How to Get Started With Architectural Photography: 6 Steps

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Embarking on the journey of architectural photography is much like finding the secret dance in static structures. It's an artful blend of technique and perspective, capturing the essence of buildings as these giants rest stoically against the sky.

Before you frame your first façade or trace light around archways, let’s pave your path with four steady steps. They’re the pillars upon which you’ll build your skill—solid, deliberate, with intent to last a lifetime.

Setting the Stage: Choosing Your Subject

Consider an architect, their mechanical pencil poised as they ponder what to bring forth from a blank canvas of possibility. Like them, you must choose your subject with intention.

Start local; your neighborhood holds architectural marvels waiting to be seen anew through your lens. Whether it's the venerable buildings echoing stories of old or modern marvels speaking in sleek lines, select an edifice that whispers tales to you.

Architectural photographers use a variety of lenses, but a wide-angle lens is often the tool of choice for capturing both interior and exterior architectural photography.  As you frame your shots, be mindful of composition—consider the placement of vertical lines, symmetry, and the human element within the architectural context.

Consider the architectural details, the play of light and shadow, and the overall aesthetic appeal. Your lens will be your storyteller, capturing the essence of the architect's vision.

This is where passion ignites and your vision begins—find a structure that resonates with your aesthetic heartbeat and commit it to memory—and film.

Chasing the Light: Time of Day Matters

Image Source: Rocha

Mastering the interplay of natural light and supplemental lighting techniques is key to creating stunning architectural images.

Like sun-seeking flowers that rotate with the day, your shot thrives when bathed in the right light. Timing is pivotal: early morning offers a soft palette of pastels, while late afternoon brings a golden hour glow that dazzles and dramatizes.

Nightfall unveils a different beast, with shadows and artificial lights concocting stark contrasts and vivid drama.

Observe your chosen structure at various times to see how its mood shifts with the hours. It’s not just about capturing the building; it’s about immortalizing the moment when light adorns it most flatteringly.

Editing Your Photos Online (e.g. Switching a Dull Gray Background for a Bright Sunny Day)

In the digital darkroom, even a dreary sky can find its silver lining. Harness the power of an online background changer for photos to cast away the dull gray. Replace it with a canvas that boasts the brilliance of a sunny day or the dramatic flair of sunset hues.

This type of tool is like wielding weather on-demand, allowing you to dial in that perfect atmospheric backdrop, making your architectural subject stand out as though it always basked under ideal skies. It’s not just editing; it's commanding light and clouds to play extras in your visual storytelling.

Consider post-processing as a way to enhance your photos rather than alter them drastically. In the digital age, tools like Photoshop and Lightroom are indispensable for refining your images. Architectural photography often involves managing exposure, adjusting contrast, and ensuring accurate representation of colors. Strive for a balance that preserves the authenticity of the scene while highlighting its beauty.

Symmetry and Soul of Architecture: Composition is Key

Image Source: Black

Composition is the heart of architectural photography. It's not just about capturing a building; it's about telling a story through carefully framed shots. Experiment with various angles, perspectives, and focal lengths to find the composition that best conveys the architect's vision.

Imagine you're balancing scales, where every line, curve, and angle is a weight that either tips or balances the visual harmony. In architectural photography, the composition is your scale. Seek symmetry to lead the eye and evoke a sense of order; dare to disrupt it intentionally for tension that holds the gaze.

Play with the rule of thirds to inject soul into stone, making viewers feel rather than just see. A well-composed photograph doesn't just document a structure—it breathes life into its inanimate form and invites the viewer to linger within its silent narrative.

Utilize techniques such as perspective control to ensure that vertical lines remain straight and parallel, especially in tall buildings. Tilted or shifted perspectives can add a creative touch, but it's essential to use them judiciously. Consider foreground and background elements to add depth and context to your images.

Mastering the Technical Tango: Gear & Settings of an Architectural Photographer

To capture the intricate details of architecture, you need the right gear and settings. Think of your camera as a dance partner in the technical tango of architectural photography. To lead, you'll need to be familiar with its moves—know your gear.

A wide-angle lens can capture grandeur in its entirety, while a tilt-shift keeps those verticals from converging. Now, consider your settings; low ISO preserves quality, a closed-down aperture ensures sharpness throughout, and a slow shutter might just smooth out those skies or clear crowded plazas.

Invest in a sturdy tripod to ensure sharpness in your images, especially in low-light conditions or when capturing interior shots.

Each choice is a step in harmony with your subject's rhythm and the story you're together choreographing in pixels and prints.

Sharing Your Vision: The Art of Presentation

Image Source: Orlova

The photograph, once a mere thought cradled in your creative mind, is now ready to make its grand debut. Presenting your work is the crescendo of your architectural symphony.

Choose platforms wisely—whether online galleries that cater to photography enthusiasts or social media for more casual engagement. Building a following is not just good for your ego, but could present you with professional opportunities as well.

Also, consider photo printing; a well-placed print can transform space. How you frame and where you showcase can either whisper or shout, but always aim to echo the intention behind the shutter click. After all, every presentation is another conversation with your audience about beauty as you see it.

The Last Word

Architectural photography is a genre that demands a blend of technical skill and artistic vision. It is about a combination of skill and intuition, so start snapping sooner rather than later and let this journey be one that leads you to a seriously fulfilling destination, whether just creatively or even from a career perspective.

Featured Image Source: Ortaç

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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