In this article we will discuss how to turn architecture that surrounds us every day into photographs that will sell.
Architectural photography is the capturing of buildings and similar structures from both the inside and the outside. Although creativity is an important aspect of the craft, maintaining an accurate representation of the architecture is vital.
This means having a masterful command of technique and using top-notch equipment.
Chances are, you pass hundreds of buildings and smaller architectural details while walking from one city street to another. You might pass marble-arched churches, government buildings with Doric columns, vinyl homes, and simple brick coffee shops.
All of these are viable subjects for architectural photographers, whether for real estate or historic societies. Read on to learn more about technique and how to get paid for your work!
1. Start Small
Architectural photography can be a tough profession to jump into. You will most likely work for real estate companies, realtors, architects, or interior designers who already “have a guy” they turn to for pictures of their work.
So, start small and work your way up the ladder until you become a name that everybody associates with the service you provide.
Ask a friend in real estate if you can take pictures for them. Build a portfolio packed with a variety of exterior shots in addition to interior shots that an interior designer might want.
Nail these shots and your name will be thrown around until you find your work in magazines all over the place!
2. Know Your Equipment
Traditionally, commercial photographers use view cameras for their work. This older style of camera allows the lens to be tilted relative to the plane, which allows for perspective control.
- DSLR cameras can also be used with tilt-shift lenses that can perform the same feat, such as the Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 Tilt Shift Lens lens found here on Amazon.
- Lighting equipment is ineffective for outdoor shots—you should rely on natural light for building shots.
- For inside shots and interior design shoots, though, you might want to bring some lighting equipment.
- Use a softbox for more natural and diffused lighting. Check out this link for a list of the best-selling softboxes on Amazon.
3. Focus on Deep Focus
Depth of field is the area within a photograph that appears sharp. Aperture is the function of your camera that affects the depth of field. Especially for external building shots you want a deep focus, meaning that everything is focused from the building to the sky.
The rule of thumb with aperture goes as follows: a smaller f-stop means a larger aperture, while a larger f-stop leads to a smaller aperture.
4. Old Architecture vs. Modern Architecture
Different times call for different styles! With old architecture, you typically want to showcase the unique nuances that are rarely found in newer buildings.
In order to achieve this, compose the shot simply and with a simple background. Include surrounding scenery for some context and to contrast from the manmade structure.
Modern architecture gives you room to use a more abstract style. Newer urban structures are often composed of simple, repeated patterns that allow for extreme perspective and unusual angles. Experiment with wide angle lenses to explore these effects.
5. Context, Context, Context
Many photographers struggle with whether or not to include the context of a building in a shot. If the surrounding context adds to the story that you are trying to tell, let it stay.
If the viewer would find themselves confused by the context, focus on the building itself.
For example, if your subject was an old building surrounded by a modern city, you might want to include some of the newer buildings in order to emphasize the antique feel of the main building.
At the same time, you might want to focus on the beautiful nuances of the old building and exclude the surrounding area. You should ask this question for each shoot and consider it from every angle.
6. Don’t Let Flat Walls Stay Flat!
Photographers often don’t know how to approach the lighting of exterior architecture. The biggest rule is to avoid backlighting, which has a reputation for creating uniform, dark surfaces.
Sidelighting is a powerful way to add textural contrast and shadows to the walls. Architectural structures such as windows and columns will cast shadows that add drama and contrast. Try to shoot right before sundown when you can catch that beautiful orange glow!
7. Zoom in from Afar
By default, there will be more distortion the closer you are to a building. In order to offset this effect and create a realistic representation of your subject, use a telephoto lens and take the photo from a distance.
By focusing on a smaller portion of the building from afar, you can maintain perpendicular lines while offering a unique perspective that the viewer may never have considered before.
Growing Your Architectural Photography Business!
Now that you have a basic grasp of how to take quality architectural photographs you can contact architects in your area and beyond. Show them your portfolio of photography and stay in touch with them. Eventually they will need a photographer because their ‘guy’ or ‘gal’ moved, quit, or is missing in action.
If you have a few bucks to spend I recommend buying a mailing list and sending architects a postcard once every one to three months to keep them aware of your talents. Once you get one or two architects sending you on architectural photography shoots you’ll be able to leverage off of that experience and grow from there.