Architecture Photography Blends Art and Science
Have you ever wondered what it might feel like travel the world while taking pictures of beautiful places? To live that dream with architecture photography you’ll have to create beautiful and technically flawless photos. Here are my top five architecture photography tips to get you started. I’ve made them a mix of visual aesthetic and technical tips so your journey will be enriched.
Research the reason why the architecture exists
There’s always a compelling reason for the design and materials. A 30º angle on one side of a building might seem like just a nice design element, but there is usually a function to novel designs. For example; maybe the building is shaped like this so it never places a shadow on the playground across the street. Understanding why the architecture exists and including it in your architecture photography compositions give them more depth and a story.
Wide Dynamic Range Architecture Photography
HDR imagery as a technique is still very useful to achieve architectural photographer greatness. A more modern term and technique is luminosity masking or digital blending. The problem you are solving with this is interiors and exterior architecture scenes have too much light contrast. The range from brightest highlight to the darkest shadow is too much for a single frame to reproduce. Bracket exposures by taking enough pictures to cover the full tonal range of the scene. Then render them together the way you visualized your architecture photo. Free luminosity masking actions to get you started, or check out Raya Pro.
Plan for Lighting and Weather
With all the great digital tools now like Google Earth and Photo Pills you can plan to the minute the best lighting angle and time of year for your architectural photography masterpiece. Keeping the reason why the architecture exists you’ll want to find the best time of day and light direction to bring out your main subject. Add to that the communication objective of mood and feeling. Ask yourself is it best as bright and neutral, dark and cold, sunny and warm, and you’ll know when to go. Don’t stay home in bad weather either. Some of the best architecture photos are because the lighting is in transition or unusual conditions.
Capture the Highest Resolution Possible
Higher resolution photos have more fine detail. Your architectural photography will be higher quality with more fine detail and creamy smooth tonal transitions. The excuses I normally hear are that not everyone can afford to shoot with a medium format digital back. And that the photo is only going to be seen online. Stitching multiple images together with a panorama head (Nodal Ninja) or simple panoramic nodal point adapter can result in 10K-20K pixel wide images with juicy details. The reduced dimensions of the online version around 1000 pixels will always look better coming from more pixels to begin with. Check out Hugin – Panorama Photo Stitcher for free panorama photo stitching.
Add a Human Touch
Add a person or group of people to your architecture photography. Assuming your viewers are people too they like to see people in photos. Adding people to architectural photos gives dimension, scale, perspective, relationship to the building or environment. Going back to tip number one – why the architecture exists – can also give you purpose for adding people in the photo.
Great architecture photography is the result of beautiful light, composition, and story. Just like all great photography. The technical tools and barriers tend to be higher than other forms of photography, but I hope you find the journey enriching along the way.
Feel free to reach out with questions, or share your own story of architectural photography.