Houses falling over

posted on 14th of november, 2010

The title of this blog could collectively describe the majority of architectural photographic experiments that we receive every day. And the problem can be clearly understood by any of us, who has ever tried to get a building into the frame. The bigger the building - the bigger the problem.

And this is exactly the core of ill-looking architectural shots - we, and our cameras are so small compared to what we want to photograph. We have to step back quite a bit to get all into the frame we want, but this makes the building small in the frame. This physical exercise is welcome in the open air when taking pictures of a farm house or castle on a hill, but is somewhat impossible to achieve in tightly paced cities...

So what do we do? We get a wider angle lens, of course!
If it only were as simple as that... we would all be Ezra Stollers (Article about, Wiki link).

Complex physics come into play (Optical distortions explained), but to keep things simple - tall building appear to be falling over in wide angle shots. And this is not pleasant to look at most of times. One way to remedy this situation, is to use costly Tilt&Shift lenses (good article with fab illustrations). In the old days, life was somewhat easier with the folding camera).

Most of the distortion compensation can be done digitally nowadays, extreme distortions tend to make the image smaller, due to extremely stretched out pixels at the edges otherwise. But this can be done, and this is what I would like you to try out.
Regarding the image on the right, it has been taken with a 18mm lens, but all the verticals are nicely parallel throughout the frame. This is what we will be aiming for. This is also all true for interiors (scroll to the end for further reading).

Of course, not all architecture shots need to be without convergence, for example, it helps to convey perspective and might give an illusion of infinity (look at the wall on the left).

In a nutshell, images of architecture sell better if they are:
* Corrected for distortion, if it is not evidently intentional
* In ubran environments it is all about composition. Look for patterns and repeating features, strong lines and rows of windows. Use tilt-shift lens if possible or compensate later digitally.
* Truly interesting abstract images can be achieved with long telephoto lenses (300mm and up) where the perspective is extremely compressed and the sense of depth and spatial relation between objects is minimized.
* Rural images enjoy more context which tells a story (farm in the valley, church spire over the forest).

Further reading:
Tips for urban photography
Interior photography tips
Another great site with tutorials and tips

Dreamstime blog articles on the subject:
Right on the subject! by Bevanward
Good point about symmetry by Tanyae
A few good lines on interior photography by Retina2020
In depth, double edition blog on photographing architecture by Abdul Sami Haqqani

Comments (23)

Posted by FabioConcetta on December 05, 2010
Interesting blog,nice portfolio,congratulations!
Posted by Demonike on December 02, 2010
One thing I wanted to cover in the blog, but forgot... renovation and scaffolding. And this is quite important, actually, since we get a lot of buildings covered in plastic sheets or ugly metal carcasses.
then do not shoot and upload images of buildings being under scaffoldings, however famous they might be. Because this is only temporary, and will be taken down soon to reveal new colors or altered features perhaps. Those images are not usable ANYWHERE except construction and renovation-related publications -- so a very narrow market. I understand that a single church renovation can ruin the whole panorama of the city and I understand how frustrated you must feel, since you'll be leaving soon and might never have a chance to come back... But keep those photos to your travel album - do not upload them for stock.

Cheers, and thanks for the feedback!
Posted by Sepavo on December 01, 2010
Very nice discussion. Distortion is the bane of my photography!
Posted by Almaterra on November 30, 2010
Thank you for sharing!
Posted by Demonike on November 29, 2010
Tilt & shift lenses have much broader use than just architecture ;)
Google around for inspiration.
Posted by Cristalloid on November 29, 2010
Interesting blog! You are right! BUT: tilt-shift-lenses are very expensive (about 2000$) and I can't imagine that one will make as much money with architectural images via microstock...
Posted by Gennaro86 on November 25, 2010
Great article and nice shot!
Posted by Sallyjogary on November 24, 2010
Wow a very interesting BLOG. Thanks for the pointers, especially the one at the end about using a long lens.
Posted by Onime on November 21, 2010
Thanks for your Interesting references& blog.
Posted by Almaterra on November 18, 2010
Great article.
Posted by Sobek85 on November 16, 2010
nice shots
Posted by Fotoarts on November 15, 2010
good tips&hints - very helpful !
Posted by Mariaam on November 15, 2010
Thanks for sharing!
Posted by Joe1971 on November 15, 2010
It is great!!!
Posted by Shopartgallerycom on November 15, 2010
Marvellous article! I'm dreaming since a long time the TS lenses!
Posted by Scottysally2 on November 15, 2010
A lot of great tips and references in this blog, thank you for sharing. :)
Posted by Rosedarc on November 14, 2010
Thanks for the good tips, I've recently been experimenting with interior shots but I have failed to get good results so far!
Posted by Bevanward on November 14, 2010
Mmmmm tilt-shift - need to do some serious saving but can't wait. Good article thanks for sharing
Posted by Wildmac on November 14, 2010
Thanks for the great blog! I've been looking at tilt and shift lenses for a while now, just need that lottery win ;)
Posted by Laurasinelle on November 14, 2010
Great blog!
Posted by smartview27 on November 14, 2010
Interesting blog!
Posted by Mary981 on November 14, 2010
wonderful blog, lots of extra reading for me to enjoy :) Thank you for teaching me something new!
Posted by Mani33 on November 14, 2010
Thanks for the great blog & the references!

Comments (23)

This article has been read 2967 times. 18 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Madeleine Openshaw, Binkski, Matthew Valentine, Mmulligan, ภาณุพงศ์ พรหมยศ.

About me

I am a graphic designer, webmaster, photographer. Live in Estonia. 3 kids. Mac-person. Nikon-person. Initially gave my images for free back in 2003. Then discovered that some people would actually be willing to pay for my random photo experiments. Found Dreamstime, had lots to say in the forums and Serban invited me into their family :) • I am totally self taught. Through trial and error. Mostly latter :) • What makes an ideal microstock photo? I think it is broad usability. Solely. • I have studio experience, but am not so active lately. Mostly shoot events, family, object... [Read more]

Peetri Alev, EE

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