Whether you want to improve your skills or try architecture photography for the first time: we will tell you what is important if you want to photograph architecture.
Architecture is art – that’s what the literal translation of the Latin term “architectura” (= “architecture”) tells us. Buildings are more than just shelters, they are also cultural symbols. Architectural photography therefore goes beyond the mere documentation of buildings. It’s an art form of its own. Here you will get practical tips on the right equipment, the choice of motif, time, light and perspective, so that your photos do justice to the art.
The right camera
A good camera is handy and has an interchangeable lens.
Bild: © TURN ON 2018
The good news first: Buildings are usually immobile. Therefore, your camera does not need as many functions as the sports photography. You are well advised to use a DSLR or a system camera with an interchangeable lens that is not too heavy, so that you can always take it with you when exploring the city. Camera functions such as fast autofocus or a fast continuous shooting function are less important for architectural photography. On the other hand, a self-timer for blur-free recordings is practical.
An advantage of architectural photography: buildings stay still for the photo.
Image: © Pexels/ben neale 2022
A tripod is often recommended for photographing stationary objects such as buildings. This provides stability and ensures that images do not blur. If you want to take pictures in low light, a tripod is essential. It allows you to choose longer exposure times so that the motifs in the photos can be seen clearly.
The right lens
Do you want to capture details or entire buildings? Then there is the choice of lens.
Image: © Pixabay/analogicus 2022
There is no one right lens for architectural photography. Instead, it is advisable to have different lenses available for different purposes. For example:
- Fixed focal length lens: It provides sharp images with little distortion and is best for shooting in the dark.
- Zoom lens: Use this to capture distant buildings or structures, such as on a high-rise building, that would otherwise be unreachable.
- wide angle lens: It is ideal for capturing large areas, structures and buildings, but there is a risk of distortion at the edges.
- Tilt-Shift Lens: Allows you to adjust the angle of the lens independently of the angle of the camera. This prevents optical distortions, parallel lines appear truly parallel.
Historical buildings often offer many interesting details.
Bild: © Pexels/antonio filigno 2022
In a city you probably don’t have to search long for a motif. Start with buildings that catch your attention or that mean something to you personally. Government buildings, museums or historical landmarks are often of architectural interest. Old buildings often have a very special charm and even dilapidated ruins offer exciting motifs. On the other hand, there are modern design houses or futuristic-looking architecture, which also invite you to take photos.
Did you know, …
Sometimes good locations are real strokes of luck.
Image: © Pexels/BERK OZDEMIR 2022
The website can be helpful when looking for a popular photo location Shot Hot Spot be. This site uses the geo information contained in photos from Flickr and Co. to identify popular photo spots.
Look for lines, patterns, structures in your motifs.
Image: © Pexels/iSAW Company
Once you have found a motif, get to know it first. For example, walk around and look at it from different angles. Especially with historical buildings, it can also be worthwhile to deal with the history. You may learn something about a special feature that you want to highlight in your photo. Consider whether you want to capture the building as a whole or specific details. This in turn depends on the choice of lens.
Diagonal lines bring movement to the picture.
Bild: © Pexels / Ivan Cujic 2022
Take the time to play with different perspectives. Search for lines, recurring patterns, exciting contrasts and unusual shapes. Different lines produce different effects: horizontal lines tend to make an image look calmer, vertical lines are associated with size or power, diagonal lines create movement, and curved lines appear more natural than many man-made structures.
Drones allow you to get a bird’s eye view.
Image: © Pexels/C. Caginin 2022
Tipp: When it comes to photographing architecture as a whole, a drone can be helpful. With this you can take on new perspectives.
Different seasons also make architecture look different.
Bild: © Pexels/antonio filigno 2022
The time at which you take the photo is also decisive for the result. Not only the time of day, but also the season. Photos taken in different weather conditions paint a more complete picture of the building and how it relates to its surroundings. If you have the opportunity, visit the building at different times of the day and year, in rain, snow, sunshine and fog, or even over several years. In this way you can perhaps even document the natural decay to some extent.
Play with light and shadow to create a certain atmosphere.
Image: © Pexels/gdtography 2022
Light is essential for photography. In architectural photography, ideally, light should help emphasize a space, structure, or atmosphere. Reflections in windows or long shadows can create tension or draw attention. If you take pictures outside, you are mainly dependent on the weather. Good timeslots for photography are dawn or the time around sunset, the so-called Blue Hour. In the dark you have the opportunity to capture the lighting of buildings. The use of a tripod is then essential.
In the dark you can hardly avoid using a tripod.
Image: © Pexels / Rok Romih 2022
While reflections can be desired in some places, they are annoying in others. If you want to have better control over the possible reflections from water or panes of glass, you should take a polarizing filter with you. This does not let light through in a certain polarization direction and thus prevents reflections.
Even if you primarily want to photograph architecture, don’t be afraid to put people in the picture. Depending on what you want to express with your photo, it can even be an advantage to integrate people. After all, architecture would not exist without people. If you photograph people, you can also show how the building is used. Without people, the same scene might seem a bit sterile.
People and architecture are inextricably linked.
Bild: © Pexels/eric anada 2022
On the other hand, there are also situations in which people in a picture have a distracting effect. If you want to increase the focus on the architecture, you can try shooting with a long exposure time. Then the people blur into an anonymous mass if they move during the recording. Alternatively, they can also be removed by so-called “bracketing”. To do this, you take several pictures of a motif, which are then superimposed in image editing software. Then the people can be retouched comparatively easily.
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