Travel Photography Subjects: Architecture

Travel Photography Subjects: Architecture


Rounding the corner and heading to the finish of this 21 post series, today’s Travel Photography Subject is Architecture. Photographing architecture is more than just taking pictures of every building you during your travels. A bit of background: I am not an architecture expert and I don’t pretend to be. And this post will not be a lesson in architecture because I honestly can’t tell Baroque from Romantic. But I do notice patterns.

Being a novice in the field of architecture, when I travel I look for patterns. Patterns in architecture are easier to spot in homogenous areas, where towns were built up in a given period and thus given to that period’s forms. I think here of the cliff-side towns in Greece, the classic whitewash buildings standing out over the Mediterranean. A whole town of the same flavor? Easy to capture.

The challenge comes when trying to get a grip on an area with varied architecture. This happens often in towns more than a couple of hundred years old. As the previous Travel Photography Subject of Modern vs. Traditional pointed out, this mix within a city can be very photogenic. But that old building standing there amongst the modern skyscrapers, is it an anomoly, or are there others like it? And the skyscrapers themselves, sure there are the standard, block style concrete and glass structures famously built in the 70s and 80s. What about more modern designs that escape the dull four sided look?

It is certainly a good idea to learn a bit about the architecture of the location you will be visiting during a trip. With a quick search, I found this resource a handy tool to look up and learn the various styles. I am sure the more astute architecturally inclined in our readership can help with other online resources.

Beyond the subject of architecture itself is the means of photographing it. You may notice in the site I referenced above most of the photos are fairly standard, straight on shots. This is fine for a general feel, but starts tipping into my sore spot of average travel photos. My suggestion with architectural photography is to take those wide angle photos (I certainly did with the picture of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland) but also get into the details. That cathedral has enough ornate details work to fill a full day of shooting, especially in different light. Every building, or bridge or spire need not become a week long photographic obsession, yet more can be learned by zooming in and seeing how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

I love architecture because it always presents two questions for me; Why and How. These are structures that took time and intent to erect. Someone, likely more than one person, spent time designing with a specific purpose and then another group spent time to bring those ideas to fruition. Explore how it all fits and look for the why, be it ornamental, structural or practical.

I wold love to see your take on different architecture from around the world! Share a photo or a link in the comments section below.


Previous articles in the Travel Photography Subjects series include Water, Old People, Young People, Religion, Sports, Socializing, Icons, Rich, Poor, Transportation, Economy, Food, Food Preparation, Weather, Art, Modern Vs. Traditional, Downtown, Views and History.  These posts are not intent on telling you everything you need to do, step by step, to capture perfect, cookie-cutter pictures while traveling.  Instead, they are intent on pointing out some vital elements to capture when on the road and highlight thought provoking questions you may want to ask yourself.  My hope is they help guide you to find your own means to better expressing what your travels have meant to you and present that in the best light possible.  Be sure to subscribe to this site to receive the last subject when it posts!

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • karolina January 11, 2011 10:16 am

    Architecture is interesting, as it really is up to you to make it look cool ;)

  • iVahid January 8, 2011 08:24 pm

  • amir paz January 8, 2011 06:16 am

    i was in france a couple of years ago

    and of course architecture is a big part of the trip

    here are my photos from that trip, i tried and managed to leave all the tourists out of the pictures...

    and here are some more creative architectural photos from israel (only several pictures from the set):


  • Rosa De Cyan January 5, 2011 08:46 pm

    Olé with Google translator!!!
    I don't speak english very well and I needed automaticaly translator to read your post. I laughted a lot with a simultaneous translation. :-))) But I'm learning so much, i'ts true. Thank,s.

    Here you are my work from Cape Town

  • ratkellar January 3, 2011 03:17 pm

    Bridges are another topic though some of the essentials remain the same.

  • Vic January 1, 2011 03:53 pm

    Bridges are architecture too. ;)

  • Terry Divyak December 31, 2010 07:27 pm

    One of my favorite architecture shots. This one hangs on my wall at home :)

    [eimg link='' title='Smith Tower in Seattle' url='']

  • Evelyn in Oregon December 30, 2010 06:52 pm

    This is a shot I took in April during my first visit to NYC.

  • Arun Prabhu December 30, 2010 04:41 pm

    Here is one example from Goa, India.

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer December 30, 2010 03:44 pm

    I lived in Tokyo for years which is of course a city that offers a lot of modern skyscraper architecture mixed with traditional temples.

    Here is a shot of Roppongi Hills, one of the newer (past decade) skyscrapers:

  • RJMang December 30, 2010 02:25 am

    HDR and architecture... a photographic cliche. I think we can do better.

  • Leo Mangubat December 29, 2010 08:49 pm

    I have some architectural shots to share. Here are some of them

  • Martin Soler Photography December 29, 2010 08:40 pm

    I totally agree with you. When I go to a city I spend a first bit of time walking around locating the impressive buildings, looking at the sunlight, when it will hit what parts and how best to shoot it.
    Cathedrales and churches are great for that since they are normally always impressive and in many cases haven't been to ravaged by vandals and wars.

