the 1820s! The medium has remained popular for all these years, and that’s no surprise when you consider the significance of architecture. Buildings do much more than provide us with shelter. They are also works of art and long-lasting cultural symbols.

Building photography may have first taken off as a way to document buildings, but along the way, it has evolved into its own diverse art form. Architecture photography (also referred to as building photography or structure photography) generally means photography that focuses on buildings. It can include shooting building exteriors and interiors, as well as bridges, other structures, and cityscapes. Whether you’re looking to improve your architecture photography or want to give it a shot for the first time, this guide will teach you about the basics of and give you some architecture photography tips to help you excel.

PHOTO BY SEBASTIAN WEISS - MURALLA ROJA BY RICARDO BOFILL

A tenet of architectural photography is the use of perspective control, with an emphasis on vertical lines that are non-converging (parallel). This is achieved by positioning the focal plane of the camera at so that it is perpendicular to the ground, regardless of the elevation of the camera eye. This result can be achieved by the use of view cameras, tilt/shift lenses, or post-processing. Traditionally, view cameras have been used for architectural photography as they allow for the lens to be tilted or shifted relative to the film plane. This allows for control of perspective, as well as a variety of creative possibilities.

When shooting interior and exterior photography is important to shoot in a wide-angle lens. You want to use two straight walls to frame interior shots. Architectural photography typically shows either the exterior or the interior of buildings. The techniques used in each of these types of photography are similar, but do have some difference and sometimes require different equipment.

Exterior architectural photography usually takes advantage of available light by day, or at night it uses ambient light from adjacent street lights, landscape lights, exterior building lights, moonlight and even twilight present in the sky in all but the darkest situations.

In many cases, the landscaping surrounding a building is important to the overall composition of a photograph, and even necessary to communicate the aesthetic harmony of a building with its environment. The photographer will often include flowers, trees, fountains or statues in the foreground of a composition, taking advantage of their ability to help lead the eye into the composition and to its main subject, the building.

Aerial photography is trending as it shows different and unique perspectives of the structure being photographed. This can include getting level with the structure, showing property boundaries, revealing the location in a geographical view point, and putting context to surrounding scenery.

Interior architectural photography can also be performed with ambient light transmitted through windows and skylights, as well as interior lighting fixtures. Frequently though, architectural photographers will use supplemental lighting to improve the illumination within a building. Either electronic flash “strobes” or incandescent “hot lights” can be used. A feature of architectural photography is that the principal subjects rarely move. It is therefore possible to use post-processing editing to achieve a balanced lighting scheme, even in the absence of additional lighting.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is on a small plateau at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, near Boulder, Colorado... A tremendous scale of nature with a shimmering, reflective expanse of glass, where Pei has returned to the elemental forms of sheer walls of unfinished concrete of a dark reddish-brown aggregate to match the color of the mountains. Research facilities for five hundred scientists, adjoining common-use facilities across a terraced plaza, are grouped in towers of offices and laboratories to ensure a degree of privacy for individual research groups. Conceived as a concentrated cluster of buildings in the more classically 'contained' sense, impinging minimally on the vegetation and topography of their mesa site at the edge of the Rockies, it too is attentive to site in that it is almost an element of urbanity delicately lowered into nature, yet, like the previous project, monumental in presence while not axially monumental in concept. — from Paul Heyer
PHOTO BY TOM ROSS - THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH BY I.M. PEI

8 Tips on How to Capture Great Architecture Photography

1. Choose a location

You shouldn’t have trouble finding possible subjects for building photography in any city. You can start with buildings or structures that grab your attention or have some meaning to you. Often, architecture photographers focus on shooting things like government buildings, museums, and historic landmarks. These types of structures are usually able to offer interesting or impressive architecture.

Also, old building photography makes for captivating images. That includes well-maintained historic sites that offer examples of classic architecture, as well as run-down or abandoned buildings that show their age in different ways.

HERZOG & DE MEURON
PHOTO BY GEORGE MESSARITAKIS - TATE MODERN BY HERZOG & DE MEURON

2. Get to Know Your Subject

Once you choose a building or structure to shoot, you should spend some time to get to know it. Start by simply walking around the outside of the building and exploring the inside (if possible). Also, consider doing some research on the building and its history. Learn about how it was built and how it’s been used.

