Introduction To Architectural Photography

Some photographic disciplines seem to be more resistant than others. Some because of laziness, others because of teamwork, others because of ignorance and others because we have the feeling that we are “big”. I have the impression that one of them is architecture. Of course, I speak from my point of view and from my experience, because that’s how I feel.

However, experience also tells me that with desire and some advice everything can be undertaken, so I dedicate this article to architectural photography, in case you are in a similar situation, that you take off your fear and throw yourself into architectural photography, that which tempts you so much.

What is architecture photography?

First of all, it’s better to define concepts, so that they’re clear and we know what we’re talking about. Architectural photography captures the elements and spaces created by man. It includes the exterior of the buildings as well as the interior or the details that make this work unique.

Outputs of architectural photography

Photography can be done for the love of art or as a means of earning a living. If what you have in mind goes further with the first, you can jump to the next paragraph. On the other hand, if you are looking for new job opportunities in photography, you are reinventing yourself, or you need to expand your business, you may be interested in possible outlets for this type of photography:

  • Document a project built for the architect’s own archive or the architectural studio that designed it.
  • Publications in books, web or magazines, architecture, decoration, etc.
  • Advertising for construction companies, hotels, restaurants, real estate agencies
  • Dynamisation of tourism

Material

One of the first questions that will come to mind is, “What do I need?” Although you don’t need a great team as in other photographic disciplines, I have to tell you that you should have some considerations and that certain material, if not essential, will be of great help to you.

You also have to take into account what the purpose of photography is, if it is at an artistic level, if it is for practice and enjoyment or if it is for a publication or a sale. Well, in the latter case, customers’ expectations may even be higher than yours.

Tripod

Architectural photography can be done without it. Although I recommend that you include it (one with a ball joint) in the ideal equipment for interior photographs and for those cases in which the light conditions are poorer, for example, a sunset, blue hour, and so on. It can also help you to capture the movement around.

Objective

Maybe it’s this part of the team where you get the most attention. To photograph a building, mainly because of its dimensions, you will have to use wide-angle optics, but watch out, which are not very extreme because it is important to avoid distortions.

Ideally, you should use a decentralized lens, although because of its price, it is something to consider when you are serious. To try, practice, enjoy, etc., in principle it is not necessary. The important thing is that you avoid distortions by keeping your camera straight and parallel to the focal plane.

You can also try other more standard lenses to capture details, textures, etc., or telephoto lenses, when you want to achieve some compression effect between the work and the environment. Well, with these objectives you lose a lot of depth and the different planes seem to be together.

Bubble level

It’s a very cheap thing, but it can help you keep the lines from falling out. Use a spirit level to make sure the camera is completely straight in the different planes.

Indoor Outdoor Flash

Although in exteriors it does not serve you for anything, in interiors, well used, it can take you out of more than one trouble. You will not always have large windows in broad daylight.

Polarizing filter

Another accessory that will come to you as a finger ring on certain occasions is a polarizing filter. And what are those occasions? For example, when it comes to avoiding reflections on glass, when you want to contrast clouds or when it comes to saturating the skies surrounding your main building. If you want to know a little more about filters, you can go deeper here.

Remote Trigger

When making long exposures a remote trigger will avoid trepidations by the shot (otherwise you can pull the timer of your camera, but it is somewhat uncomfortable to shoot many times).

Processing

While it is ideal to use a decentralized lens so that lines do not fall, it is not always possible. Nor is it possible to avoid these crooked lines if you can’t change your point of view, because no matter how much you put your camera at the right angle, part of the building you want to include is still left out. That’s why you have the option of correcting lines with an editing program, but avoid it whenever you can because it will never be the same, the photo will be cropped, you will have to fill in information, and so on.

On the other hand, not only the lines require processing, lighting, which is a key factor will also require certain adjustments. Especially if there are different ambient lights with different temperatures. A good adjustment of the white balance will be essential. For a better result, shoot in RAW.

Finally, when you edit an architectural photograph, try to make it as close as possible to reality, too artificial photographs lose interest.

The soul of the building

Find out about the building, what its history is, what the architect’s intentions were, if you can contact him or her to tell you about the essence of his work. No matter how static and supposedly inanimate an element is, it has a soul. It has been created by a person who has put dreams, illusions, desires, effort and a lot of pampering in it. If you manage to capture even a tiny part of its essence, you will have a great journey won.

What do you want to tell

In line with the above, once you know the personality of the building, think about what you want to tell about it. Based on this, you can take one type of photograph or another. You can use one type of light or another, include movement around or people to show their scale. What you want to tell is decided by you according to the work and your interests (or the client’s), but whatever it is, try to have it more or less clear before standing in front of the building or architectural work.

Environment

Ortega y Gasset’s phrase “I am I and my circumstances” comes to mind, because we could say that something like this happens to a building, in this case it is it and its surroundings. An architectural work is not usually isolated, it coexists with other buildings, with other architectural or natural spaces. This coexistence is sometimes casual, other is managed in a very incompetent way (especially in certain past decades where many architectural “crimes” were carried out in this country (Spain)).

Although that is another issue. And other times, this relationship is studied, cared for and pampered. Stop to think about it, observe, if you can find out when you investigate about the work itself and take it into account when making your photographs. But never forget your surroundings.

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Interior

If you think that only the outside of a building or an architectural work matters, it will be good for you to know that this is not the case. On the contrary, an architectural professional pampers both the interior and the exterior, how and where light, spaces, orientations, details, etc. affect. Remember that when shooting you will have to use the tripod and if there is ambient or artificial light, watch the white balance.