How to Photograph Architecture (Exterior)

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How to Photograph Architecture (Exterior) :

How to Photograph Architecture (Exterior)

What Is Architecture?:

What Is Architecture?

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Hardware Buildings don't move. Ergo, only a lazy photographer would use a high ISO setting or a handheld camera to take a picture of a building. The professional approach is to start with the camera's lowest ISO (e.g., 100) for lowest noise. Generally a large depth of field is desirable in architectural photography. The viewer should have the choice to look at any part of the structure and find it in adequately sharp focus. Large depth of field implies a small aperture. A small aperture plus slow film implies a long shutter speed, too long for steady hand holding. Consequently, any serious architectural photographer will carry a tripod.

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Your Pictures Need Not Be Pretty Architectural photography at its best will convey the experience of being in and around a built environment. In the case of the Dachau Concentration Camp, t his won't result in comforting or attractive images.

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A supermarket exterior is a subject that will probably never make a wall-worthy image by itself. However, the image below captures the feeling of being in the parking lot at night.

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Give Old Buildings Some Space In general, the older the structure, the more environmental context is required.

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Examples of modern buildings where hardly any context is required:

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Farms are a good example of where the structures don’t make any sense removed from their context.

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Even a Bit of Space Helps If you're not capturing an entire village or farm, it still makes sense to think about the space around your subject. Even a little bit of context helps anchor the image. For example, the image at right, from the sunset district of San Francisco, Presents a straightforward view of a house. We could use it as a real estate advertisement. The fragment of the house to the left, however, isn't wasted space. It tells us how tightly packed the neighborhood is.

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In the image below, the sidewalk, the fragment of street, the pedestrian, and the little open market to the left of the shop h elp establish the Guatemalan context.

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Step Back and Use a Telephoto Lens Back up from an work of architecture and use a telephoto lens to Compress the perspective. This will often bring out interesting patterns.

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The images below, from Provincetown, Cape Cod , show the increased abstraction of a telephoto perspective. The picture on the right was taken with a much longer lens than the one on the left.

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Include the Fence A fence can be an important image element. In the left-hand photo below (from Gotland, Sweden), the fence works with the trees to frame the barn.

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Straight on Till Morning Sometimes a direct approach is the best.

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Watch the Shadows Before color, Hollywood directors and cinematographers worked carefully to cast interesting shadows into scenes. Here are some examples of images where shadows set the mood.

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The best time of day for photographing buildings is usually the early morning or evening, as harsh mid-day light can wash out colors. Time of Day The morning sun brings this golden exterior to life Side lighting from the sun can bring out textures on walls.

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Color Color can make architectural photos more interesting. Whether the color is On the building, as on the left, or around it, as in the image on the right.

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Colorful row houses Colorful waves in a park

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Watch the Weather While a too-sunny day can wash out color, a too-overcast day can result in no color at all.

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What's the best weather for photographing buildings? Consider the following photo, from Travels with Samantha : The sunlight adds punch to the fire hydrant and makes urban life seem more appealing. However, if you were trying to show people details in the buildings, a high overcast day would have been much better. For example, here is an image from Visby, Sweden.

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The Drama of the Staircase It would seem that staircases are inherently dramatic.

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Lead the Eye by Leading the Person If your composition includes a visible footpath into the scene. It should naturally draw the viewer.

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Natural Frames It is a contrived idea, but it does work to use natural frames. If you're working without a tripod, you probably won't be able to Stop down the aperture enough to get everything into focus. But it is okay to have a soft frame and a sharp subject.

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Private Courtyards

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Public Squares The left-hand image, from Rome, has a classical composition leading the eye into the center of the frame. But the overview image to its right conveys a truer feeling for the Spanish Steps.

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Michelangelo designed t he Campidoglio to be viewed from above. This photo is from Burano .

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Include people in an architecture photo if they give unexpected information about how a building is being used. People

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Don't Forget the Sculpture

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Swimming Pools Occasionally, a swimming pool is a work of art by itself, as in this image ( Hearst Castle).

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Fountains

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Narrow Streets Both of these images could have been better. In the left-hand image, the subject (woman on moped) could be more interesting and more engaged either with the camera or another subject. In the right-hand image, some of the black shadow should be cropped out. Another effective technique is to use a long lens to compress the perspective If you can't find an arch, try filling the foreground with an interesting subject of some sort, e.g., this old Citroen

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Using Reflections Use the reflections that can be found in glass, lakes, even puddles of water.

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Bridges Here are a couple of early morning Brooklyn Bridge photographs. This is one of the best bridges because of the unusual cabling pattern and also the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

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Sometimes the story is more important than the structure. This is the Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick, in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

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The next example is that most tired of photographic subjects: the covered bridge. For starters, here is the Chamber of Commerce view. One approach is to get inside the bridge. Another is to wait for darkness or gloomy weather.

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San Francisco's Bay Bridge is a poor stepchild to the Golden Gate in terms of photographic coverage. However, if you get off in the middle of the bridge, at Treasure Island, and are willing to do a little bit of creative parking, you can get a good picture of the bridge in use. How cool is this!

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Below we return at different times of day and from different vantage points to capture the multiple moods of the Ponte Vecchio , in Florence.

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Wide-Angle Shots When you need to capture the entire width of your subject, use a wide-angle lens.

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Doors and Windows

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Details A good architect is a fanatic for detail and some of the most beautiful parts of a structure are best captured in isolation.

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Night A lot of buildings become more interesting at night:

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Industrial The world of industrial architectural is the world of the large but simultaneously extremely detailed.

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Perspective Correction The average building is taller than the average photographer. This is the source of 99% of the distortion in the world's architectural photos. Distortion isn't always bad. Note the converging vertical lines in the following image, the Cathedral of San Giovanni in Laterno in Rome.

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Silhouettes Using a beautiful sunset as a backdrop for interesting architectural shapes can make interesting images.

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Putting It All Together

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