Mastering Architectural Photography II – Shooting Techniques

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  By Chris Yiu
Mastering Architectural Photography II – Shooting Techniques

We had gone through some of the important gears, especially lenses, that we will need while shooting architectural photography last time. If you missed the first chapter about gears, make sure you check it out. We are going to cover some of the essential shooting techniques in this particular chapter. These techniques include observation of lights and compositions.

Here is a slight digression. Before moving onto the part of techniques of shooting, I would like to have the essence of architectural photography explained. Architectural photography is somehow similar to mathematical problems. There are numerous curves and polygons in a meticulously designed building. We will have to figure out the visual relationships between elements of the building. In order to get started, you will need to familiarize yourself with the following skills. The following tips could help you get better results in architectural photography.

Dot, Line, Plane

Everything we see in our daily life is formed by dot, line, and plane. To put it in a more unambiguous way, I would say the view we are seeing can be analyzed with the “dot, line, plane” approach. The dot represents objects that take up comparatively small area in the viewfinder. They are usually the focus of a photo. The line often refers to the objects that are usually, but not necessarily, capable of guiding the attention of audiences. The line could be a column, an escalator or even a corridor in a building. Plane refers to the objects that occupy a relatively large area in the viewfinder.

By understanding the characteristics of the above three elements, we could arrange them in the appropriate positions within the frame. For instance, it is always a good idea to put the dot, which is usually the focus of attention in a photo, on the intersections of the guidelines of the one-third rule. Then, it is a good option to put include a line element that guides the attention of audiences towards the dot element. There are unlimited possibilities and combinations while playing around with this approach. The aforementioned example is only one of the possibilities.

Perspective Distortion

Perspective distortion

is one of the most important considerations in architectural photography. We are seeking perfection while shooting a masterpiece made by talented architects. Therefore, perspective distortion must be avoided in most circumstances. Perspective distortions are commonly found in photos shot with ultra wide angle lenses.

There are two ways to minimize perspective distortion while shooting with wide angle lenses. Put the subject at the center of the frame since the subject will be less affected by distortion in that way. Furthermore, we could also correct perspective distortion in Photoshop and Lightroom. Despite the powerful post-editing functions of Photoshop, it still has some limits. Therefore, it is a must to predict how will you do the correction in post-editing before shooting. I will have some in-depth explanation on this in Part 4 of this series.

Observation of Light

Light is one of the most important elements in photography. We can capture nothing if there is no light. Therefore, photographers must be able to observe and analyze the lighting conditions at the scene. Weather plays an important role in architectural photography. The contrast becomes more apparent during sunny days. On the other hand, light is much more diffused during overcast days. As a result, the contrast will be less apparent. Direct sunlight is usually a preferable light source for architectural photography. Therefore, shooting during clear days is a better option in most circumstances.

Playing around with light and shadows is always an outstanding idea when direct sunlight is available. You may also capture light and shadows with the approach of minimalism. Minimalistic style usually gives decent results in architectural photography. Furthermore, you will have to ensure the scene is well lit. If sunlight is insufficient to light up the scene while you are shooting indoor, you may consider using flash for auxiliary illumination. Softboxes usually give better results as they diffuse the flashes inside them. However, you will need to match them with the natural light sources, if any.

We will go through the ideas for architectural photography next time. Stay tuned!

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I am a freelance photographer who specializes in architectural, landscapes,streets and fine art photography. I have been learning photography for nearly 5 years. I am currently collaborating with some HK-based photography sites such as and FotoBeginner.

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