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5 Inspirational Pictures of Buildings and How to Take Your Own Architecture Photos

April 4, 2016 - Uncategorized

Buildings are full of interest, whether architecture is your thing or
not. We’ve all looked up and admired a grand building or seen an old,
abandoned train station and just thought… cool!

Architectural photography can be a
joy to do. While there are distinct differences between doing this
professionally and doing it for fun, but all kinds of architectural photography requires a certain sensitivity. In this tutorial, we’ll look at five examples of inspiring architectural photography that demonstrate a special appreciation for buildings, and you’ll learn how to take your own expressive architectural photographs.

What You Need

A Wide Lens

Obviously you can photograph buildings with any lens, but a wide lens has
certain benefits for architectural photography, such as:

  • You can get more in your field of view
  • Some unusual and interesting perspectives are possible
  • You can shoot closer to your subject, meaning you can avoid people more

My wide angle lens (a Sigma 12-24mm) was my best ever purchase. I love the
unusual angles and perspectives it allows me to capture. Remember, if
you’re using a crop sensor camera (like an APS or micro 4/3 model), you need to take the crop factor into account when calculating the field of view of a lens. In other words, cameras with smaller sensors need lenses with a shorter focal length, like 12mm or 15mm, to get a truly wide angle of view.

If you can’t go wide then try taking several shots and stitching them together into a panorama
in dedicated software instead. Remember to get enough shots above, below and to either
side of your building to prevent your shot from looking too tightly cropped.


The Right Light

The right light is obviously
important in any type of photography, but it’s especially important for photographing buildings. Consider the time of day you go out
to shoot: your building may be highly reflective and turn into a blinding ball
of light when the sun shines directly on it; it may look wonderfully sinister
when it casts shadows or is backlit.

Ideally, if you can, visit your
chosen spot at different times of the day. I know that’s not always possible,
so there are a variety of apps such as SunCalc which help you
work out where the sun will be in the sky at a given time of day when you put
in your location.

If light is really against you and
it’s causing your histogram to resemble a big U, then try bracketing shots at
different exposure values (say +1, 0 and -1) and then combine them later to
balance your exposure.


Do Your Research

What does the history of a building have to do with taking a picture of
it? You may be surprised at how learning a little bit about the subject you
intend to photograph can inspire the way
you choose to photograph it. Research could make you aware of details you’d
otherwise have missed.

It may even alert you to its upcoming demolition! Old buildings are
often demolished when the cost of refurbishing or upkeep is too much; having a
document of that building’s place in history can be a valuable asset to the community
in future.


  • Archival
    Photo Restoration
    : Restoration
    is more than repairing a damaged image; learn how to document and manage
    an archive with this course.

Beyond the Square: Inspiration

Look Up, Look Way Up!

look up
Photograph licensed from Photodune

I love
the lines in this picture. Each building is reflective, and so we
get the strong lines of each building reflected back in the other! The glass, which looks uniform but actually isn’t completely, causes a pleasing ripple each reflection. The limited
colour pallet is pleasing too: nothing but blues and white. This makes
an energetic but relaxing image, despite the hard angles and points. 

Looking up can get
you a completely different perspective on a building or buildings and where
talk structures are concerned, you could even end up with a nice gradient from
sunny skies down to shadowed building.

Don’t Forget the Details

Photograph licensed from Photodune

This is a great
example of capturing overlooked details. How often do we take the time to look
down at the ground? The repetition of contrasting horizontal and vertical lines works well
here. We’re pulled (somewhat frustratingly, though not in a bad way) to the edge of the photograph, which causes the eye to move around the whole frame.

Imagine this in
a montage with some images of the full building as well as more up-close
details. It would give us a much better and broader picture than just the
building on its own.

Dare to be Different

underground and big ben
Photograph licensed from Photodune

When it comes to getting a unique shot of something which is
photographed thousands of times daily, it can be hard. I love this image of iconic Big
Ben because even though the architecture is taking a back seat, the foreground
Underground sign really gives this interest. If it was just another picture of
Big Ben at this angle, I probably wouldn’t glance at it twice. 

The solid block
of blue helps here too; when you’ve got a lot going on in an image then a busy
sky can be distracting; consider editing out distractions like birds or cloud
whisps unless they add in some way to your image.

