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Architectural Photography (2 replies and 2 comments)

Steffen
3 months ago
Steffen 3 months ago

Hey,

could anyone give me some general advise for architectural photography?  I have been doing it for about a year and find it difficult to really improve. Are there some guidelines beyond making sure that the lines are parallel to better my composition? Also any book recommendations or certain photographers to look at would be really helpful.

Thank you very much!

Gregg
3 months ago
Gregg 3 months ago

I assume you know all the technical aspects of architectural photography (view cameras etc etc.).  You can pick up old large format cameras for next to nothing these days (I recently saw a Linhof Kardan GTL for €400 and that used to cost over $10,000 in its day).  Shoot some black and white film and scan the negs. I don't mean to be flippant, but you should consider developing your own personal taste too.  Study architecture, the great architects and famous buildings etc.  What is it about a structure that makes it unique...  what is the best light you need to highlight these features.  Develop your own personal style and photograph that.

MiguelMas
3 months ago

I was a shot architecture professionally for over 30 years. One of my clients was John Lautner - among others. Lautner was my mentor. I used everything from 8x10 and 4x5 to 35mm in my work. I started with film, ended up using digital. The technical side of REAL architectural shooting - not just wide angle shots of cool buildings at weird angles - is to use to keep the camera level in the vertical and horizontal planes - meaning a tripod and a small level... and use a perspective control tilt shift lens if you can afford one when shooting 35mm. 4x5 cameras have the rise and shift movements designed in their construction if you are shooting film. I kept my metering simple by using an incident meter. I used Lowel tungstens and a lot of strategically placed practicals to help balance out the lighting that was inherent in the architect's vision and execution of the particular space. This often meant having to balance lighting between the interior space and the view through large window areas - or hot spots of light in interiors from ovehead skylights. Most well designed spaces have an inherent balance designed in. One balance for the day, another at night. Many photographers would bring in a lot of electronic flash and soft boxes to overcome the natural lighting balance so they could achieve the balance between interior and exterior daytime lighting in spaces with large windows, I waited until dusk brought that balance naturally. My Lowels and other practicals would help fill the shadows. HDR - better said Extended Dynamic Range - has made achieving a believable int/ext balance a lot easier. The real challenge of shooting architecture - once you understand the technical basics of the equipment and digital or film media, is to learn to see space - architects design spaces within the envelopes we call buildings. Learning to see those spaces and capture their spirit and essence to show the architect's vision is the real challenge of shooting architecture. You can see some of my work at mmarcpixDOTwordpressDOTcom... Let me know if you have any more questions -

MiguelMas
3 months ago
MiguelMas 3 months ago

I thought I replied to this... now I don't see that reply in pending, so here goes Redux...

I specialized in shooting architecture and construction for over 30 years. Shooting architecture is more than  just shooting properly exposed images of the interiors and exteriors of buildings.

The technical part is not that complex. It is important to keep the camera level in the horizontal and vertical planes. A good tripod and level take care of that. For digital shooting, a DSLR and a wide angle tilt shift lens are the preferred tools... for film, you can use 35mm with the tilt shift - you can use a normal 20, 24, 28 or 35mm wide angle as long as you keep the camera level... don't tilt the camera, it causes vertical lines to converge... 4x5 view and field cameras have those movements built in. There are some good books and probably videos on YouTube that explain how to use the tilts and shift. 95% of my shots needed the use of vertical shift. A good book on this is Photographing Buildings Inside and Out by Norman McGrath... pick one up on Abebooks or Ebay for a  few bucks.
Exposure is both simple and complex. Simple in that most well designed  buildings have an inherent lighting balance designed in by the architect/designer. I use an incident meter - The trick is when you have spaces that are designed in a way that the interior space is integrated with the exterior -aka large windows. Many photographers bring in several high powered electronic flash units with softboxes to bring the interior illumination up to achieve balance with the much higher brightness of the exterior. the problem is that this tends to flatten out the lighting effects designed into the interior. I used Lowel Totas and Omnis, plus China balls and other practicals to bring up overall illumination and put some fill in the shadows without destroying the designed lighting balance. I dealt with windows by waiting until dusk brought about a natural balance between interior and exterior. These days, may photographers, especially real estate shooters, use HDR, or better yet Extended Dynamic Range (not as extreme as full HDR) to achieve that interior/exterior balance. 

The real skill in shooting architecture is learning to see the spaces that the architect has created within the building envelope... as opposed to seeing just rooms with furnishings.

My mentor/client when I started was John Lautner of Los Angeles.  Every one of his projects was designed for the client and the site. He abhorred the word "style". A number of his projects were used in Bond films.

I hope this gives you an idea of how to start. You can start off with a DSLR and a medium wide angle lens. A tripod and small level will help. I would avoid extreme wides and fisheyes. They distort. Normal lenses are more useful for details. I made a good living with a 24mm Canon PC lens and a 5D body for quite a few years.

You can see my work at mmarcpixDOTwordpressDOTcom
Let me know if you have any questions. Happy to help.

MM

Mike
3 months ago

Interesting post. Your first one got through ok.

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