A Beginner’s Guide to Architectural Photography

Architectural photography is a genre that involves capturing images of buildings and other specimens of architecture. It involves capturing images of the building's exterior, interior, and other architectural aspects.

How to capture better architectural photography?

Architectural photography has a history that dates to the 1820s! The oldest surviving photograph – 'View from the Window at le Gras,' is an architectural photograph.

The first successful permanent photograph 'View from the Window at le Gras" created by Nicéphore Niépce

Modern architecture photography is about capturing more than just the aesthetics of a building – historical or modern. Architectural photography assumes significance in the modern world because it has the power to capture an essential facet of our culture.

Key Takeaways

Camera settings for architectural photography

Camera settings for architectural photography

One of the first things you need to do as an architectural photographer is to keep the ISO low when shooting. A low ISO will ensure that your images are devoid of any noise. Images devoid of noise tantamount to a higher amount of detail. High-end cameras can shoot at ISO 1600 and upwards without significant noise affecting the images. You don't have to push the ISO too high. Stick to a basic ISO number to begin.

Your aperture should be small to achieve a vast depth of field. A vast depth of field will allow much of the frame to be sharp. Although if you want the best results, you can use a tilt-shift lens. With this lens, you can use the tilt mechanism to produce a vast depth of field.

In terms of shutter speed, this is never a real problem in architectural photography. If you're shooting in aperture priority mode, the camera selects the shutter speed based on the aperture value and the ISO you select.

Manual exposure mode can be used for photographing architectural photos

If you're shooting in manual exposure mode, the best option would be to use a shutter speed based on what the camera's metering mode tells you. If you're looking to create something creative, like a long exposure of clouds rolling in or light trails in the foreground with the buildings in focus, then you've to use a tripod and then use the appropriate long shutter speed to capture the shots.

Best lens for architectural photography

No single lens can be considered the best for shooting architectural photography. It's always a combination of lenses that does the job.

Both prime lenses and zoom lenses are required for shooting architectural photos. Prime lenses are sharper, and they offer the best optical quality. On the other hand, zoom lenses offer the flexibility to get you closer to the subject. Specific details of a building are complicated to capture, even from a vantage point. Using a zoom lens makes it more accessible.

Standard lenses suffer from the issues of perspective disorder. If you're capturing a tall skyscraper, it will appear to lean backward because of this perspective distortion.

Another reason is as the top of the building is much further away from the camera, the perspective disorder will pull the sides of the building. The effect is that the top of the building will appear to be narrowed down. In the same way, the bottom of the building will appear much more significant because it's closer to the lens.

Tall skyscrapers with edges perfectly parallel

Tilt-shift lenses have been trendy among architectural photographers. These lenses are designed to change the perspective of the lens without having to move the camera. Therefore, straight lines appear straight without leaning inwards or appearing to meet at infinity.

A tilt-shift lens

Notably, the shift effect of tilt-shift lenses comes in handy when shooting architecture photography. The shift effect allows the lens to be moved concerning the sensor.

How to overcome challenges in architectural photography

Let's look at some of the challenges of architectural photography and how to overcome them.

Pursuit of the perfect picture

Sydney Central business district from the air

What many photographers tend to do is they are satisfied shooting a particular building or architecture in just one session. They don't come back to the location or try to capture the architecture at a different time of the day or during another season.

A building appears different under different lighting quality and during different seasons. If you come back to a location, you can maximize your chances of capturing breathtaking images and the mood of the building as the season changes or the lighting changes during the day.

Avoiding image blur

The simplest way to avoid image blur is to use a tripod. A tripod eliminates motion blur because the camera does not move during the Exposure. If you're hand-holding the camera, no matter how steady your hands are, some image blur is unavoidable. You can eliminate this when you use a tripod. However, make sure you switch off image stabilization when using a tripod.

Experiment with the focal length

An interesting aspect of a building captured with a telephoto lens

Using just one lens to shoot a building is never a good idea. Changing the lens, i.e., using different focal lengths, helps you to change the perspective and capture something interesting. E.g., when you're shooting a building, try to use a long lens to isolate interesting aspects of the construction.

You don't always have to try and capture the entire building in a single frame. You can then use a wide-angle lens and capture the entire building to capture its scale. Don't forget to capture the interior of the buildings as well because those also offer many interesting images.

Don't forget to capture shots of the interiors of a building

Sometimes when photographing architecture, we try to avoid the most obvious aspect that makes those architectural specimens what they're – a place that encompasses people and celebrates humanity as a whole. So, when photographing architecture, try to include people in your composition so that you can infuse life in your compositions.

How to use Photoshop/Lightroom to beautify the images capture

A house photographed during the blue hour

No matter how good a photographer you are, you still need to work on your architectural photos and ensure they look exactly how you envisioned them. You can easily fine-tune your images in Lightroom and improve your images' exposure, contrast, and dynamic range.

To do this, you can take advantage of the different sliders under the Tone tab. Use the Exposure slider to bring it down depending on the image's exposure. Pull down the highlights using the Highlights slider and push the shadows using the Shadows slider to bring up details in the shadow areas. The Clarity slider under the Presence tab helps to boost the texture of your images. You can also use the Dehaze slider depending on the atmospheric condition of the images and the final look of the image.

Overall, these are general ideas to fine-tune your images. There is a lot more that you can do with your images in both Lightroom and Photoshop.

Architectural photography can be an interesting pursuit

Architectural photography is an interesting genre and one that involves a lot of time, energy, and skills of the photographer to produce the best results.

As a photographer, you're required to know not only what the best light is to capture photos in but also the right angles. You've to keep an eye out for interesting details and incorporate the human element from time to time to make your compositions interesting.

It's an easy genre to get into, considering the abundance of interesting architecture around us. It needs the right creative vision to explore and make beautiful images.