10 Best Pro Tips For Architectural Photography

Welcome to my Tips For Architectural Photography page.

Tip #1 –  How to Photograph Architecture Using a Wide-Angle Lens

Bring a wide-angle lens such as 16mm on a full frame or 10mm on a camera with a crop factor. It helps if the lens is rectilinear rather than a fisheye to keep the building lines relatively straight.

A wide-angle lens will capture more of the interior space and for exterior shots, you will be able to get closer to the building to eliminate unwanted foreground clutter such as light poles. The other benefit of a wide-angle lens is the relatively large Depth of Field you get even at f2.8 (But use f8).

This ensures that most elements in your composition will be sharp as long as your focal plane isn’t too close to the camera. The wide-angle lens will also make it possible to capture both the ceiling and the floor in the same shot.

Make sure your feet are out of the picture! If your lens isn’t wide enough, consider creating a panoramic shot.

Tip #2 – Shoot with a tripod

A tripod can accomplish many things, it can ensure a sharper image, allow you to bracket shots that will register perfectly later for blending, and you can eliminate people in a crowded space (about 30% full).

It’s very common to have to bracket a shot because the lighting often exceeds the stop range of the camera for shadows and highlights. Using a tripod makes blending easier in Photoshop.

If you’re faced with a space you want to appear empty, set the camera to manual exposure so all the shots have the same exposure, then take a series of shots as people mill around.

Take a mental note of the empty areas in each shot so you can be sure to cover the entire space. Later, you can blend the empty areas together to eliminate the people.

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Tip #3 –  Architecture Photography Control Parallax

With a wide-angle lens, distortion can be a problem. The key is to keep the lens level from front to back as well as from left to right if you want to minimize parallax and strong distortions. This is NOT a rule, only a guide for straight lines.

Sometimes unusual perspectives that distort the vertical lines can be an effective way to capture a building depending on its shape and what you are trying to accomplish.

The point to remember is, don’t come close and miss, either have perfectly straight lines or really distorted ones. Generally, ‘Fine Art’ will tend to distort the building lines and ‘Commercial Photography’ will try to keep them straight but this is not a hard and fast rule.

Sometimes a wide-angle lens will not be able to capture the entire subject without tilting the lens. If you need to tilt the lens, try to keep it to a minimum.

Photoshop can eliminate parallax with the filter called ‘Lens Correction’ but you’ll lose some of your images in the result when the image becomes a trapezoid and requires trimming to square it up again. Another option is to shoot a panoramic shot and control the parallax in the final output.

The other alternative is to use a Tilt-Shift lens. These lenses will control parallax by allowing you to keep the lens level, and shifting the image circle of the lens onto the camera sensor.

The TS lens is manually focused, so having a camera with the ‘Live View – Zoom’ feature can help get the image focused. They’re not cheap so don’t plan on buying one unless you intend to do a lot of Architectural Photography.

Tip #4 – Compose Primary Architectural Elements

Whether you’re inside or outside of a building, the method of composing is very similar. Simply consider which features of the building are the primary elements. And if you don’t have the vocabulary, don’t worry.

Just think about how you would describe the building to a friend. The most dominant features will most likely be a part of your description.

Some examples of strong, primary architectural elements include The main entrance, roof lines, fountains or water features, large public spaces like lobbies or atriums, skylights, monumental stairs (inside or outside), columns that set up an axis or path, windows arrangements or features, and free-standing walls or planes.

Don’t forget to look up at the ceiling! (That’s what all the Architects do…)

The individual primary elements like doors or windows will act as your anchor or focal points. A collection of elements can imply a line like a row of columns or windows.

Once you’ve identified the primary elements, simply employ the rule of thirds and try to place the main element on a third point or use it to give your composition a strong diagonal or forced perspective.

Tip #5 – Use Asymmetry for Dynamic Compositions

Stand off to the side, and avoid head-on shots. This will introduce strong diagonals that will make the shot more dynamic and show off the three-dimensionality of the space or building. Pay attention to where the diagonals enter the ‘frame’ of the shot such as at a corner or at a third point along the edge.

Think of it this way, if your friend is holding a box directly in front of you, it’s much harder to tell how deep (front to back) the box is. By standing off to the side, you can see two sides instead of one, and that gives you a better understanding of the box.

Sometimes you might come across a building with very strong symmetry and the head-on shot might be unavoidable but 9 out 10 times the off-center shot will be more appealing. When in doubt, take both and decide later.

When shooting interior spaces, consider shooting out of one of the four corners of the space. Choose the corner that has the best view of the space and has the least number of obstructions.

Tip #6 – Consider Sun Angles and Time of Day

The time of day can be important depending on the orientation of the building. (Advice based on Northern Hemisphere conditions) If the main entrance is facing East – a morning shot will have the most sunlight.

If the building is facing South – then you will have the most latitude when you choose your time of day. If the building is facing West – then an evening shot will give you the best daylight. And if the building is facing North – then you’re screwed!

A building with the primary entrance on the North side, i.e. – always backlit by the sun is the most difficult exterior shot to take. Consider shooting on an overcast day, in the morning, or in the evening.

Shooting in the morning or evening is the best way to ensure the shot will be within the stop range of the camera. A shot of the South face is probably the easiest because everything is washed with sunlight so any time of day usually works.

