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Architectural photography

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Example of an exterior architectural photograph
Example of an exterior architectural photograph
Early architectural style photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot, c. 1845.
Early architectural style photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot, c. 1845.

Architectural photography is the photographing of buildings and similar structures that are both aesthetically pleasing and accurate representations of their subjects. Architectural photographers are usually skilled in the use of specialized techniques and cameras

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  • ✪ Architecture Photography Tips
  • ✪ Amateur Vs Pro Architecture Photographer Shoot The "DOME HOUSE"
  • ✪ Getting Started in Architectural Photography - with Jeffrey Totaro
  • ✪ Edit architectural photography in Lightroom
  • ✪ Critique the Community Episode 31 - Architectural Photography


No question, buying a camera and learning how to use it has been one of the best investments I think I've ever made. Photography is one of the meta skills I think every creative person has to cultivate, you know, it teaches you about light, and composition, contrast, color; all these things that are linked to our experience of, not only architecture, but the world. I think it's helped me see the world more objectively, you know viewing it through the lens of a camera, it's just a really valuable skill set to have in your toolkit. So, I'm not a professional architectural photographer but I've learned a few things having shot a lot of architecture over my professional career. So I wanted to share with you some of the mistakes that I made when I was first starting out so you don't have to make them to. One of the underlying style elements of architectural photography is maintaining parallel lines in your image and especially parallel vertical lines. So to achieve this you have to keep the focal plane which is basically your camera sensor in here perpendicular to the ground plane. Now, once you tilt the camera you start to introduce a forced perspective in your image which creates converging lines rather than parallel lines and it also tends to make the building look as though it's falling backward, which can admittedly be a good thing if it's exaggerated or that's the effect that you're going for, but if it's just subtly off it's sort of a tell that you're an amateur. So the pros use tilt shift lenses for perspective control which allows them to physically move the lens by tilting and shifting it. Now this corrects the distortion right in the camera it bakes it into the image. But those types of lenses come at a really steep price. You can also correct for this in programs like Lightroom Photoshop or even Snapseed on your phone. Once you get used to correcting for it you'll probably start to notice it everywhere. Now correcting this in Lightroom is really simple and I'll show you how. Okay here we are in Lightroom I have this photo of this church in Quebec City and I'm just going to show you how to correct the verticals. We're in the develop module I'm not going to go through any of - all of - these settings at this point I'm just going to keep those as they are. And I'll go to the transform panel here and you'll see I'm off level and also my verticals are converging. So there's a couple of ways to do this: the first way is just to choose auto and that's gonna make its best guess and you can see here it's corrected our verticals. If we come over here to the grid our verticals look pretty good there still converging just a little bit and then our horizontals, it's pretty close again. The other way you can do this is you can choose purely vertical. So here it looks like it corrected our verticals a little better, you can also choose level which doesn't look like it did a very good job. The vertical looks good but the horizontals here look a little tweaked. Now the other possible way that you can do is guided and so we'll choose a couple of verticals here - you pick your vertical lines in the image - and you can be as precise as you want to be here I'm just getting it roughly close. And then we'll choose our horizontals like this, you can see it gives you a zoom box so that really pops it into place. And if you had more horizontal lines - I don't have a lot of horizontal lines here that I can work with - but if you had more you could adjust this with more granularity. One last thing I want to mention and this is sort of a compromise solution because when you're doing this it's modifying the pixels so it is destructive in some sense. That is the compromise when you use a tool like Lightroom or even Snapseed’s tool it will distort the image and the pixels in it. So you'll want to plan for this because you're gonna have to crop the image in crop it in like this. You're losing a bunch of information on the sides which is fine actually because I think it actually just focuses on the subject of the photo even more. White balance has a big influence on the feel of your image whether that's warm or cool and it can be tricky to get right if you're mixing light between inside and outside. Now this is another thing that once you start correcting for it in your images you'll start to notice when people don't white balance their images. So you've probably seen the classic white balance mistake where an interior has a really orange or yellow or green cast to it. So daylight, incandescent light, and LED lighting they all have different color temperatures and they each introduce a different color cast into your image. So changing the white balance allows you to correct for this and it allows you to choose which one represents the scene most accurately. So I sort of view it as an artistic decision in my workflow as I'm editing the image in post. Shooting your images in a RAW format will give you the most flexibility to change things in post but you can modify white balance even if you're not shooting RAW. If you're shooting on your phone just hop into an app like Snapseed and give it check what the auto white balance feature does for your image you might be surprised how much more polished it starts to