Structurally Sound: Tips for Great Architectural Photography
March 23, 2015
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From real estate to corporate renovations, architectural photography is a booming practice. Before diving in headfirst, however, it's important to consider some basic tips that can make your work really stand out from the crowd.
Beautiful on the Outside
When photographing the exterior of a building, you want to highlight the overall shape and design, as well as its aesthetic details. Start by walking around the structure and observing how the building looks from different angles. Once you've gotten an idea of the position at which you'd like to capture it, you're ready to get to work.
From a composition standpoint, it's always best shoot at an angle rather than straight on and to avoid cutting off any corners of the building in your final photograph. Certain circumstances, such as proximity to other buildings and the lenses available to you, may prevent this. If you must omit part of the building, only crop it insofar as you can still see the edge of the building at the far end of your image, not the foreground. This helps to preserve a sense of its true scale and size.
Not Too Wide, Not Enough Light
Although you may be tempted to shoot with very wide-angle lenses to get as much of the building in the frame as possible, it's important to remember that many wide-angle lenses create distortion in the resulting images, with the edges of the building appearing curved or otherwise unnatural. Some of this can be corrected in post-processing, but it's best to avoid it if you can.
There may also be a situation wherein you don't have much control over the lighting; the sun will be your light source, and you're not going to be able to use strobes or reflectors to fill in hidden detail. You may find achieving ideal lighting at every corner of the building requires you to go back at different times of the day to get the exposure you want.
Interpreting the Inside
When photographing a space inside the building, you'll want to capture not only the architecture and design, but the overall tone of the space, as well. Whether it's intended to be an open, airy atrium in a commercial building or a warm, cozy living room in a residential house, express that theme in your photos. One of the best ways to do this is to work with the light already in the space rather than fight against it. If the room has warm tones in it's lighting, gel your strobes to match the ambient light to preserve that effect. If the room has softer, mellow lighting, don't inject another type into it that makes it look like the surface of the sun. Complement it with just enough extra light to fill in the shadows.
Whether you're tackling architectural photography inside or out, it's important to know how to show off all the hard work the original designers put in. Of course, don't let your hard work go to waste either by using improper composition or lighting.
Photo credit: Flickr