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Architecture is all around us, it is an integral part of our lives. We live in it, we work in it, we eat out in it, and in most towns a lot of money has been spent on it so they stand out to say something. We all know what those buildings are, and have maybe even taken photos of them, but they are often just snaps. There is nothing wrong with getting those, but it could be nice to try and get a lot more with the image, such as the essence of the building, what it says about its placement and where it stands.
So here are some tips for how to photography architecture to help you get started:
Architectural photography is not a prominent genre, yet so many people take photos of buildings, so why is it a subject that is not discussed a lot? Think about how often there is a building in your images.
Most people, if you ask them what architectural photography is, are likely to say real estate. It is probably the most common type and you do see it everywhere, but there are many other ways of taking photos of structures.
With the rise of URBEX (Urban Exploring) architecture is being photographed in a new way. Photographers are getting into abandoned structures to take photos. The decay and destruction that happens to a building after it has been abandoned, gives a new story to it. This is even more true with the items that are left inside the buildings, and these items help to give us a hint as to what was there before.
Long exposure photography is also very popular now. Neutral density filters (ND Filters) are used to give subjects a timeless feel, and using them on architecture has been as common, pointing the camera straight up to a building and photographing it as the clouds move behind it. Read: Using a 10 Stop Neutral Density Filter to add Drama to the Sky
Those are the most common sorts of architectural photography, but you can do other types as well. You can make the building the subject, and create your image around it. You can do fine art images using the buildings, and create moods or stories around them.
As stated earlier, architecture is all around, and you don’t have to go far to find buildings to photograph. It isn’t necessary that the building be architecturally important, more that you find it interesting, as that will help you to engage with it. It can be about what the building is or was, and how much it meant to the area it is in.
Most people seem to photograph buildings more as a record rather than as a work of art. Architecture can offer so much more, and you can get some amazing portrait style images.
There is the potential to tell stories. Whether that story is about what the building was used for, or what its function is now, you can use that to help take your images and process it afterwards. Maybe there is a certain part of it that you are very attracted to.
You don’t have to photograph the whole building. Think about parts of it that might make interesting images. It is so easy to forget that the light fittings are really interesting, or the doors might have wonderful carvings. If you find a building you like, tell the whole story of it and then select the parts that you like – photograph details. You can take more than one image.
I really like corridors, more so if no one is in them, the idea of it going somewhere, or nowhere. It’s interesting to see what mood you can create with the hallway. Use the image to create a story that is there, or not.
There can be more to what you see than just the building. Look at where the building is situated, and if other buildings or subjects around it can help place it. For example, a modern tower that is surrounded by buildings from the Victorian Era, or the other way around, provide an interesting context. An elaborate theatre that is in the midst of many shops that have closed down. They all help to provide a sense of place.
It is easy to think that everything should be in black and white. It is the artsy way of thinking, but it really shouldn’t be the only way. It should be a personal choice and what you want with your image.
Maybe ask yourself some questions first. Does removing the colour add to the drama of the image? If you leave the colour in it will it distract from the story you are trying to tell? What time frame do you want to express? Is shape and form more important than what is there? If the answers to those questions are yes, then perhaps black and white is more suitable for that image.
You get the idea, don’t just do black and white because you think that is what is expected for architecture. Make it a conscious choice, for a reason.
When it comes to how you process your images, it’s going to depend on the intention you have for the image. If it is to show the structure as it is, then you need to make sure that you only do basic processing.
If you were commissioned to photograph a building, then you need to consider the goal, and how your client wants the final image. Do they want it to look like images that you already do, or perhaps with a different look? Remember your client is in charge of the final image and you need to be mindful of what they want.
On the other hand, if you have just taken the photo for yourself, then you don’t need to care about what other people want or like. You can process it anyway you like.
This is where you get to show your individual style and experiment with your processing. Work out what you like, what you don’t, and create images of architecture that are uniquely yours. In many ways you have a lot more freedom to do what you like to it than other types of photography, like nature for instance.
With so many different types architecture, it is up to you to find what you like doing. Develop your style and make it yours. There is nothing better than people recognizing your work before they see your name.
Do you have any other ideas or tips for photographing architecture? Please share your thoughts and images in the comments below.