look. Using a tripod rather than hand-holding your shots allows you to push your camera's manual settings exactly where you need them, say that's a long exposure for a low-light environment, or to focus stack, or to blend multiple exposures of a scene to capture a higher dynamic range. Let's say you're shooting an interior room which has a window with lots of exterior light coming in. If you were to expose for the interior the window area would be just way overexposed overblown. And if you were to expose for the exterior - for the window - the interior would just be way under exposed. So professionals will usually expose for the window and bring the light level up inside to compensate with supplemental lighting like strobes. But if you're lacking that kind of professional gear - and you probably are since you're watching this - you can simply lock off your camera on a tripod and take a series of multiple exposures. You're going to bracket the same scene and then combine those bracketed images in Lightroom or Photoshop to capture a broader dynamic range for that scene and a more accurate rendition of how the eye actually experiences the architecture; that's what you're after. Now I mentioned tilt-shift lenses as the standard go-to for serious architectural photographers but most of us don't have the budget for those they're in the multiple thousands of dollars. Most commonly you're going to want to use wider angle lenses for architecture but if you go too wide you'll get lots of distortion it's just not gonna look right. For interiors and tight spaces I'm usually using the 16 to 35 which is a zoom lens and that's on a full-frame Canon 6d mark 2 now if you're using a crop sensor like a 70 or an 80D you can pick up this 10 to 18 zoom for not a lot of money and for those cameras the crop sensors it covers roughly the same focal range like 16 to 28 millimeters so still fairly wide. Now, I also have a 24 to 70 zoom for longer focal lengths longer focal lengths tend to compress or flatten the image bringing the foreground and the background closer together. Many phone cameras just have a fixed focal length I think the iPhone that I have is about a fixed 28 millimeter so not too wide but it's not too bad either so if it’s all you have that's what you can use. And there's also a host of sort of lenses that you can clip onto the top so if you don't have the budget for a DSLR, check out Moment lenses for some good options. Having a zoom lens for architecture is nice because much of the time you'll be working with some kind of space constraint, having the zoom function allows you to reframe and change perspective; a fixed focal length wouldn't allow you to do that. Ultra-wide shots can appear unnatural so you don't want to capture only ultra-wide shots, save those for when you're not able to get back far enough or you just don't have another option. Use these to help tell the story of the larger building: materials, intersections, joints, these are all the touch points of architecture and I like to use the 50 millimeter 1.4 for detail shots. It's fast enough to create some nice background blur which isolates your subject and it means you can hand hold these detail shots and kind of move quickly from one thing to the next you know pick up handrail, fittings, fixtures, materials, connections; capture all the things that lend context, texture, and interest to your work. The more you shoot the more you'll gain an intuitive understanding of how light affects your final image. Backlighting, front lighting, side lighting, and night lighting, all produce vastly different effects. Now I try to avoid really flat lighting situations where there's an even amount of light on the subject coming especially from the direction you're shooting from now this doesn't allow you to capture any shadow or texture because you're aligning your view with the light source so you're not going to see any of the shadows. You want to move around a space or outside a building and get a real feel for what light is available and you want to always be aware of your aspect in relation to it. Position yourself in a way that tells the true story of how the architecture is influenced by and how it changes in varying light conditions. Now this is an important one you want to get rid of everything you possibly can especially in interior spaces and really focus in on your subject. If your shot is of a workspace there's actually very few things you need to tell the story of that space: computer, keyboard, chair, desk; you know that's probably it you want to take out everything else. Now when you take the shot have a peek at it on a larger screen if possible and you really want to scrutinize it, it's completely possible you forgot to remove something obvious in the frame, like I've left the lenses on shelves before or there's been a tripod in the back corner that I missed until I looked at the image on a separate screen. Now these are just a few tips to get you started and they'll go a long way to helping your images look more professional especially the first two, focus on those if you don't know where else to start. But all of this is in no way a substitute for working with a professional architectural photographer, they have better equipment, training, and they have connections to publications which you probably lack. Now having the skill of knowing how to use a camera and what all the manual settings do is really useful because it can be a long time between when a project is completed and when you're able to professionally photograph it and it's nice to have some high quality images you can use in the interim. And often the detailed photos that you take on your own - as you're on the site, the things are finishing up - leaves flexibility in your photography budget for the person you hire to capture scenes and perspectives that you're not able to get because of your equipment limitations. Now links to all the gear are in the description below and they're linked up in the cards go ahead and smash that like button below and help me out by sharing this around with someone you know. Is there someone who's not subscribed to this channel yet? And tell me in the comments: what kind of camera are you using? We'll see you again next time, cheers my friends!



