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Just because the subject in architectural photography isn’t moving, doesn’t mean it’s easy. There’s a lot to consider in architectural photography—composition, viewpoint, lighting, etc. Here are a few tips to get you started shooting architecture.
1. Shoot in a Variety of Weather Conditions
The great thing about shooting architecture is that you don’t necessarily need the best weather. Dark, ominous clouds overhead and pouring rain can make for an intense atmosphere. Alternatively, timing your shoot for sunset or the golden hour, creating a beautiful glowing light with contrasting shadows, makes for a stunning shot as well. However, when you only shoot during specific conditions, you only capture the building or structure's atmosphere during that time, you miss seeing it in its entirety. Shooting at various times of day and in different weather conditions opens you up to a multitude of creative options.
As with most photography, lighting is crucial to architectural photography. Choose the time of day to shoot based on the image you want. Avoid back lighting, as it will create a dark surface over the building and you’ll lose any architectural detail. A way to deal with backlighting is with post-process editing. Using software, such as ACDSee and its Light EQ tool, can save an image lost in the shadows. However, if you’re wanting to make the building a silhouette, the best time to shoot is at sunset and have the sun behind the building.
Side-front lighting works best for architectural photography. It creates interest with shadows and reflections, as well as highlighting details and creating depth.
When shooting the interior, it’s best to shoot during the day to get as much of the available light as possible.
A common mistake with new photographers is taking shots from the most common viewpoint, straight on, at eye level. Don’t get me wrong, capturing a building's façade can be a beautiful shot and emphasize the symmetry of the structure, but that is not the only shot.
There is a lot to consider when composing an architectural photo. Think about whether you fill the entire frame with the structure or make the structure part of a larger composition with its surroundings. Try shooting at an angle or get low to the ground and shoot upwards, creating a sense of grandeur. Walk around the building or structure and take shots with as many different angles you can; you have the ability to create some amazing, unique photography.
Architectural photography doesn’t always need to be about capturing the entire building. Zoom in to highlight details, such as windows, staircases, or even patterns. This creates an interesting photo and brings attention to elements that might otherwise go unnoticed.
You can’t help but see lines when you look at architecture. They’re everywhere – windows frames, roof lines, columns. It’s important to consider the lines in your composition. You want to use lines to draw the viewer in or create patterns.
6. Color vs Black and White
Another element to consider with architectural photography is whether to shoot color or black and white. Both have their advantages. It really comes down to your personal preference and what you’re shooting. If you’re shooting a building or structure with strong lines or pattern, black and white is a great way to highlight those elements. If you are shooting black and white, using a polarizing filter can really accentuate the contrast of light and dark.
On the other hand, if you’re shooting buildings with rich colors, a striking contrast between the structure and a blue sky, or capturing the warm glowing light through a window, you’ll want color.