Some of the most exciting photography projects can be centred around man-made things like buildings. Whether you are capturing the jutted angles of an old church or the modern curves of a contemporary building, photographers can give their audience a closer look into the complexities of architecture with these nine tips.
1. Shoot the unexpected features and angles
If you don’t want to blend in with every other photographer out there, try the more unexpected viewpoints of looking at the building. Go to the last place you’d think to photograph and start there. Some of the best results come from questioning the habits of other photographers, and maybe even asking yourself the things you’ve done in the past that may seem a bit overdone now.
2. Try a different time of day
If you’re interested in photographing a specific building, but you just feel that you can’t get the perfect shot, consider checking out the site at different times of the day. Even though your photos might not be what you expected at the beginning, you could come across something beautiful. Although it’s not the most popular time of day to shoot, the overhead lighting of a high sun around midday might be just the thing your building needs to shine. Making your way over to the site multiple and different times is a good practice since your creative mind is impressionable in different ways on any given day. You may have ideas one day that you never would’ve had the first time you visited the building.
3. Try shots with people in them
Since architecture is man-made, it seems only fitting that people sometimes make it into the frame. Even though it may seem like the most aesthetically pleasing option to completely exclude the human shape from your presentation of the structure, it might just add some much-needed warmth to something lacking that dynamic feeling. But try to “control the crowd”. If there are hoards of people in front of the building if probably isn’t going to do it justice. But a few people walking, sitting or admiring the building can add to the photo.
4. Try a wide-angle lens
As far as capturing the majesty of an entire building, the best way to go about it is to invest in a wide-angle lens. This type of lens will accentuate the depth provided by large buildings. The other more practical reason for using a wide-angle lens is that you may not always have enough room to step back far enough to get the entire building or even an interior room in one shot. A wide-angle lens can sort this issue out most of the time.
5. Don’t forget about interiors
Photographers gravitate to the outside of buildings, but the inside has exciting views as well. Capturing both the inside and the outside of the building could prove to be beneficial. You could compare and contrast the shapes and the feelings emitted from the two perspectives of the same building. But remember that photographing interiors will often be challenging handheld as you won’t be able to hold a camera steady enough in low light. So make sure if you are allowed to, you use a tripod.
Another good tip is to take bracketed images (i.e. one image underexposed, one exposed correctly and one overexposed) and merge them together in post-processing. This is because you will often find that when you are photographing rooms, the window area will be blown out (too bright – clipped) because you have to expose for the interior of the room. By merging the photos together in post-processing (a technique called HDR) you can ensure you have good exposure across your image.
6. Watch the weather
Weather affects many things about photography. Sometimes you may be looking for that perfect rainy shot as droplets sit on glass, or the sun is shining straight through a perfectly placed gap in the architecture. Whatever the case may be, you will never be pleased if you are surprised by what the weather does when you decide to go after that perfect shot. If you are anticipating colder weather, make sure you grab an extra pair of batteries for your camera, as battery life does not last as long in the chilly air. On rainy days you can get amazing shots but invest in protective gear for your camera for the longevity of your equipment.
7. Wait for the best natural light
One of the essential tips for any type of photography is that everything looks better in natural light. Man-made light tends to be too stark and does not allow for a flattering photo, but natural light tends to compliment everything it touches. This is not to say that there aren’t beautiful photos taken in the glow of something other than the sun, however. If you’re not looking for a naturally lit photo, try finding buildings that are lit from spotlights on the ground at night. Lighting from this angle can be flattering to the shape of buildings, and you may find a great shot without the sun.
8. Correct the issues
One of the big issues that you will no doubt find in architectural photography is a distortion in verticle lines called “converging lines”. This is when a building looks like it’s falling backwards. While sometimes this can be used in a creative way if you want the correct architectural photos you need to correct converging lines. A tilt and shift lens can help avoid this issue but they are expensive. Alternatively, you can correct these lines in editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
9. Understand and cater to your purpose
When it comes to photography, the first thing you should consider is the audience you’re photographing for. Are you being commissioned for a college admissions pamphlet? Are you trying to gain a following in photography on Instagram? Or, are you merely taking photos for your enjoyment? Knowing whom you’re taking the images for should impact some of the choices that you make during the process of photographing your building.
For example, if you are commissioned by a university to take pictures for their English department, you’ll most likely take a photo of their English building either straight on or from a slightly side angle from the front. You’ll probably want to do this during the afternoon light, with minimal editing done to the image (besides the usual colour correction, straightening and a little bit of brightness and contrast). A photograph like this will exude the professionalism the university will most likely want. On the other hand, if you’re photographing for yourself, you might find graffiti on the back of the building you’d like to highlight in contrast with the lines of the building. Two pictures of the same building but with very different results.
Architectural photography can be straightforward. But to capture really great shots takes planning and patience not to mention practice and experience. One of the great things about architectural photography is that you are dealing with a subject that isn’t going to move. So focusing and ensuring sharpness in your photos isn’t going to be as difficult as say sports photography. But architectural photography does have it’s own challenges. Use the tips above and you will be on your way to capturing great photos of architecture.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.