The first permanent photograph, View from the Window at Le Gras by Nicéphore Niépce, was also the first architectural photograph as it was a view of buildings. Similarly, photographs taken by early photographer William Henry Fox Talbot were of architecture, including his photograph of a Latticed window in Lacock Abbey taken in 1835.[citation needed]

Throughout the history of photography, buildings have been highly valued photographic subjects, mirroring society's appreciation for architecture and its cultural significance. By the 1860s, architectural photography started to become an established visual medium.

Much as building designs changed and broke with traditional forms, architectural photography also evolved. During the early-to-mid-20th century, architectural photography became more creative as photographers used diagonal lines and bold shadows in their compositions, and experimented with other techniques.

By the early 1950s, architects were hiring more photographers for commissioned work, resulting in architectural photography being viewed as more of an art form.[1]


A tenet of architectural photography is the use of perspective control, with an emphasis on vertical lines that are non-converging (parallel). This is achieved by positioning the focal plane of the camera at so that it is perpendicular to the ground, regardless of the elevation of the camera eye. This result can be achieved by the use of view cameras, tilt/shift lenses, or post-processing.

Traditionally, view cameras have been used for architectural photography as they allow for the lens to be tilted or shifted relative to the film plane. This allows for control of perspective, as well as a variety of creative possibilities.

In a similar fashion to landscape photography, a deep depth of field is usually employed so that both the foreground and background (to infinity) are in sharp focus.

More recently, digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras have been used in the field of architectural photography. These cameras also employ detachable, tilt-shift lenses of varying (usually fixed) focal lengths.

Exterior and interior

Architectural photography typically shows either the exterior or the interior of buildings. The techniques used in each of these types of photography are similar, but do have some difference and sometimes require different equipment.


Exterior architectural photography usually takes advantage of available light by day, or at night it uses ambient light from adjacent street lights, landscape lights, exterior building lights, moonlight and even twilight present in the sky in all but the darkest situations.

In many cases, the landscaping surrounding a building is important to the overall composition of a photograph, and even necessary to communicate the aesthetic harmony of a building with its environment. The photographer will often include flowers, trees, fountains or statues in the foreground of a composition, taking advantage of their ability to help lead the eye into the composition and to its main subject, the building.

Aerial photography is trending as it shows different and unique perspectives of the structure being photographed. This can include getting level with the structure, showing property boundaries, revealing the location in a geographical view point, and putting context to surrounding scenery.


Interior architectural photography can also be performed with ambient light transmitted through windows and skylights, as well as interior lighting fixtures. Frequently though, architectural photographers will use supplemental lighting to improve the illumination within a building. Either electronic flash "strobes" or incandescent "hot lights" can be used. A feature of architectural photography is that the principal subjects rarely move. It is therefore possible to use post-processing editing to achieve a balanced lighting scheme, even in the absence of additional lighting.

Trade organizations

The architectural photography profession is primarily represented by three trade organizations, which strive to spread best practices amongst architectural photographers, as well as promote the sound business practices, consistency, quality and copyright protection.

See also


  1. ^ Lowe, Jim (2006). Architectural Photography. Lewes, East Sussex, UK: Photographers Institute Press. ISBN 1-86108-447-1.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 March 2019, at 11:47
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