Architectural photography (III): How to work with Modern buildings

Rating: 5.00 based on 1 Rating
Architectural photography (III): How to work with Modern buildings

In previous articles on this series about Architectural Photography  I talked first about general tips and then we went into detail about how to work with historical buildings. Today it is the turn of a totally different architectural element: modern buildings. Modern architecture groups different styles that appeared in the first half of the 20th century. They have something in common though: their construction is based on new technologies and the main construction materials are glass, steel, and concrete. Modern buildings look totally different than the classic ones and for that reason, the tips for working with them are different too. Let’s dig into it!

Classical buildings are made from materials different to the modern buildings and their lines and colors are not following the same rules.


Modern architectural photography
Construction materials of modern buildings usually make them look cold, strong and sometimes a bit sterile (not so lively as the classical ones)


#1. Use unusual perspectives and angles to add dynamism to the image

With modern buildings, you can keep all the classical recommendations about composition you know…or you can go wild and try new perspectives and angles. The innovative nature of these buildings makes them more suitable for nonconventional compositions.

This is the building of “Gas Natural” in Barcelona. This skyscraper has such a particular shape that it is difficult to make it fit in any classical composition rule.

#2. Go abstract

The shapes and materials of modern buildings suit really well for abstract photography. Here you can be as creative as you want. Look at parts of the building and try to isolate them from the whole picture. Play with textures, lines, and colors. Abstract photography can complement really well a more conventional photo and it adds to the feeling of modernity.

Detail from the Opera Building in Sydney. Modern buildings are great places to play around and try abstract photography.

#3. Create tension with distortion to emphasize the size of the building

Modern buildings are usually quite big. If you want to emphasize this feature, you can do it by using the vertical distortion to your advantage. Get close to the building and just point up. You will get this convergent vertical lines that make the building look taller.

This building was not so big, but taking a photo close to it and right up, makes it look quite tall.

#4. Take advantage of reflections

The nature of the building materials of modern buildings might be a perfect subject to play with. Glass windows will allow you to capture nice reflections: from the sky, the floor,  closer buildings… experiment with reflections and you will for sure get interesting results.

The mirror surface of modern buildings is an excellent subject for practicing with reflections. I usually like to include in the reflections something that gives a bit of contrast. In this photos, I used the reflection of a building with a completely different architectural style. You can play also with reflections of natural elements such as clouds or trees.

#5. Add some human in the frame to add a sense of scale and avoid sterility

A lot of the modern buildings are tall, made of glass and metal and have cool colors. They don’t usually have any statue or any other motif.  This might make them look a bit sterile and far from any human emotion. To diminish this feeling, you can add a human figure to your frame to break the artificiality.

Human figures always add a bit of warmth to the image and help us to relate a bit more to the scene.

#6.Warm the colors 

You can also warm a bit the colors to soften the metal- looking colors (A bit more of earthy feeling). You can do it using Lightroom by moving the Temperature slide towards the warm colors:

In the Develop module, you will find a section called Temperature (Temp)


By moving the slide toward the warm colors towards the right ( the yellow part of the slide) you will get a nice sunset/sunrise effect in your picture.

#7.Add a sunburst to make your building look more interesting

Sunbursts can give you a new element to the image that breaks the symmetry and artificiality of a big building and put him a bit closer to a natural element: the sun.  You can check the awesome tutorial of Bill Sharpsteen to learn how to get a great sunburst in your photos.

Sunburst helps to break the cold feeling some modern buildings might have.

#8. Take a photo from far to add the surroundings

Taking a photo of the building from far will allow you to include the surroundings in the frame and add a bit of context to the image. The building will appear as belonging to somewhere instead of looking isolated.

The tallest building in this photo is the Agbar tower (Barcelona). Here I chose to add some modern buildings to the surroundings to show that it is located in a quite modern neighborhood.


Modern architectural photography
Here you can see the same building but from another perspective. I wanted to show that it is close to a nice promenade full of trees. As you can see, the surroundings you chose to show in your photo have an important role.

I hope you find this first article interesting!! Have a happy shooting!!!



Rating: 5.00 based on 1 Rating
The following two tabs change content below.
I am a biologist and a self-taught photographer based in Barcelona (Catalonia). Buddhist philosophy has a strong influence on me: I have a deep appreciation to life and I give a huge value to the little things that makes our days happier. I became a passionate about photography when I got my first camera and I understood that photography allows me to express my way of approaching life. I love learning so I am always willing to trying new things. These days I am shooting mostly nature and portraits.

Comments (0)

There are no comments yet.