When you photograph architecture you’re telling a story. Yet, how do you capture what you feel? How do you elevate your image above a boring documentary photograph (like Uncle Ed’s trip to Italy) into an emotion-evoking piece of art?
It really boils down to thinking about the same things you do in any story-telling situation. Some great equipment helps too.
- Use a tripod. Buildings, unlike people, don’t have muscles – so they don’t move. So you can use a lower shutter speed rather than raising the ISO. But you are human (hopefully), so don’t hand-hold your camera – use a tripod.
- If you’re shooting a tall building, stand away from the base. Otherwise the base will look too large in comparison to the top. (Makes me think of a muffin… yum). Shooting from a higher vantage point usually helps.
- That leads to the next thing you need to think about: your lens.
- Use a tilt-shift lens. You can shift part of the lens itself to keep your buildings from looking distorted. Caution: these lenses are pricey.
- Or you may choose a wide-angle lens so you can fit the building in the frame (just be aware of distortion and its affect on the image).
- Using a telephoto lens can compress the perspective and make your image look pretty striking.
- A fisheye lens can also make skyscraper buildings appear as if they’re circling around the image. Very cool effect! (see image below)
- Decide if the space around the building – the context – is important to include. For example, you’d probably want to show space around old buildings and farmhouses. The context helps the picture make sense. Otherwise people will wonder why you’re taking a picture of a random, possibly dilapidated and ugly, building.
- Capture a building in different light and weather conditions to see which creates the mood you want. Shooting on an overcast day will bring out the details on the buildings. Buildings can be even more interesting at night.
- Think about your approach. What will tell the story you want: straight on or at an angle?
- Consider that staircases add drama.
- If there’s a path to the structure, compose your image so that it will lead your viewer’s eye where you want it to go.
- Consider elements of composition: Look for natural frames. Find repeating patterns.
- Include people in the picture if they help tell the story.
- Zoom in and capture details.
- Consider HDR.
- If you can, capture the reflection too (ponds, windows, puddles, rivers, sunglasses, etc.).
- Go inside. The interior of a building can be just as interesting, if not more so, than the outside.
Like all types of photography, practice and talent will hopefully lead you to stunning images that make Uncle Ed green with envy (nothing a little white-balance adjustment can’t fix).