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.”
Image by Martine DF. Gear: 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.
Image by Martine DF.
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.”
Image by Kobby Dagan. Gear: 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.