A great subject for photography is Architecture. Whether you’re a commercial photographer, or you enjoy photographing interesting buildings for fun, this is a great area of photography to explore. In this article, you’ll learn about some of the essential equipment you’ll need. Through using this equipment, you’ll be able to get great results each time you photograph. So read on and find out what architecture photography equipment should be in your camera bag.
The tripod is a great piece of gear to have, and that’s certainly true for architecture photography. If you’re photographing indoors, or as it’s getting dark, it’s essential you have this. Even when the light is good, using a tripod will improve your results. The following are the main reason you’ll want to bring a tripod with you.
- Interior photography – The lower light levels for interior photography mean using a tripod is necessary. You’ll need to use slower shutter speeds while keeping the aperture at around f/8.
- Manual focus – The best way to gain the sharpest focus is to use live view, and then manual focus. This is easiest to achieve with the camera on a tripod.
- Bracketing – There are many occasions you’ll need to take bracketed photos to balance the light across the scene. When photographing towards the light, or if there is a bright light source such as a window, you’ll need a range of exposure to use in post-processing to balance the scene. In this case, you will need a tripod.
- Blue hour – A great time for exterior architecture photography is Blue Hour. During this time you’ll need to take long exposure photos from a tripod.
Bracket and clamp
An alternative piece of architecture photography equipment is the bracket and clamp. This can be used as an alternative to the tripod, and you can use it to secure the camera to a structure such as a metal railing. There are locations where a tripod won’t be allowed, and in some cases having a bracket and clamp instead, will allow you to secure the tripod for your needs.
2. Wide-angle lens
The next most widely used piece of architecture photography equipment is the wide-angle lens. This will almost certainly be needed for interior work and is often needed for exterior work as well. Those photos taken in a room, where you need to capture the entire room, will need a wide-angle lens of at least 17mm on a full-frame camera. A lot of architecture is often large in scale, so a wide-angle lens is needed to capture the full size of the architecture you’re photographing. The exception comes when you are some distance from the subject you’re photographing, in this case, a longer focal length would then be required.
Which wide angle lens?
Here is a selection of some of the best wide-angle lenses you can use. Depending on the system you have, you may go for a different lens from this list.
- Canon 17-40mm f/4L – A great lens at a budget-friendly price. This lens is wide enough for most situations.
- Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art – Great quality lens, made to fit numerous camera manufacturers. Great focal length – and if you need it – a large aperture.
- Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED – An excellent lens for those using Nikon cameras. Once again, very wide at 14mm.
3. Bubble level
Getting a bubble level is a good idea to ensure your camera is completely lined up. You’ll find that with a wide-angle lens the distortions they produce can make it difficult to see if the camera is truly level. Using a bubble level, which can easily attach to the hot shoe, you’ll have a quick and easy visual reference. In some cases, you may have a bubble level built into your tripod head. This is a great alternative to a separate bubble level.
Strobes are excellent at close quarters, but perhaps not for outdoor use with a larger structure.
You’ll get the best use out of these when you’re doing interior photography.
They’ll come in handy when you have a bright window, and a dark room. You can now use the strobes to light up the room, by bouncing light off the ceilings or walls. This will balance the light across the photo, and can either supplement or replace the need to bracket your photos.
Take care when bouncing the light off a surface that isn’t white, as the light from the flash could potentially color cast the room, in the color the strobe has bounced off.
5. Tilt-shift lens
You’ll be photographing your architecture at a wide angle, and it’s likely you’ll be aiming up from street level. This causes problems for architecture photography due to lens barrel distortion. The result is you’ll have buildings that bow inwards towards the center of your image. This is a problem that can be solved using a tilt-shift lens. It’s also possible to correct this distortion in post-processing, so the tilt-shift lens is not strictly needed. It’s best to get your photo as correct as possible in camera though, so using a tilt-shift lens is best.
6. Cable release
You’ll want to get the sharpest results possible for architecture photography. You will take the majority of your photos from a tripod to achieve increased sharpness.
However, when you press the shutter, you’ll move the camera a little. To avoid this, you’ll need a cable release cord or a remote control shutter release. Using these tools ensures your camera will be completely steady when you expose.
Those using DSLR cameras should remember to lock up their mirrors ahead of exposure. If you were using live view to compose and focus your photo, then the mirror will already be locked up.
Post-processing is an important part of architecture photography. Post-processing software might not be physical gear, but it’s easily as important. To get successful architecture photos you’ll need to learn how to sharpen your image in the right area, and how to apply noise reduction software. One of the most useful post-processing techniques you can learn is digital blending, this is essentially manual HDR photography. A correctly blended image will have a lot more impact with certain areas of the photo made brighter and distracting highlights such as window light reduced in brightness. So which software is worth having?
- Photoshop – The Goliath of the post-processing world, a package widely used by the best photographers and with good reason. You’ll need this for digital blending, and through Adobe Camera Raw you’ll be able to do some sharpening and noise reduction work.
- Nik collection – A really great set of programs that can be used to polish your photo in post-processing. A combination of Nik color EFEX, Dfine, and Pro sharpener can lead to great results.
- Raya pro – You’ll need Photoshop to use this, but this excellent tool will make digital blending much easier, and there are guides that go with this program to help improve your work.
A good set of filters are great pieces of architecture photography equipment. It could be argued the need for filters is diminished due to the advance of post-processing. Those that are best at post-processing will tell you to use filters though because it makes life a lot easier once you get the photos onto your computer. The two main filters worth having in your bag are a circular polarizing filter, and a graduated neutral density filter.
- Circular polarizing filter – This is great for adding vibrancy to your scene, especially useful for outdoor architecture photography. This can be used to enhance or reduce the amount of reflection in your photo.
- Graduated neutral density filter – Used to balance the light across the scene, these are primarily used by landscape photographers. In architecture photography, you can use the dark portion of this filter to balance the light across the scene. A window will often be too bright in your photo, so you can position this filter on your lens, to reduce the brightness in a portion of your photo.
Which architecture photography equipment do you use?
There is a wealth of good camera equipment available for you to use. Which pieces of architecture photography equipment do you find best? Do you have experience of using some of the items in this list? What other items are in your photography bag, and why would you recommend them?
At digital photography school we’d love to see your images of architecture photography, so please share them in the comments section.
Table of contents
- 8 Pieces of Architecture Photography Equipment You Need
- ADVANCED GUIDES
- CREATIVE TECHNIQUES