The secret to architecture photography

On a grey Sunday afternoon, I stood for 10 minutes in front of an abandoned building lost in both my thoughts and mainly in awe at the craftsmanship. A lady came up to me and asked what I was looking at.

What had caught my eye was the contrast between the old and the new. The building was right in the middle of twentieth century architecture. Although they had a stood out on their own, the abandoned building was more intriguing.

What intrigued me was how easily I could relate to it. In this day and and age, we can have so little attachment to things around us. So we find things prematurely forgotten here and there.

I believe that what is around us speak to each of us very differently and more importantly our emotional response is also very different. Even though, I was seen as a crazy person staring into space, what drew me in was the juxtaposition of old vs new. Every time I am faced with something interesting what strikes me are the how and why? I’ve come across some amazing architecture and it made want to dive into the architects mind. It always makes me wonder what they thinking when they were drawing? what was the idea behind it? The design, the details, the technical aspects. After standing in awe, then I look around to try to find to find unique aspects of the building to try and interpret what the architect was trying to convey in my own way.

For me what distinguishes between good and great architecture photography is subtle details that are not usually seen by everyone amongst others. Here are a few other things that I look for when in the field.

First an foremost is to prepare. I love to use long exposure for eighty percent of my work so the weather plays an important part. I prefer early mornings or late afternoons as light tends to be low but my favourite days are cloudy days when the sky is just like a big softbox. The other thing is that the light also dictates the main aspects of my composition.

Once I am out, the first things I look for are patterns, these include geometric patterns, leading lines, anything within the surroundings that makes the subject stand out and interesting. Most photographers favour telephoto lenses as the lens of option but I personally prefer my wide angle.

Perspective and depth are the other drivers for leading lines, but the more obvious definition is a scene that directs the viewer’s gaze along an intended path.

Reflections are the other things to look out for especially since many buildings are now made out of glass. Although this technique is favoured by many it is not a personal favourite. I find reflection within glass buildings quite distracting and I have gone to great to remove such things from my architectural image. The only reflection that I like are the ones in water.

Contrast – Texture, content and light are some other things that can stand out in the frame. A textured outer surface next to a plain concrete one. Sometimes the simple fall of light can make for a striking subject.

Details – They are some awesome details that can be observed in architecture if you look out for it. A contrast to the usual straight lines and angles found in architectural images can pose for interesting point of view. 

Juxtaposition – An old building next to an ultra modern one or even in the middle or two modern buildings are one the things that can make a subject stand out.

One thing that never fails to amaze me is the sheer Scale of architecture and showcasing this makes for an interesting sight but how best to show this? One the ways is to show is to have people in the frame. Other features that can be used are cars, lights, trees etc… I’ve also used the sheer perspective to play with viewers sense of perspective.

In black and white architecture photography, one powerful thing we have is light and shadows. When considered as various shades. By playing with the various tonal ranges, can help to highlight details, scale and so much more.

Last but not least  is playing with Silhouettes. This can be observed with a lot images within social media at sunset. Silhouettes can be captured when the sun is behind the subject highlighting the outline of the structure. This can be seen a lot with images shot at sunset where the sunset is the main interest. This can also be achieved with black and white image especially with interesting light.

After silhouettes, don’t forget to out for symmetry. Symmetry has always been a source of obsession in architecture. In Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and later during the Renaissance, symmetry was used as a way to find true beauty. Without a doubt there is something beautiful in symmetry. It can still be observed all around and make for pleasing viewing.

Last but not least, don’t forget to always look up.

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