When you’re photographing architecture, it’s easy to get lost in the grandeur of some buildings. That’s not a bad thing. That’s how they were designed, to be a spectacle. Cathedrals, palaces, opera houses, and state buildings are all examples of architecture that’s meant to impress.
That’s the bigger picture. In terms of photography, however, it can be better to pull away from the grand, and look for opportunities in the details. All buildings and structures are sums of smaller parts, and it’s these parts that can often lead to visually interesting photos. Photographing these details comes with its own set of considerations. This article will point out a few things to look out for while you are out and about looking for the smaller picture, and 8 tip on how to improve your photos of architectural details.
#1 – Low contrast lighting
If the weather is poor and the sky is a drab, colorless grey, it may seem like a less than worthwhile opportunity for photography. That may be the case for some subjects, however, overcast days provide incredibly soft light that is quite suited for architectural details. This softness allows you to capture subjects with a lot of fine detail, that would normally be lost in the contrast.
Likewise, keep an eye out for photo opportunities in areas of shade. You may need a tripod to take advantage here, but the extra effort is worth it.
#2 – Side lighting
For bold images, look for scenes with strong light coming from the side. This type of lighting will increase contrast, especially in texture, and it will help to emphasize the shape of your subject.
#3 – Patterns in light and shadow
Pay close attention to how light falls on various subjects. When you’re photographing details, shadows and highlights can, themselves, become an important compositional element.
#4 – Patterns
To me, the best part of photographing architectural details is the wealth of compositional possibilities. Man-made structures are full of patterns and shapes that can be exploited for photos. Take advantage of them by filling the frame for an abstract feel.
#5 – Reflections
For all of the wonderful architecture in the world, there’s at least as many drab and ugly buildings that appear to have little to offer photographers. They often do have something worth captuing, but it takes work to figure it out. One way to add interest to these subjects is to look for reflections. Reflections can add visual interest and color, to an otherwise lifeless and boring subject.
#6 – Fixtures
It’s not always about the buildings, and only the buildings. Fixtures can often be overlooked, yet they can prove to be as compelling a subject as the architecture. When you’re considering a location, do look out for interesting fixtures like signs, light fittings, and security cameras.
#7 – Statuary and monuments
When you think of architecture, statues are probably the last thing on your mind. However, they are a key element to a lot of buildings and monuments. For example, the Charles Bridge in Prague has 30 large, and very detailed, statues that beg to be photographed.
#8 – Black and white
This last tip is for when you’re back at home. If your images are full of texture or strong patterns, consider a black and conversion. Stripping the color element out of those images will help to emphasize your compositional elements, and can lead to much stronger photos.
These tips are hardly exhaustive, and only scratch the surface of the possibilities available to you when photographing architectural details. If there’s something man-made, there’s a photograph to be had somewhere. Just keep going until you find it.
Do you have a tip of your own? Please share it below!