Architectural Photography – 5 Quick Tips
Enjoy taking photos of buildings? Or it's official name "architectural photography"?
If, like Jason Mann, you can’t walk down the street without noticing the intricacies of every structure – then these 5 quick architectural photography tips are just for you.
All architecture is built for a purpose which often reflects ideas of a specific era – it shows us a window into past traditions and techniques, present trends and a glimpse into the future.
A successful photograph is as much about exploring this narrative as it is about taking a ‘technically perfect’ photograph.
So you have a building in mind that you really want to photograph.
You glimpsed it one morning on the way to work (looking majestic I might add) and have been eyeing it up ever since. The first things to consider are what time of day does this building look its best, which direction does it face and do you want to show it in use?
As a general rule don’t photograph a building on a dull day or when it is in shadow it just won’t do it justice.
Directional light (i.e. the sun) is amazing at bringing out detail and making colours pop. I like to shoot at either end of the day when the sun is about mid height in the sky (between 10 and 30 degrees or so) at an angle to the building I am shooting.
Get into the habit of just being aware of what is around you and how light interacts with different buildings throughout the day.
You really don’t need to be too pedantic about it, but if, you are like me, you are a bit of a perfectionist then I highly recommend the Photopills app for planning shoots.
A lot of people think you need the latest and greatest DSLR to take amazing photos. That is just not true.
While it helps, spending thousands of dollars on a kit is just overkill for 90% of people.
So many options, what do you buy? The key things to look for in a camera for architectural photography are:
Wide Angle Lens
I shoot most of my work on a 24mm lens. I recommend that you use a lens that gets you at least close to this. Your typical high end point and shoot will usually get you to 28mm which will be fine for most situations. If you have a DSLR there are plenty of wide angle zoom options.
The automatic settings are not going to cope with architectural photography – especially when you are shooting at dawn/dusk. Look at getting acamera that has full manual or semi manual (aperture priority) controls. If you are not sure what I mean by the above please take a look at some of the Canon tutorials
I wouldn't focus on the megapixels of a camera too much. It does not define a good camera and as a measurement is very misleading.
Any mid-range camera with 12+ Megapixels is easily good enough for printing large prints. Almost any modern camera purchased in the last few years that you have spent $500+ on will meet the above criteria.
An example of this is the Canon SX60HS . It is a good all-rounder and its specs definitely satisfy the requirements of architectural photography.
My current point and shoot camera of choice is the Canon G5X.
4: Use a tripod
Dial down the ISO, increase the aperture and get some firm legs underneath your camera.
As architecture is stationary, the main camera setting you will tweak is the shutter speed.
The ISO should be low (100400)and the FStop high (around F8 for a point and shoot camera, F14 for a DSLRs). During twilight hours this may result in exposures up to 5 seconds or more so a tripod is a must.
Be sure to get a cable release or use the shutter delay function to ensure that you do not bump the camera when taking the shot.
5: Straight Lines
Straight lines in architectural photography is a rule that is hardly ever broken. The vertical lines of a building should be vertical.
When you are taking the photo you will no doubt be looking up at the building which will make it look like a bit of a triangle. The more distance you can create between yourself and the subject the less you will be looking up at it and the more accurate the photo will be: cross the street, ascend the neighbouring carparking building or shoot it with a longer lens from a distance (i.e. a nearby hill).
Even with all those steps you may still need to make some corrections when you edit the photos. If you are using Adobe Lightroom they have an automatic feature for this. In Adobe Photoshop it is slightly more complicated but still fairly straightforward. You can even do this on Instagram.
ABOUT JASON MANN
Jason Mann is an award winning photographer specialising in Architectural Photography.
He regularly has work featured in architectural publications such as Architecture New Zealand, Interiors Magazine and Landscape Architecture NZ