Architecture is based on the foundation of imagery and is a field that places a high emphasis on visuals and aesthetics. Imagery can range from conceptual sketches, renders, 3D visualizations, and drawings that communicate how a space is perceived and how it caters to its users. Architectural photography is thus an integral part of this imagery that now forms the basis for any good architectural project or practice. Good photography is essential to help bring in more clients, build a better brand, and create a vibrant portfolio that communicates the ideologies that went into the projects. As incredible as 3D renders are, they often tend not to capture the true natural essence of a project that a photograph does which makes the final imagery more human and relatable. With the evolution of technology and post-production, the world of architectural photography has opened new pathways for practitioners and photographers to express their projects.
An architect’s edge as a photographer.
Several learnings from architecture school translate well into the world of photography. An architect’s understanding of light, negative spaces, liminality, elevations, and importantly, perspectives are all components that are inherently present in photography. A thorough understanding of structures, their various intricacies, and the people that inhabit them is crucial in architectural photography. This understanding consequently allows a photographer to manipulate perspectives and choose the right frames that best encapsulate what the space or building offers. Having a solid grasp on manipulation and the advancements in post-productions can often lead to surreal images that facilitate the spaces to express themselves. The works of architectural photographers Maxime Delvaux and Iwan Baan are some of the best examples of how teachings from architecture school translate into incredibly lively photography with or without the inclusion of people in the frames.
Architecture with or without.
Architectural photography has evolved significantly throughout the years and is continuing to do so creatively. Some early examples of architectural photography often excluded people from the frames allowing the space to talk for itself, especially among more traditional buildings. These frames were symbolic, capturing moments in time, and intricate details that were strong in its concept. This eventually led to an evolution such as the works of architectural photographer Iwan Baan who captured people in his frames with the idea of having stories associated with his photographs. People inhabit spaces, and photographers such as Iwan try to capture the symbiotic dialogues between people and the built environment. Several firms and practitioners prefer to have people in their frames as it tends to add substance to their works showing the actual usage of their creations.
There are other present-day photographers such as Maxime Delvaux who prefer to exclude people from their frames. The real skill in architectural photography here comes from capturing the dialogue that the emptiness of space has without the photograph looking lifeless. Capturing this dialogue is often brought about by having a solid grasp of perspectives while choosing the right angles with appropriate lighting and understanding the importance of darkness. Emphasizing unique structural details and spatial characteristics makes the photograph more vibrant and dynamic. Abstraction is also an efficient way in which photographers can showcase spatial communication. While doing this, it is important to consult with the designer to understand what needs to be emphasized.
Combining renders and photographs for a manipulatively beautiful outcome.
One of the emerging trends in architectural photography as a direct consequence of technological evolution is combining realistic renders with architectural photographs. Architectural rendering has gone through several advancements with the introduction of Unreal Engine, Maya, and many more. Combining these renders with actual photographs is challenging and often time-consuming requiring several patient iterations. The result, however, is extraordinary showcasing intricate details that blur the line between the real and unreal aspects of the frame, taking the viewer on an experiential journey. The works of Charles Choi (ChoiRender) are good examples of this. Practitioners and firms prefer these enhanced yet minimalistic visualizations to build their portfolios. Maxime Delvaux, for example, has perfected the use of “moving frames” where the subject building or space is still with the surrounding environments delicately in motion. These movements could be vehicles, people, or even tall grass moving in the wind, all done to enhance the subject space leading to uniquely creative frames.
Capturing physical architectural models.
Architecture as a profession has its core embedded in physical models as they convey much more than just drawings. The real-time perception of space and how it is supposed to feel before the project is built comes from intricate and detailed physical models. Capturing images of these models is thus crucial in understanding what a particular space has to offer and is also a unique way to convince clients and users of a project. Architectural photography here lends itself to ensuring a clear difference between a doll house and an architectural model. Through appropriate lighting, materials, craftsmanship, post-production, and subtle hints of realism, realistic architectural photography of physical models can be an effective alternative to renders. Maxime Delvaux’s photographs of physical models, especially of students, are some of the best examples of this where particular details of a room or a building are focused and emphasized. Physical models are making a much-needed comeback in the world of architecture thus starting a new trend in representation and architectural imagery.
Drones and 360-degree images.
Drone photography in general is popular in the present day. Drones offer new perspectives to architectural photography that is not possible in normal circumstances. From bird’s eye axonometric views to top view perspectives, there are infinite possible images that can be generated. With the accessibility to drones increasing every day, a new form of architectural imagery is in the offing. In a similar light, 360-degree photographs allow an individual to experience spaces as if they were in them making for an immersive experience. Pairing a 360-degree image with virtual reality headsets is the closest thing to experiencing a space without being there. Fusing these 360-degree photographs with manipulative simulations effectively convinces clients of a particular project and makes it more comprehensible for its user groups.
Architectural photography has evolved symbiotically alongside the evolution of technology and is continuing to do so. The idea of imagery has undergone several different iterations and styles through the years, branching into pathways that allow photographers to go into and utilize to create their styles. Good architectural photography is now essential for any practice to showcase their creations and to make their portfolios attract the right clients. Architectural photography is highly subjective with differing opinions making each photograph unique with varying stories and perceptions associated with it.
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