Photographing Architecture - Part I

posted on 9th of august, 2007

Architecture... it's all around us... we work in skyscrapers, live in houses or high rises... we walk by all types of buildings, we even take vacations to go off to far flung lands... to look at architecture. It isn't just a practical necessity, it has become a window to different cultures and life styles. Looking at architecture can give us great insight not into a civilization but more often than not into the economics and environment of a region. Mudhuts in one place, high rise buildings in another. Buildings can tell us a lot about the climate of a place as well, how to deal with huge torrents of water, or extreme heat even earthquakes. Over the centuries people have built their abodes and workplaces to deal with what goes on around them. In the end it is a lot more than bricks, mortar and steel.

OK, so it doesn't move a lot... but is it boring because of that? Or even is it easy to photograph? Not necessarily, if we take a creative approach to it.

So what are some of the things we need to keep in mind? What kind of light is best to photograph a building? How can we make our own pictures different from all the other billions? How can we go beyond just the "snapshot" of a tourist? (Not that there is anything wrong with that, just a different context).

First question is what is it that attracted you to that particular building? What are you trying to capture? It could be something as simple as the reflection of something in the glass wall of a skyscraper, or the curve of the building.

Is the light right for it? If there is a lot of detail that you want to capture, maybe the best kind of light is the diffused light of a cloudy day to avoid shadows that may mask what you are trying to show...

Think about the texture, patterns and colours. And how light affects these? Come back when the light is more appropriate if you can.

Is the required context present in the picture? Maybe you don't need to zoom in on the building at all... and if you include more of the environment around it your message will be all the more powerful. Buildings tend to attract our attention in a photo anyhow, even if they are small. And also remember, our eyes will almost always be immediately attracted by the unusual, so perhaps rather than zooming in on the temple, you can take a step back, use a wide-angle and show the temple surrounded by skyscrapers. Doesn't that sound like a more interesting picture?


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Photo credits: , Abdul Sami Haqqani.

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