Embrace and Incorporate Motion

Photograph licensed from Photodune

As well as this image having lovely height because of the escalators, it’s
got great movement too. The photographer used a longer shutter speed to blur the motion of the people in the frame. This stops the people
becoming a distracting and ‘cluttering’ the picture. Instead, what we have is a
nice architectural shot which is clean and fast paced. Do this for long enough
and it’s possible to rid yourself of the people all together, which can be handy in a
busy spot.

Meditating On (and In) Overwhelming Spaces

Reichstag, Berlin. Photograph by Marie Gardiner

This is a shot I
took in Berlin’s Reichstag building a couple of years ago. Although I’m not
vain enough to say this is an inspirational shot, the building itself is
inspirational. As such, it was actually really hard for me to get a pleasing
shot of it. How high should I climb; should I put the central column to one
side or in the middle? There were so many lines and shapes going on, as well as
a ton of people, it was really a touch choice.

Rather than taking
lots of pictures at various stages (I was losing the light), I opted to
consider each possibility with my eye first and then dismiss it and move on, or
take the picture. Sometimes you need to make decisions and becoming more discerning
about when you take a photograph is certainly a skill to develop.


Black and White, or Colour?

This is mostly
something you can think about in post-production rather than while you’re
shooting (assuming you’re shooting digitally), but deciding on black and white
or colour can often make the difference between a successful shot, or not.

Black and white is
often very dramatic, particularly with high contrast. Buildings and their
strong presence lend themselves well to these bold images. Consider though,
whether using black and white might take away from the ‘intention’ of the
building. Is the colour used within the structure of the
building may be part of the architect’s design and vision? It’s not something
you’d be obliged to consider, but harking back to my point about research, it
might change the way you or somebody else, interprets your image.


Lines, Movement, Symmetry, and Sensual Images

These are things that architecture is
rich in, so look for ways to draw your viewer’s eye. From the ground it seems
obvious to look up but see if it’s possible to get in or on the building
(safely and legally of course) and look down.

Symmetry is a very common architectural
tool. As well as adding interest, it probably does a lot to help the building
stay upright! If your aim is to capture symmetry then remember it needs to look
like a reflection; if you’re off-centre then it won’t look quite right and will
lose its impact. It may help you to have the grid displayed on your camera so
you can line things up properly.

Also, don’t be afraid to experimenting with breaking symmetry. Moving away from the expected composition can add drama, interest, and energy to your frame. Non-standard compositions take time, they’re usually not the first thing that comes to mind. Spend some time with your building just looking. What can you see if you consider the object in front of you not as a building, but as a collection of shapes and volumes?

Look up your subject online and see
what the most taken shots are, then try to do something different. It sounds
like a cliché to say ‘think outside of the box’ but showing people the same
angle that’s been done to death online won’t make them gaze in wonder at your
picture; try to find something new or different.


Top Tips to Getting Great Photos of Buildings

  1. Choose
    your time of day wisely and make the most of the available light to nail
    your desired look. Use apps like SunCalc to help you pick the best
    times. After dark can work really well if a building is lit up, so don’t
    discount the night.
  2. Research
    your subject. You may find out something that changes the entire way you
    go about shooting it. Or you may find out it’s about to be demolished and
    alter your schedule!
  3. Think
    unique. With well photographed buildings, people can become fatigued
    seeing the same images. Try a new perspective.
  4. If
    there are people in the way of your shot, try a long shutter speed with
    the use of a tripod, to blur the people away.
  5. Avoid
    a wide aperture to keep everything nice and sharp

Further Resources

Final Thoughts

Photographing these can be very satisfying but it’s important to
remember to stay safe, don’t do anything illegal and also bear in mind that
photographing some buildings may give security cause for concern. If in doubt,
alert them to your presence and just let them know what you’re doing; it could
save confusion and time in the long run, particularly if they think you’re up
to no good and call the police.

Capture details as well as grand, sweeping shots. These finer details
are the things that many may have failed to grab and could be what makes your
shot stand out from the crowd. If they don’t look much on their own you can try
creating a photo montage to show off the building as a whole and then those
finer touches.

We’d love to see your architecture photographs in the comments below and
if you have any questions, we’re here to help.

Source: Photoshop | Tuts

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