Jeremy H. Greenberg | Blog #109 Architectural Photography

Blog #109 Architectural Photography

May 11, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Blog #109 Architectural Photography

Architecture includes any structure made by a person.  Buildings are beautiful! Architecture is like photography in that it is a seamless mix of art and science.  In this week’s blog post, I will share a few tips that you might want to consider when making pictures of architecture.  Remember CAM/O! The same guidelines apply to architectural shots as to all others. The subject should be pretty obvious [save abstract images], highlight he subject through framing and composition techniques, and minimisation or elimination of distractions are critical. 

Get High & Wide 

Use a wide angle lens like a 35mm, 28mm, 24mm, or ultra wide angle such as 21mm or wider.  The wide angle will be helpful to get relatively close while fitting the whole structure into your frame. Architecture has its challenges such as perspective distortion.  When you look up at a tall building, the sides seems to converge at the top. Due to the optical limitations of structure of our eyes this is natural, like looking down a long road.  Distortion is a nature phenomenon and is not necessarily a bag thing.  However, there are many circumstances where you might want to minimise or eliminate distortion in your images such as when when shooting interiors.

Nikon D610

Another inherent challenge in capturing images of buildings is the ship’s peak or crowning effect that your lens will apply to a corner of a building that might be near the camera when pointed upwards.  Wide angle lenses are terrific except for the distortion that wide angle lenses apply. The area in the centre patch of the frame will look disproportionally closer to the camera. When this effect is combined with perspective distortion such a shooting up at the corner of a building, your lens will tend to make the corner of the building look like the bow of a ship.  

If you want your lines to be straight when shooting structures [this applies to interior and exterior], you have two choices.  

  1. You can use a tilt shift lens which is made into two parts and you can adjust the lens plane in relation to the film [sensor] plane to correct the perspective distortion.  
  2. The second way to correct this is to simply get high.  I’m not suggesting that smoking marijuana will make your images look better but I’m saying that it won’t.  Get the camera up higher. If you are on the 10th floor of a building shooting a 20 story building across the street, for example, you can get all of the [vertical] lines very straight right in the camera.  For 1-2 story structures such as a house, stand on a ladder, tree stump, or another small object.  Raising the camera even a meter or two will correct a significant amount of perspective distortion and keep your vertical lines straight up and down. Simple!

Get Inside 

Interiors are a type of architectural image that can be fun and useful to shoot as well.  Use a tripod to get the camera around six feet high to keep the lines straight.  Light the room appropriately and evenly to accent or emphasise areas of interest in the scene.  Remember to tidy up and eliminate distractions. 

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Get Close

 

Architecture frequently contains many interesting albeit small details. Patterns, ornate carvings, details, or textures may make for interesting architectural photographs.  Use framing devices like shooting through windows or arches to add interest to your images.  You might occasionally include people to represent scale as a useful tool.  

 

So there you have it! Three tips for making the most out of architectural images.  Get high and wide, get inside, or get close. Finally, you’ll notice that most of the images in this post are black and white.  Buildings might not have particularly interesting colours so the black and white image aids the viewer in focusing on the line, shape, or pattern.  Black and white works well in architectural images. 

 

Try to tell a story through your images such as the intently dense apartment living in Hong Kong that is fairly unique to the rest of the world.  If you want to use a drone, that’s all fine and good but the “rules” of good composition and general image making apply to all genres within the craft such as macro, aerial, architectural, etc…

The light is always right.

jhg

 

*Images: © Jeremy H. Greenberg

Where: Hong Kong, Viet Nam, Shenzhen, Central Japan, Taipei, Seoul, Province Town, USA, Nice, France.

Subject:  Architecture and Building Structures

Gear: Fujifilm X-Series Mirrorless Digital Cameras (X-T1, X-T2, X-E3) and 24mm, 28mm or 35mm lenses, 35mm film cameras, iPhone, and whatever else I happen to be wearing that day.

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