Five architecture photography tips
1. Research the area
There is no worse feeling than rocking up to a shoot blind and realising that a portion of the building which looked great on the plan is actually obstructed by something as simple as a lamp post (this one comes from experience).
Google Street View should be your best friend before planning any architecture shoot. In all probability, if you’re photographing a new build it may not be on there yet but you can get an overview of the area and spot anything obvious which could prevent you from getting the photograph you want and put a plan in place to work round it. A quick check now could save you an hour on site of having to think on your feet, which could be a missed opportunity if you’re working to a tight deadline.
It’s also worth checking out a sun tracker such as Sun Calc. This allows you to plot the sun’s position in comparison to the building you are shooting. Not only is it great for making sure you know where sunrise and sunset are, but also for making sure there are no nearby buildings which will be casting a shadow over the building you are wanting to photograph at a particular time of day.
2. Visit the site multiple times
Most photography shoots you are hired for will require you to turn up at a specific time, shoot a specific event or product and then leave. Architecture photography is a whole different beast. I would recommend visiting the site at least three, preferably four times to gain a variety of weather conditions as well as time of day:
- Sunrise – this is an obvious one, but who doesn’t like looking at a building with a beautiful orange backlight making it appear like it’s bathed in a natural halo?
- Mid-morning – if you’re there for sunrise, it’s a good idea to hang around for the mid-morning when hopefully any major cloud formations have burnt off and a lovely crisp light will reward you for your patience.
- Mid-afternoon – some part of the building is always going to be in shade when you don’t want it to be, so it’s a good idea to visit the site twice during the day (or ideally follow the sun around the building) to make sure that you can cover every aspect of it in different lighting conditions.
- Sunset – arrive at least an hour before sunset in order to get yourself in a position ready to enjoy the full transformation of the light through the golden hour at 6° above the horizon right through to -4° below when it leaves the blue hour.
It’s also a good idea to spend a little bit of time after twilight just capturing how the light inside the building interacts with the landscape around it. You may be surprised how spending this extra time on the little details can really improve your architecture photography.
3. The devil is in the detail
While it’s always a necessity to photograph the whole building for your client, what will separate you from other architecture photographers is highlighting the little details which the architect has taken time to put into the building.
If it is convenient to discuss the architect’s vision with them in person, this is a great way to find out all the hidden details which may not be immediately visible to the untrained eye, and like any good piece of art, may require you to visit it multiple times and view from a multitude of angles. So, put that wide angle lens away and search for the hidden gems within the building.
Another great little tip here is to focus on specific areas which create a scene separate to that of the whole building. Aim for these images to be creative enough to able to work as a standalone shot as well as sit within in a series of images to tell a story of the site as a whole.
4. Get inside
The fourth of our architecture photography tips is, if it’s possible, getting inside the building is a must. As well as the initial grandeur of the exterior shell of the building, the inside of a building should evoke a certain set of emotions in you when you walk in.
Talking with the occupants of the building is a great way to get a feeling for the building and their experiences of living or working within the space. This may give you a totally different perspective on how you think about photographing the interior, and the experiences they have with the building should be able to guide you to images you had perhaps not seen.
If you would like some tips to help improve your interior photography, visit one of our past blog posts “five tips to improve your interior photography”, which can be found here.
5. Put it in context
While the last two points have all been about getting as close to the building as possible, it is also important to view the building within its surroundings. This is a great excuse to use one of the best tools within a photographer’s arsenal – your legs.
Did the architect intend for it to stand out from all the buildings surrounding it in a busy metropolitan hub? Or maybe it’s an eco-dwelling which is intended to follow the natural flow of the hills within which it was built. Walking around a site and seeing how it interacts with both the built environment and the natural environment surrounding the building is vital to gaining a full picture of the architect’s vision.
Have you got any architecture photography tips which have helped improve your architectural photography? If so, please leave them in the comments below – and if you like this post and want similar photography tips, please visit the rest of the blog here.