Shoot Architecture

Alpha Tutorial :17 - Shoot Architecture

Nestled behind the idea of a building are leading lines, complementary shapes, contrasting colors, rich textures and plays of light and shadow just waiting to be discovered.

Photographing a building can be about shooting it in its entirety, showing it within its environment to give it context and scale. It can also be about shooting its distinct elements, showing little slices of it within the frame, helping people appreciate details that might otherwise be missed.

Caption by Kazushi Momoi.

Caption by Kazushi Momoi.

Building as Shape, Line & Color

Instead of thinking about shooting a building, think about shooting shape, line and color. Notice the elements that make up the building, and look for patterns and textures to either create contrast (like dark hues against light) or complements (like repeating patterns).

Photo by Katsuhiko Mizuno.

Photo by Katsuhiko Mizuno.

Use a wide-angle lens to exaggerate the lines of a building and create drama. Shoot with a telephoto lens to see how the shapes compress together. Go close and notice the little details that others might miss. It could be an interesting tile on the floor or a single carving on an entire fresco that might be missed by a casual viewer.

You can also shoot from a higher or lower angle, shooting from eye level results in the same images that everyone sees when they enter the building. By climbing onto a higher floor or kneeling down to get a low angle, your photos will give viewers a new perspective of the space.

Visit at Different Times

Visiting at different times of the day will help you see a building bathed in different qualities of light; the noon sun will be harsh but provide high contrasts, while a setting sun will be softer and impart a golden hue. Light and shadow will stretch and fall differently based on the position of the sun, and you’ll be able to see the building in new light – literally.

Visit at Different Times

Include People

Photographs of buildings without people help the viewer to focus on the building’s form, while interiors without people can paradoxically help the viewer to imagine themselves inside them (the main reason why interiors of houses are shot without people is so that the viewer can imagine themselves as owners living inside them). But you don’t always have to exclude people, who can bring a sense of scale, context and life into a photograph.

The Architect’s Original Intent

When broken down into elements of composition, a building becomes nothing more than line, shape and color, yet these constituent building blocks come together to form an idea of space as consciously conceived by the architect. What about this idea can you observe through the lens? Is it an idea of movement, tranquility, richness, sparseness? Breaking the idea down into key words can help you take more expressive pictures as you explore the architect’s vision.

What Should You Use?

Tilt-shift lenses are the perfect complement for architectural photography. One of the problems with shooting buildings is that you often have to use wide-angle lenses to fit the entire building within the frame.

When you use a wide-angle lens however, the building’s lines can distort quite dramatically, with parallel lines looking like they converge instead. It’s great if you want to add flair, but bad if you want to make the image accurate. Tilt-shift lenses, also called perspective control lenses, let you tilt and/or shift the lens so that lines do not distort and remain parallel.

Tilt-shift lenses have also become famous for creating the ‘fake miniatures’ look, because they allow you to create selective planes of focus. While normal lenses let you blur what’s in front or behind your subject, tilt-shift lenses let you selectively blur entire areas of a scene.