The other thing to consider is where the shadows of neighboring buildings fall during the day. If the building is in an urban setting, there might be a small window of opportunity when the sun shines directly on the building depending on how narrow the streets are.

Tips For Architectural Photography #7 – Use a Polarizer

Use a polarizer to minimize glare and darken blue skies for exterior shots.

Use a polarizer to minimize reflections on glass for interior shots.

Tip #8 – Controlling White Balance

The White Balance for exterior shots is fairly straightforward since all the light is coming from a single source. The White Balance for interior shots is another story.

Whenever possible, include a shot with a White Balance Target for easy post-processing later. This is especially helpful if your space excludes any natural daylight or you’re shooting at night with a single source of light.

The most difficult shot to take in terms of controlling White Balance is an interior shot with a mix of artificial lighting and natural sunlight from windows. The windows are often 4 or more stops brighter and have a different color temperature of light than the artificial lighting inside.

There are three ways to mitigate this, 1) Use supplemental lighting to bring the interior illumination up to the same levels as the windows, 2) Take bracketed shots to blend later, or 3) Shoot at night.

Adding supplemental lighting will solve the problem but you’ll spend a lot of money on lights & stands and you’ll spend a lot of time setting up the shot. Not the best road to take unless you’re a professional who is getting paid to take the shots.

The other thing to consider with supplemental lighting is the additional shadows that can result. Depending on where the lights are placed, you may cast shadows from floor lamps, end table lamps, or objects on shelves.

The shadows can add clutter to the shot and multiple shadows from the same object can be very distracting. Equally distracting is if one or more of the supplemental lights throws a hot spot in the room.

Diffusing the light source can help a lot. The management of shadows and balanced exposure across the room is very important for a successful shot. The only exception might be highlighting a floral arrangement, hearth, or significant picture on a wall. Just avoid blown-out highlights.

Taking bracketed shots will get the job done but expect to spend a lot more time in post-processing. The method involves using two different shots, one RAW shot converted with considerations to Daylight WB and Exposure, and one RAW shot converted for Interior Artificial Lighting and Exposure.

Then in Photoshop, bring each shot onto its own layer. Then create a layer mask for the layer on top using one of the Channels. Choose a channel that has the best contrast and makes a duplicate channel.

Now darken the new channel with ‘Image Adjustment – Brightness/Contrast’ by about -50 to make it more effective and then make a selection using Color Range, Fuzziness set to 200%, and selection set to ‘Inverted’.

This avoids confusion about what to select and the results have smooth transitions. Avoid adjusting the contrast of the new channel with Image Adjustment or your transitions may become too drastic.

Now select the dark area you want to use as a mask, copy them to the clipboard, and exit channels. Now with the clipboard loaded and in the layers menu, select the new mask icon at the bottom of the menu to add the mask to your top layer.

This will get you 90% there, the rest is playing around with layer opacity and the normal layer adjustments in your workflow. In addition, you can create two Curve Adjustment layers, one to lighten and one to darken to make further adjustments with local brightness and WB.

The channel mask you create works well on these new adjustment layers, just make sure one of the masks has the opposite masked area.
1) Interior WB and Exposure

Shooting at night solves a lot of problems but your windows will be black. If you can live with black windows then this is the easiest way to manage White Balance.

Tip #9 – Shooting Details

Architectural Photography Tips:
When shooting architectural details, none of the other tips apply (except maybe using a tripod – we want sharp images). Change your lens to one with a longer focal length. Forget that you’re shooting a building and focus on the textures, patterns, and joints (within materials and between different materials).

It’s not important if the camera is level if your composition excludes the evidence of gravity. Think of the shot as an abstract composition. Consider the joints where different textures or patterns come together and then consider how those shapes fit within the ‘frame’ using the rule of thirds as a guide.

Windows and water can add to the composition when the building elements are found in their reflections. The time of day is much less critical however shadows can be your friend in abstract composition and are dependent on the time of day.

A simple composition will be more appealing than a cluttered one so tries to minimize the number of ideas you’re trying to include in your composition.

Tip #10 – Controlling Tangencies

When shooting Architectural shots, it’s important to consider the foreground and background relationships at the same time. With a wide-angle lens, foreground and background elements are usually both in focus and thus equally important.

Oftentimes, a simple two steps to the right or left will yield a stronger separation between two significant elements or it might bring them into the desired alignment. A good exercise to illustrate this point is to find a location with a fountain sculpture and something in the background that’s about 50 yards beyond.

Stand about 10 yards away from the fountain and slowly walk around the fountain.

Notice how the background moves in the same direction you walk and affects your impression of the fountain as it changes from light to dark, vista, or wall? Take another lap around the fountain and now notice how your perception of the sculpture changes as you move around it.

The best shot angle will find the best combination of both of these impressions and give greater weight to the primary subject.

This sort of dynamic relationship exists on a multitude of scales and with experience, you’ll be able to see relationships you want to change by taking a side step or two to the right or left. A side step might show you what’s around a corner or exclude what’s around the corner.

It might hide something completely, slightly, or not at all. Alternatively, if you don’t like the way the background looks, then you might try using a wider f-stop to blur it and diminish its impact on the focal point.


This is my view on Tips For Architectural Photography, If you have any doubts or you want to share anything related to this post, please feel free to comment down below or you can contact us.


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