    Something to look out for is backgrounds and surroundings, to ensure you have one subject on the image and not lots of other stuff.

    Wide angle lenses help reduce the size of things around as long as they aren't too close.

    Here's my latest from Mulhouse.

    and for more architecture photos of mine: Architecture HDR photos

  • Namrata December 29, 2010 04:37 pm

    Nice article! Any structure photographed well is more like a tribute to all the efforts behind designing and building it.

    This is a shot of a stone chariot in southern India:

  • Namrata December 29, 2010 04:35 pm

    Nice article! Any structure photographed well is more like a tribute to all the efforts behind designing and building it.

    This is a shot of a stone chariot in southern India:
    [eimg link='' title='The search for a blue blue sky, ends here.' url='']

  • Thamer Al-Hassan December 29, 2010 03:57 pm

    Here are one of my shots I made on my trip to London

  • Thamer Al-Hassan December 29, 2010 03:55 pm

    Here is one of my photos of trip to London
    [eimg link='' title='City Hall Reflection' url='']

  • Thamer Al-Hassan December 29, 2010 03:52 pm

    I am working on some architect photos I took on my trip to London
    [eimg link='' title='London Streets B&W' url='']

  • Photographer Detroit December 29, 2010 02:58 pm

    Great post! You've shown that photography is a fine art that requires a unique and creative eye. Thanks for the post!!

    Photographer Detroit

  • Rick Wilhelmsen December 29, 2010 02:25 pm

    Great shots! Here's a couple:

    The Hotel Santa Fe:

    The Radhus in Bremen:

  • Alexandru Vita December 29, 2010 11:08 am

    Here are some of my own architectural shots:

  • JesseAdams December 29, 2010 03:37 am

    Here are a couple examples of amazing architecture in Europe.

  • Bali Photographers December 29, 2010 02:03 am

    I am a Photographer in Bali, I love shoot a building in Bali like villas or hotel. But I find it difficult in terms of lighting. And I already use 3 lights, but still getting results less than the maximum. However, after I saw your picture, I had an inspiration that might be interesting for me. Thank you for this valuable information

  • Ryan December 29, 2010 12:55 am

    Here's something I shot in Macau..

  • Erik Kerstenbeck December 28, 2010 06:45 pm


    Really likedthis article, especially about a wide angle look and then zooming in to the details. During a recent trip to Rome, I tried doing just that. Here are a few interesting examples:

    Regards, Erik

    Vatican Pillars, Rome:

    Eternal Flame, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Rome:

    Tomb of The Unknown Soldier, Rome:

    Vaulted Ceiling at The Vatican:

  • Boukou December 28, 2010 04:42 pm

    Here are a few of my favorites:

    The Milwaukee Art Museum as it closes for the night...

    A lone doorway in Milwaukee...

    An a set of my favorite city shots...

  • Benn Gunn December 28, 2010 04:28 pm

  • Anthony December 28, 2010 03:52 pm

    I'm a fan of architecture photography as well although I tend to stick mainly to churches and mansions. Unfortunately I don't encounter these much in my daily routine. Definitely agree with the author Peter - it's interesting thinking about the planning that went into the construction of these magnificent buildings. I had an opportunity to especially appreciate this well on a recent trip to Newport, RI:

  • toomanytribbles December 28, 2010 03:51 pm

    i'm an architect -- and i normally try to create unusual takes of buildings... increasingly, i'm using the buildings as raw material to do something new compositionally.

    here's a search on flickr for my architecture shots from athens, paris and beijing:

  • Maik-T. Šebenik December 28, 2010 03:07 pm

    Nice article!

    Here are some of my very different architectural styles captured on my vacations:

    Oia on Santorini, a greek island - it's just classic:

    Two different photos from Honolulu, Hawaii:
    1. A modern downtown skyscraper:
    2. Honoloulu Hale - an old-fashioned "skyscraper":

    Two photos from Slovenia:
    1. The city of Maribor - European captial of culture 2012 - the main square with plague memorial, city hall an othe old buildings:
    2. The recently renovated "Palace Hotel" in Portorož at the adriatic coast:

    Venice - in my opinion a must see for all travel photography lovers. Here is the "Hotel Bauer Palazzo" on the Canal Grande, shot from a gondola:

    The fachade of the royal castle in "Gamla stan" - the old town of Stockholm:

    And finally one photo from the gothic part of Barcelona - a really narrow building:

  • James Merrifield December 28, 2010 03:07 pm


  • James Merrifield December 28, 2010 03:05 pm

    A limestone insane asylum in WV built mostly by European masons.

  • Scott December 28, 2010 03:01 pm

    Architecture is one of my favorites, especially here in Europe where we really have it all. Reading up before you go, looking for patterns, and shooting the details are all great advice.

    Here's a set of my favorite Architecture photos from the past year:

  • Stefano Ottolenghi December 28, 2010 02:57 pm

    Here are my shots:

  • James Merrifield December 28, 2010 02:44 pm