What goes into artfully photographing captivating works of architecture? Uncover how these eight photographers meet the challenge of capturing the personality of unique buildings around the world.

Frank Gehry famously said, “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” And looking back, perhaps we could say the most timeless buildings are the ones that have been well photographed.

We understand the architecture of New York City in part though looking at the photographs of Berenice Abbott. Thanks to Bernd and Hilla Becher, we have an extensive catalog of the industrial layout of Western Europe in the latter half of the 20th century. Thomas Struth’s photographs, printed large-scale, allow people entrance into structures they’d only dream of visiting in real life.

We recently asked eight architectural photographers of different styles and backgrounds to share their best tips for making modern but timeless pictures.

1. “Find unusual angles. With architectural photography, you shouldn’t be afraid of being bold and different.”

Martine DF

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Find Unusual Angles

Image by Martine DFGear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, 17mm Canon Tilt-Shift fixed lens (TS-E17mm f/4L), Manfrotto tripod. Settings: Exposure 1/5 sec; f10.0; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is the new Port House in Antwerp, repurposed and renovated by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA). It was designed by Dame Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) as one of her last projects.

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Be Bold and Different

Image by Martine DF.

Pro Tip:

Mix up your portfolio with bright, energetic, and vibrant photos. Find unusual angles. With architectural photography, you shouldn’t be afraid of being bold and different. Some architectural photos that you see in magazines can be quite cold, static, and empty. Give your pictures your own personal touch. Photography allows you to make ordinary buildings look unique and interesting.

I’ll quote the modernist German architect Mies van der Rohe by saying, “Less is more.” It isn’t only true in minimalist design and architecture but also in photography. Choose your framing wisely, and cut out all distractions. Be in awe of the building in front of you. Look at the corners, the lines, the spots where the building starts and ends. Straight lines are key! Try to avoid distorted lines, especially curved lines, which can be produced by kit lenses.

Try new angles by leaning your back on the façade and looking straight up or by lying on the floor itself. Scout the location for the ideal time of day. It helps to plan ahead with architecture. I have an app on my phone that shows where the sun is going to be at a particular location, so I think ahead and stay prepared for changing weather conditions. It’s about noticing the lights and shadows and reading the location from its shapes and forms.

One last note: you need to enjoy taking the photo. Having fun while creating is such a rewarding experience. That passion will be visible in what you capture.

2. “It’s a great idea to return to a location several times during different weather conditions to give yourself enough shots.”

Kobby Dagan

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Tighten Your Composition

Image by Kobby DaganGear: Nikon D4 camera, Nikkor 24-70 2.8 lens, Gitzo tripod. Settings: Focal length 42mm; exposure 10 sec; f11; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is a modern building in downtown Las Vegas, designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. I took this photo of the building during blue hour (twenty minutes after sunset). It’s the best time to photograph the building and emphasize its beauty and uniqueness.

Kobby Dagan.
Kobby Dagan.

Pictured: [1] Kobby Dagan. [2] Kobby Dagan.

Pro Tip:

Research the building beforehand. Reading up on the history and context of an architectural site before visiting is an indispensable step that will help you to capture the essence of the building. Playing with perspective can be very rewarding. When talking modern architecture, you may want to favor an abstract approach. Tighten up your composition, and consider focusing on a beautiful curve or shape you’ve noticed.

Shoot in different weather conditions, not only when the sun is shining. In fact, some of the best photos are taken when a storm is brewing overhead and the sky is overcast. The swirling clouds, the rainy mist, and the possibility of a rainbow can intensify the atmosphere and increase the quality of the photo. It’s a great idea to return to a location several times during different weather conditions to give yourself enough shots.

3. “Observe the shadows. Imagine how this or that corner of the building will play in the frame.”

Dmitry Belousov

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Observe the Shadows

Image by Dmitry BelousovGear: Gear: Canon EOS 600D camera; Sigma AF 17-50mm f / 2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens. Settings: Focal length 18mm; exposure 1/160 sec; f/13; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

The architectural object in this photo is an old nightclub located in the center of my hometown. Often, day and night, stylish hip-hop music plays from the building. You can often see skateboarders in the area. The expressive, old-school architecture and the music and youthful mood create a good atmosphere. I was always attracted by the plasticity and coloring of this building, and I decided to try to transfer it into the frame so that everyone who saw this photo could feel the mood and positive spirit of this place.

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Consider Your Lighting

Image by Dmitry Belousov.

Pro Tip:

When shooting architecture, the most important thing is to find exactly the right angle. For me, ideal weather for shooting architecture is a sunny day with a clear sky. Sunlight from the side reveals the surface texture and details of a building, and a clear sky is a universal background. This background performs an important function, and it should not distract attention from the object in focus in the foreground. For me, the correct ratio of the background and the architectural object is approximately 50/50. This is done so that the frame is not overloaded and the architectural forms are perceived easily and airily.

In order to get a better feel for composition, photograph as many different architectural sites as possible. Pay attention to the details. Observe the shadows. Imagine how this or that corner of the building will play in the frame.

4. “If possible, shoot at different times of day and night, as this will enable you to determine the best lighting.”

