Starting any creative career is always daunting and can often lead to making a few mistakes along the way. I know from my own experience as an architectural photographer, I’ve made a few mistakes that could have easily been avoided.
Hopefully, my experiences over the last decade can help you to avoid making these 5 mistakes when starting out as an architecture photographer.
1. Pulling out the wide-angle lens for everything
When you first start out shooting buildings you may well be shooting for estate agents who want everything to look as wide as possible.
This means you will probably reach straight for the widest lens in your kit bag, usually something like a 10-18mm or 16-35mm.
This is going to make the room look as wide as possible but is going to come with a raft of technical problems which you may not yet know how to overcome.
As you begin to transition into architectural photography, hopefully your confidence and ability to compose an image will grow and the level of client you work with will begin to improve.
Unless I’m shooting in a really small space, I try not to go wider than 24mm on a full-frame body. If I am really pushed I’ll put the 17mm TS-E on to alleviate some of the issues with shooting so wide.
2. One shot to rule ruin them all
Our second mistake to avoid is trying to capture everything in a single image.
When I first started out, as well as going as wide as possible I would try and fit everything into one image. This often came at the sacrifice of the composition as I felt more information in the image would lead to a better image.
When you arrive on-site, take a moment to look around the area and, if possible, discuss with the client which areas are most important to them and why and then pinpoint those areas.
Think how you can produce a series of images which will walk people around the site in a fluid way rather than in that one muddled image.
If you can work on your composition, you will always come away from any shoot with images that make the client happy.
3. Practise using natural light and flash
It’s a good idea to practise working with natural light before you begin to add flash to your work.
Using flash is a great way to balance the natural light and the technical limits of cameras, but if you don’t understand what the natural light is doing, then it will quickly begin to look unnatural and more often than not, overdone.
Over the last few years, I’ve been using less and less flash in my work and trying to accentuate what light is already there rather than blasting it with massive flash pops and painting the details in later.
Start by using the natural light as your main light source and then add flash sparingly into areas that draw the eye. This will create a much more visually compelling image.
There will always be times when the natural light isn’t good enough though.
If possible choose a better time of day to shoot. Apps like SunCalc will show you where the sun is at any given time.
If you only have a short window in which to shoot a property then try to emulate natural light as much as possible i.e. if there are windows, use your light source from that direction.
Nothing gives away bad flash technique more than all the shadows facing away from the camera, on camera flash will not cut it!
4. All the gear and no idea
I think all photographers are guilty of gear envy at some point in their careers and i’m definitely guilty of spending too much on gear.
If you’re looking to make a business from your architectural photography then you want to make sure every purchase you make is going to make you more money.
If it’s not directly making you more money or making your job a whole lot easier then do not buy it.
It took me around eight years before I bought my first tilt-shift lens and even then it was only because I was shooting a level of client that made the purchase a must.
It has transformed my photography but if I was shooting real estate photography it would be an absolute waste and would take me months to recoup the funds of the purchase.
The aim of the game is to make as much money as you can with as little fiscal investment as possible.
Having that extra money in your bank account allows you a lot more freedom, both in business and in your personal life than having a shiny new camera.
5. Concentrating too much on technique rather than the visual aspects of an image
In the same way as concentrating on getting too much gear can be detrimental, concentrating on the technical aspects of a photo can really hold you back.
It’s great to have everything in a photograph exactly vertical but if it comes at the expense of missing an important area or capturing something which shouldn’t be there then it’s not something you should worry about.
Buildings are often designed to be perfectly straight but in the real world, due to building techniques it often doesn’t always end up that way.
I’ve shot multiple £1 million plus homes which don’t have perfectly square rooms as one the plan and the only time the occupant finds out is when you level up a camera and it looks a bit wonky.
They will declare the camera must be wrong but when the tape measure comes out there is often a few swear words that follow it.
Concentrate on making visually compelling images rather than making sure everything is perfectly straight and be honest to the space.
Not everything needs to be shot at iso 100, f16 either, experiment a little, you may enjoy it!
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