5 Architectural Photography Tips


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What's the Story?
All human-built structures have fascinating backstories, including details about funding, materials, construction challenges and much more.
All human-built structures have fascinating backstories, including details about funding, materials, construction challenges and much more.
Courtesy 40 Nights Photography

All fantastic photography tells a story through imagery, and that applies to architectural photography, too. In order for you, dear visual author, to really share that tale, you need to think about what makes that structure unique.

You might start by doing some research. All major construction projects have a back story, and all of them feature design elements and materials intended to suit a specific purpose. You can often find much of this information with a quick Web search.

With those kinds of details fresh in your mind, you'll likely notice all sorts of new things about a building and then totally revamp your approach. Sure, many people have taken the same wide-angle shots of the adobe church in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. But how many photographers have really thought about the clay that makes up adobe and then taken close-up shots of that fascinating texture?

Figure out what makes a structure special. Ponder how that story makes you feel. And then experiment with ways to express those feelings and thoughts in the pictures you make. The more you think about your subject, and the more time you're willing to invest in creating a one-of-a-kind, memorable picture, the more likely it is that you'll find your way.

Don't wait. The best way to learn architectural photography (or any kind) is to jump right in and make as many mistakes as possible. Those little failures will teach you the lessons you need to succeed in ways that you can't even begin to imagine.

Author's Note

I visited the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York for the first time just before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Standing at the bottom of the towers and peering straight up at their seemingly endless climb had a distinctly nauseating effect -- so I laid on a bench to steady myself and peered up for a few minutes to absorb their majesty.

You can't help but want to try to capture a scene like that with a camera. But architectural photography is deceptively hard. Just as with a portrait or an action shot, you're looking to visualize not just what you see with your eyes but also what you feel in your heart and soul.

Maybe that's just a lot of artistic puffery and noodle-brained nonsense, but I don't think so. Just as our biggest, most elaborate and most gorgeous constructions awe and inspire us, so, too, can the pictures we make of them.

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Sources

  • American Institute of Architects. "Commissioning Architectural Photography." 2008. (March 23, 2012) http://asmp.org/pdfs/AIA_ASMP_BestPractices.pdf
  • Bradley, Darren. "A Guide to Architectural Photography." Real Photographers Forum. November 2011. (March 23, 2012) http://www.realphotographersforum.com/content/521-guide-architectural-photography-part-v-finding-your-viewpoint.html
  • Bray, Simon. "A Brilliant Beginner's Guide to Architectural Photography." Photo.tutsplus.com. Oct. 17, 2011. (March 23, 2012) http://photo.tutsplus.com/articles/news/a-brilliant-beginners-guide-to-architectural-photography/
  • Cambridge in Color. "Tilt Shift Lenses: Perspective Control." (March 23, 2012) http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/tilt-shift-lenses1.htm
  • Evans, Mark. "Tilt Shift Photography Tutorial and Showcase." Smashandpeas.com. 2009. (March 23, 2012) http://www.smashandpeas.com/tilt-shift-photography-tutorial-showcase/
  • Giral, David. "Architecture Photography: A Quick Guide to Shooting Building Exteriors." ProPhotoResource.com. Jan. 26, 2011. (March 23, 2012) http://www.prophotoresource.com/home/item/627-architecture-photography-a-quick-guide-to-shooting-building-exteriors.html
  • Greenspun, Philip. "How to Photograph Architecture (Exterior)." Photo.net. 2007. (March 23, 2012) http://photo.net/learn/architectural/exterior
  • Greenspun, Philip. "How to Photograph Architecture (Interior)." Photo.net. June 1999. (March 23, 2012) http://photo.net/learn/architectural/interior
  • Humphreys, Chris. "Architectural Photography." Digital Photographer. 2011. (March 23, 2012) http://www.chp-architecturalphotography.com/uploads/CHP/pdf/DP%20Issue%20106%20-%20Architecture%20main%20feature.pdf
  • Korkmazov, Murat."What to Know More about Architectural Photography? We Asked an Expert." Hongkiat.com. 2012. (March 23, 2012) http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/architectural-photography-brad-feinknopf/
  • LightStalking.com. "7 Tips for Better Architectural Photography." Dec. 1, 2010. (March 23, 2012) http://www.lightstalking.com/architecture-tips
  • New York Institute of Photography. "How to Photograph Interiors." (March 23, 2012) http://www.nyip.com/ezine/techtips/interiors.html
  • Urban Photography Art. "Architectural Photography Tips." (March 23, 2012) http://www.urban-photography-art.com/photography-tips.html

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