A photograph can narrate an entire life in one frame. It gathers together memories and keeps them together with us, forever. Photography is in itself so vast, that it cannot be understood in all terms. But it does help one develop a perspective, a vision, a thought process, sharpness, patience, and a lot more. It is the one thing that has helped us envision colors, textures, patterns, depth, etc.
As a non-tangible, photography helps us understand human behavior and that of other living organisms on the planet, their habits, likes and dislikes, food chain, shelter, the role of all of these organisms in shaping our planet, and so much that we are not aware of.
Architectural photography can be looked up through various lenses and interpreted individually. It is done for various reasons like architectural documentation, the publication of a new project, to prepare measurement drawings, etc. The way to go about all of these is different, one cannot click a building for documentation work and then use the same as a publication.
Let’s look at a few things we need to know to pursue Architectural Photography:
Knowledge begins with education and education need not always be from an institute. While the thought of becoming an architectural photographer sounds exciting and thrilling, one must get into the details of the same. Although a good institute will provide you with a fair knowledge of the subject, there is always an option of working hands-on, for a more refined and mature knowledge base. Working with a photographer as an intern or a junior will help you understand not only the photography part but also all of the allied works.
As a default rule, anyone who wants to get into photography, the least of prerequisites is fair and adequate travel. Travel opens up your eyes to the world and directs your perspective to help you observe what you desire for.
One must travel places that offer different architectural styles. It also tells you how architecture helps shape a place and vice versa. It gives you an idea of the lifestyle and how architecture plays a major role in the life of people as a part of the community.
With travel, you get to see and experience a plethora of materials, architectural styles, construction technologies, and many more aspects that directly or indirectly are a part of the architecture of the place.
3. Strong and sensible reference material
A good reference can sort out any difficult query at work. It’s just something to set your brain in the right direction. Try referring a magazine, a publication, a digital platform; whatever helps you get an idea of how to go about it. Try having a look at various compositions and watch interviews of various people working on the same.
Too many references will only create more chaos in your mind. So try to limit and be specific in looking for references.
4. Choice of camera
Professionally and technically, a camera would make a lot of difference in capturing a frame. Colors captured by cameras are different and it reflects substantially on the output. Also, you need to think about the ease with which you can capture, so there is a variety of choice of you. A DSLR might not be the best choice always. For example, documentation can be best covered by a Cybershot or a point and shoot kind of a camera, whereas for shooting a new project for publication, a DSLR would be the best equipment. If one is interested in doing a video and still photography, GoPro is one of the finest and most compact cameras available.
Aerial shots can be best taken with the help of a drone. The glitch is, using a drone requires certain permissions from the municipal authorities. But a drone makes shooting much flexible and fun. Drones can capture things that humans cannot, and its always a wise choice to use this technology when required.
5. Preference of lens
As much as important it is to use a suitable camera for capturing, a good and suitable lens can be a crucial part of the shoot as well. Again, documentation needs a simple default lens without much alteration, as the output estimated is a plain true picture. For amateurs, a set of 18-55mm will work efficiently, with default settings. A wide-angle lens is generally used in case of narrower or tight spatial settings, mainly interiors. A wide-angle lens helps cover a larger surface area with less depth between the camera and the subject. For better output and a fairly better result of colors, a prime 50mm or 35 mm would be a fair choice.
A good amount of research to select a lens suitable for your use is a must if you want to get into architectural photography.
Light has always been one of the most important and difference-making criteria in photography. Both natural and artificial light plays an important role in capturing buildings. Architecturally, the building is oriented and placed to receive the best of light quality, depending on its use. Elements of the building, their design and placement bring out a different play of shadows when placed appropriately considering the light falling on them. This can be best captured exploring different times during the day and deciding on the best outcome that is.
Artificial lighting can be played along as it is controlled and easier to deal with. We need not depend on it as we have to for natural light. But the quality of photographs in artificial lighting can never come close to the result you get with natural light.
Appropriate use of light can enhance the picture quality and even the slightest mistakes that can take spoil the photograph beyond repair. Someone who wants to pursue architectural photography needs to understand the relationship between the building and the light and shadows thus formed.
7. Elements to focus
In architectural photography, most of the time we happen to miss out on certain elements, that are important in shaping the building. It’s always recommended to have a look at the entire building once, take a walk around before beginning to shoot it, to understand the building and its components. It will give you a fair idea of where to begin and how to go about it. Once we know what all we are going to cover, we have a broader idea of where to set up the camera and where to focus. It would be a good idea to identify what elements should be shot as primary and what should follow though as secondary and tertiary, depending on their importance on the building.
8. Camera angle
It is important to understand the location and height of the camera to get a good angle of the building to be captured. As mentioned in the point earlier, one should always take a walk around the entire building as a visual survey before starting the shoot. Certain parts of the building would be best captured from eye level whereas certain few can be taken from higher levels or with the help of a drone. The camera angle should not skew a photograph, a common mistake done by many. It kills the reality factor of the image and makes the frame misleading.
9. Camera stand
Shooting with a DSLR can get on your nerves, especially when your gear is on the heavier side. The lenses become difficult to handle and focusing starts slipping out of hand. A good lightweight and comfortable stand comes in real handy in such instances. Especially while shooting in artificial lighting, one must use a stand, to have a more stabilized image. Also using a stand gives you the flexibility to move the camera, rotate, adjust at whatsoever angle required, and make life easy for the photographer. It helps align the camera with the lines in the frame with more ease. As a result, pictures taken using a tripod stand are far more stable and focused than those taken with bare hands, where the human error increases slightly. It’s advisable to have a prior knowledge of panorama of camera accessories available in the market to choose wisely for your use or need.
10. Image editing
Image editing is the concluding part of the process and a pretty vital one. Unnecessary editing can ruin the photograph that took multiple trial shots to finalize. Also editing has to be done as per the final estimated output and its use. Not all images can be edited in the same way using the same language. Adobe Photoshop is universally used software for editing photographs. Besides, there are Adobe Lightroom, SkylumLuminar, Corel Photopaint, ON1 Photo RAW, etc. All of these can be used individually or in combination for the desired effect. One must keep in mind that architectural photography does not require much editing, apart from basic light settings and sharpening.
A lot of things have to be considered and taken into account while planning to get into Architectural Photography. As mentioned above, its not one single thing that works to give you a fine image, all of the above needs to be worked out in unison, and then one can expect a good outcome.
Also, one must be open to take up a lot of freelance works to keep a grip on the software and keep the camera in constant use. Apart from architectural photography, one should also indulge in other forms of photography to avoid having monotony seep in, and to have adequate knowledge of the same. you never know when that will come handy.