We take many photos of buildings, but architecture photography is a genre that people often don’t give much thought to. However, it can be highly creative and very rewarding. We want to show you how.
What Is Architecture Photography?
What is architecture photography? Isn’t it just about photographing buildings? At its most basic, yes. But architectural photography is about more than just the construction materials of a structure. It also takes in the details of a building, its purpose, the context in which it exists as well as its history. All photographs are about telling stories, and architectural photography can tell some of the deepest and most fascinating stories of them all.
Gear for Architectural Photography
You don’t need a whole lot of gear to capture great architecture photos, but the following are things to consider.
you need to keep your camera stable, and a tripod can help you if you want to try HDR, too.
2. Wide angle lens
A wide-angle lens is the go-to for photographing buildings because it helps capture a large scene. (But a telephoto can help you capture details more easily.)
3. Tilt-shift lens
If you find yourself doing more and more architectural photos, a tilt-shift lens could be helpful for you. It’s a lens that allows you to adjust its angle independent of the camera. This means you can help negate the convergence of lines that were supposed to be straight in your photos.
A drone might be much further down your architectural photography road, but if you get really into it, a drone will deliver some photos from unusual angles.
This is a must. You will need to edit your photos to straighten them, correct for perspective distortion, as well as to finesse color, contrast and sharpness. For this, you’ll need an editing suite.
10 Tips for Perfecting Your Architectural Photography
We’ve put together these 10 tips for anyone looking to learn how to photograph architecture. They’ll have you shooting brilliant buildings in no time at all.
1. Don’t Be Afraid of Shooting a Variety of Buildings – They All Have Merit
What makes a building beautiful is always a matter of personal taste. You might well be drawn to cute cottages or to grand historic buildings that have been pivotal in world events, but there’s merit in all buildings. A run-down barn can be aesthetically pleasing, but it will also have a strong story to tell within your photo. Brutalist architecture might not be your cup of tea. Still, someone else might like it, and it remains an important element of post-war reconstruction and culture. It’s always worth remembering that nothing lasts forever, and it can be enormously valuable to make a record of a wide variety of buildings.
2. Shoot at Different Times of Day, Year and Weather Conditions
Building materials respond differently to changing conditions. How different do you think 30 St Mary Axe (that’s the Gherkin)–all glass and steel–looks in the rain compared to the sun? What will the stone of Mont Saint Michel look like at sunrise or sunset compared to midday or when it’s cloudy? We don’t experience buildings in one weather condition at one time of day or year, and we certainly don’t only see them in their perfect state, so make an effort to capture their multi-faceted nature. The reality of buildings is that they can be dirty, in disrepair or a bit dull looking in the conditions, and that’s how they deserve to be recorded, too.
3. Use Good Light
Using good light is vital for all photography. When photographing the inside of a building, ensure that your light is good and properly white balanced. When shooting outdoors, you will probably want to make use of soft, golden hour light, but don’t forget that the harsh midday sun can create fascinating and unusual shadows that tell great stories, too.
4. Seek Out Unusual Angles and Perspectives
Capturing a building straight on might be the gold standard, but look for unusual angles and perspectives when shooting buildings, too. What are they like when shot straight up from close to a wall? Are there any puddles or reflective surfaces close by for interesting reflections? How does it look from sideways-on? Get up, get down, move around. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and certainly don’t feel restricted.
5. Remember Your Composition Rules
Architectural photography is always good for making use of your compositional rules. Look for leading lines; apply the rule of thirds; see if you can incorporate frames-within-frames; remember balance and negative space, and keep an eye out for patterns and repetition. And don’t forget that if your horizontals aren’t level, they must be deliberately tilted.
6. Shoot Inside AND Outside
Architecture doesn’t just mean the outside of buildings, but the inside, too. You might not always be able to get inside for some internal architectural photography, but if you can, it does contribute to the story of the building that you are telling.
7. Give Context
Don’t be afraid of giving your building photography context. That might mean including people, animals or other buildings in the shot. Architecture does not exist without humans; animals often make use of buildings–sometimes by design and sometimes not. By showing the other structures that exist alongside the one that you are interested in, it can bring it to life. Photographing a very old building amid brand new steel and glass constructions can tell a story of development, isolation, progress or loss. Showing how a building is being used, if that’s intentional use or not, can give weight to your images. There’s much more to photos of architecture than just the building itself.
8. Look at the Details as Well as the Whole
Architecture photography isn’t just about whole buildings; it can be about the details contributing to it. Look for the textures of building materials, interesting patterns within the construction, details around doors and windows, and any other architectural feature that stands out and makes the building what it is.
9. Research the Building
If you can, try to research any building before you photograph it. This will ensure that you can look for any specific features that might be of interest and see how other people might have photographed them before you.
You should post-process all of your images after taking them to correct for color, crop them for a better finish and sharpen them. With architectural photography, you should also perform 2 additional functions: straighten your images so that the building you’ve photographed sits level in the frame (unless you have deliberately placed it at an angle) and correct for any lens distortion that might have occurred. For example, you might find that if you’ve shot a building with a wide-angle lens, its walls curve inwards, but this is something that can be fixed in your editing suite.
Architectural photography is a brilliantly creative genre that goes far beyond bricks and mortar. You can capture some fascinating images of buildings that are much more exciting than what you think architectural photos might be. So give it a try – you might surprise yourself!