Judah Grubb

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Shoot at Different Times

Image by Judah GrubbGear: Canon 5d mark III camera, 85mm f1.8 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f8.0; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I wanted to find a different way to shoot the famous Eureka Tower in Melbourne, Australia, so I decided to find an abstract perspective. This involved going on top of a car park right at the bottom of the building and shooting straight up. A black and white edit focused on the angles and geometry, making the image more about lines and shapes. Shooting on a clear day gave a non-distracting background.

Judah Grubb.
Judah Grubb.
Judah Grubb.

Pictured: [1] Judah Grubb. [2] Judah Grubb. [3] Judah Grubb.

Pro Tip:

Find an interesting building, and scout around to find the best angle to shoot it. Look for details and other interesting perspectives that other people wouldn’t normally see, such as using a drone. If possible, shoot at different times of day and night, as this will enable you to determine the best lighting.

5. “Use the central hours of the day, when the light is harshest, to check everything out.”

Luis Cagiao

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Factor in Neighboring Buildings

Image by Luis CagiaoGear: Nikon D800 camera, Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/500 sec; f5; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I wanted to find a different point of view from which to capture the famous Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where hundreds of tourists take pictures every day. This was taken from a mountain two kilometers away from the Cathedral.

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Look for Something Different

Image by Luis Cagiao.

Pro Tip:

Plan in advance. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to get new compositions with very well-known touristic landmarks, but it’s always a great idea to look for something different. You can do this by shooting at night, during bad weather conditions, etc. In architecture photography, you normally will have other buildings in the area, so you must take into account the shadows that they may create during the day. Use the central hours of the day, when the light is harshest, to check everything out. You should have everything in place with enough time to get all those unexpected elements under control.

6. “My advice is to highlight any specific, single detail.”

Dado Photos

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Focus on Unique Details

Image by Dado PhotosGear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II – EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM. Settings: Settings: Focal length 24.0mm; exposure 1/125 sec; f/8; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is a unique and famous museum in São Paulo, Brazil, the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. The building was designed by Ramos de Azevedo around 1900, and the renovation was conducted by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, both of whom are important Brazilian architects. The brick structures and lights from the rooftop allow for the most amazing photo explorations.

Dado Photos.
Dado Photos.
Dado Photos.

Pictured: [1] Dado Photos. [2] Dado Photos. [3] Dado Photos.

Pro Tip:

Architecture photography demands lots of patience. You always need to be aware of weather conditions, and sometimes, you end up spending all day in just one place, waiting for the morning sun and then the afternoon rays. You also need to be alert to all the structures and details. My advice is to highlight any specific, single detail. One of the last steps is the post-processing, which is also an important tool. That’s when you can correct and arrange the perspective as you want. Architecture photography requires straight lines and angles.

7. “Architecture loves details and sharpness, so try to shoot with a high aperture value.”

Aliona Birukova

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Watch the Time

Image by Aliona BirukovaGear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens. Settings: Focal length 43mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f8.0; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I traveled around Georgia in the spring of 2017. We went to see Upper Svaneti, the Northern part of Georgia high up in the mountains. In a period of twenty-four hours, I saw summer, spring, and winter. The old village of Mestia greeted us with spring puddles in the evening, and it was badly snowing during the night. When I woke up early in the morning, I saw a perfect fairytale winter. Architecture photography is a very special sphere. I see every building as a unique creature with its own historical background. The architecture of a place absorbs the spirit of the epochs, and it is filled with many stories of different lives.

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Watch the Weather

Image by Aliona Birukova.

Pro Tip:

Think of the building as you would a creature, like you’re making a huge portrait. Pay attention to the time and the weather because these are your main tools for controlling the light; it is almost impossible to get a good result by using a flash for lighting a building. Use a wide-angle lens in narrow spaces. Architecture loves details and sharpness, so try to shoot with a high aperture value.

A tripod or monopod is a great help in situations of bad lighting or crowded places. Shoot during golden hour. Use the panoramic technique for picturing the whole building, as sometimes it is impossible to show it using a single shot.

8. “…I almost always have limited time to take the shot and move on. I carry two Canon bodies so that there is no need to switch the lenses.”

Vladimir Korostyshevskiy

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Have Patience

Image by Vladimir KorostyshevskiyGear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens. Settings: Focal length 16mm; exposure 1/500 sec; f9.

What’s the story behind this photo?

The Naples Cathedral is squeezed between the neighboring buildings, so it’s difficult to show the facade of the whole building. There is not enough space to move back far enough to take it all in, unless your back is literally touching the wall of the building across the street, and then there are all these people and parked cars in the frame. Also, there is a very narrow time frame when the whole facade is lit up. Fortunately, I was in Naples for a week. The first day, I checked the opening hours to avoid the crowd. I then had to come back a few times during the next few days and eventually had a few seconds to catch a single wide-angle shot with the right light and without cars and people.

8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture — Think About Your Gear's Capability

Image by Vladimir Korostyshevskiy.

Pro Tip:

I usually travel with my family or with a group, so most of my photography is a lot like blitz chess, meaning that I almost always have limited time to take the shot and move on. My gear is structured accordingly. I carry two Canon bodies so that there is no need to switch the lenses. My backpack is not a photo backpack but a very light and reasonably priced Osprey Stratos 24 with an aluminum frame that hangs all the weight on your waist instead of your shoulders. It comes in handy when you have to carry two cameras with two lenses and a Joby Gorillapod all day, especially in the heat. I wish somebody would have told me about aluminum frame backpacks before.

Top Image by Kobby Dagan.