Photographing Architecture - Part II

posted on 17th of august, 2007

First off, it's been a bit of a break since I wrote the first part of this. But it has been pretty hectic for me lately, so please accept my apologies.

In this part I would like to mention a few ways I think could make photographs of architecture a little different and help them stand out from the rest. After all, as I said in the first part... most people think that architecture is easy to photograph, and it is as long as the basics of lighting and composition are kept well in mind and followed.

The Story

Most of the pictures are of buildings standing alone. In fact there are billions of them. But the pictures that speak the most to me, are ones that tell a story. Maybe show a bit of the surrounding environment. Like I mentioned in the first part, I would find it more intriguing to see a Buddhist temple surrounded by skyscrapers than just seeing a picture of the temple by itself. Or a farmhouse surrounded by fields, rather than just the building itself.

Details and Patterns
I think that architecture offers a wealth of opportunity to find patterns in the details. A picture of a detail can almost become abstract and force the user to think about it, to ask the question "What is this?". And sometimes even, the viewer can come up with a completely different interpretation.
Patterns contain within them an inherent beauty.

This one is easy. Architecture is full of lines, the trick is to see them in isolation and find something distinctive about them, and be able to capture that distinction. This is where you may need to try different camera angles, use the distortion effect of different types of lenses to emphasize the point.

But don't get too stuck on the harmony of lines, sometimes the unexpected or the unharmonious is much more effective. I thought the diagonal lines of the scaffolding stairs against the vertical and horizontal lines of the building was more distinctive than the usual patterns created by rows of windows.

Although disharmony can be found in rows of windows as well, simply by the pattern that closed and open windows can create, this then becomes a leading line, guiding the viewer across the picture.

Night Time
Take photos at night. The street lights or the lights in the building impart a sense of magic and wonderland to the whole scene, and even a banal building can take on a mystical aura (please note that in no way am I implying that the photographs below are of banal buildings. LOL).

Some of the best photographs of buildings that I've seen involve reflections. Either reflections in the windows or glass components of the building itself (e.g. contrast: steel vs nature, modern vs old, etc), or reflections of the subject on a surface.

Of course you can write books on the subject, but I just thought I would share a few of things that make pictures of buildings that little bit more fascinating for me.


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Photo credits: Gary Blakeley, Geoffrey Kuchera, Moodville, Rob Bouwman, Abdul Sami Haqqani.

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