Dealing with time of day and weather conditions.
“There are two main shots. A really nice daytime photo where you’ve got a blue sky and maybe some clouds,” says Ulivieri. “And then there’s blue hour.”
Blue hour is the time just after sunset when the sky takes on a pink, blue, or purple tinge, and photos of buildings at that time can help highlight external lighting features while lighting up exterior aspects like facades. Plus, photos shot at blue hour may allow internal lights to give the building an inner glow. The bright lights, deep colors, and dramatic contrasts of blue hour photos make these shots a popular choice for the large marquee images that often dominate websites, brochures, and other assets.
While some architecture photography is artistic, many clients want to showcase buildings or real estate — for commercial purposes — on a clear day or just after sunset. For these daylight shots, avoid direct sunlight. Taking photos when the sun is overhead will result in harsh contrasts and deep shadows. “Exterior is mainly about time of day,” says photographer Kenton Waltz. “Shooting at magic hour is great, because you don’t get harsh exposure differences.” Magic hour, also known as golden hour, is about an hour after dawn or before sunset. It’s known for providing a lot of soft, warm light.
Different buildings often look better during different weather conditions and at different times of day. “If you’re doing a more brutalist structure where contrast is part of the design, you might want to shoot at high noon when you get more shadows,” Waltz says. Likewise, metal and concrete industrial structures can look especially imposing when slick with rain, old Victorian mansions can look haunting beneath an overcast sky. And if you want to emphasize the height of a skyscraper, you can choose to shoot it when the top of the building is shrouded in clouds. It’s all about seeking out the right setting for each building.