All of this information can give direction to your architecture photos and help you decide what kind of style you want to achieve. For instance, if the building has a long and storied history, you might want to experiment with black and white architecture photography. It can lend a timeless feeling to your shots and bring the history of the structure to the viewer’s mind. During your research, you may also discover a unique or interesting architectural feature that you can showcase in your photos.

His House and Her House: Wutopia Lab
PHOTO BY CREATAR IMAGES (AI QING) - HIS HOUSE AND HER HOUSE BY WUTOPIA LAB

3. Try Shooting at Various Times

To capture some different looks when shooting structure photography, try revisiting the site to shoot at different times of the day and in different weather conditions.

For example, try shooting at sunrise or sunset to capture some golden hues, window reflections, and long shadows. Or visit at night to capture the structure in its artificial lighting. Cloudy skies, snowfall, or some rain-soaked surfaces can add interest and dramatically change the mood of your photos, so don’t limit yourself to shooting on sunny days.

PHOTO BY WADE ZIMMERMAN - THE PHILHARMONIE LUXEMBOURG BY CHRISTIAN DE PORTZAMPARC

4. Try not to objectify the building

Imagine the shock of visiting a building you’ve only seen photographed from that one, good angle. Objectifying a building to the point where one only visualizes it from one point of view is one of the greatest disservices of architectural photography.  Making an effort to record the complete spatial context of the building is not easy, but not impossible either.

PHOTO BY IWAN BANN - HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTER BY ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS
PHOTO BY HELENE BINET - HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTER BY ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS
PHOTO BY HELENE BINET - HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTER BY ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS

5. Include Some People

Although building photography usually focuses on buildings, you should consider including people in some of your shots. After all, architecture only exists because of humans.

By including people, your architecture photography can bring to mind the relationship between humans and architecture, and illuminate how people use it. Including people in the composition can also breathe life into an otherwise sterile scene.

If you find people in the scene are a distraction from the architecture, try shooting with a long exposure so they become a blur. These types of shots tend to emphasize the timelessness of buildings, as you can see the structure sitting still while the blurred people convey the movement of the crowds.

HEB'S BAR RESTORANT MADEN GROUP
PHOTO BY ATDHE MULLA - HEB'S BAR RESTORANT BY MADEN GROUP

6. Look for a unique angle

Playing with perspective is not only an entertaining thing to do, it can also be very rewarding. Taking time to find a different angle from which to photograph can expose an overlooked form or abstraction of a building’s detail that may give rise to another level of beauty and appreciation for its form.

While you’re experimenting with different perspectives, keep in mind some of the basic rules of photo composition to create interesting images. For example, find an archway or opening you can use to frame a shot. Or use the architecture to create leading lines, symmetry, and repetition of shapes.

Once you break free of trying to capture a standard shot of the whole building, you’ll have a lot more freedom to get creative.

EDUARDO SOUTO DE MOURA Burgo Tower
PHOTO BY FERNANDO GUERRA FG + SG - BURGO TOWER BY EDUARDO SOUTO DE MOURA

7. Use post-processing tools

Processing images has become quite a standard part of photography, allowing you to tweak your images to perfectly match that atmosphere you want to capture. While images should only be altered with a clear understanding of what kind of changes are acceptable, software such as Photoshop and Lightroom are easy to use with a wide variety of advanced functions such as lens correction. If you’re looking for an easy way to create a panoramic photography using a series of images, try Hugin.

8. Invest in appropriate photography equipment

If you’re serious about getting started with high-quality architectural photography, investing in the right equipment is going to reap big rewards. A wide angle lens is most commonly used for photographing buildings and interior spaces and including a tripod will open up possibilities to shoot in low-light conditions, among other things. Using a polarizing filter can also help to add contrast and make your images more vivid. If you’re looking for something on the next level, a drone with a quality camera installed could be an exciting way to go.

PHOTO BY MAXIM SCHULZ – ELBPHILHARMONIE BY HERZOG & DE MEURON

Source: format.com; archdaily.com; wikipedia

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