Choosing your location.
One of the most difficult elements of architecture photography is deciding where to take your camera. With so many amazing buildings in every city, you can easily spend a long time researching the architecture of historic landmarks, modern structures, and urban landscapes.
I tend to source inspiration from Pinterest and Google Images - looking for buildings which have the perfect composition of shapes, colours, and designs. Once I have a few ideas I travel to these places to look for what I can only describe as a “feeling”. By that I mean somewhere that really speaks to you on a level beyond the visuals.
For example, there are places in the US where I feel a sense of nostalgia, due to all the American TV shows and movies I watched as a kid. This particular emotion is heightened during sunset, which tinges everything with a sepia-kissed natural glow, evoking the past.
An awareness of the magic of a setting transforms architecture photography from the simple act of taking a photograph of a building, to truly capturing a moment in time.
Dealing with the 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.
When it comes to weather, a warm sunny day is almost always what I want. Blue skies can be boring – so I prefer at least a few clouds to break up the colour.
However, if I happen to be shooting during a storm – this can provide my images with added drama. Capturing storm clouds looming over a building can provide a multi-sensory experience to the viewer. It doesn’t take much for them to imagine the feeling of the storm coming through the photograph.
“An awareness of the magic of a setting transforms architecture photography from the simple act of taking a photograph of a building, to truly capturing a moment in time.”