To photograph a building is to understand a city’s history, communicate it’s present nuances and imagine its future.
Whether you are interested in architecture or just want to perfectly document buildings while travelling, I put down 5 things I learned from looking at buildings.
1. Look first, photograph later.
Unless we are travelling or come across a building that is particularly impressive, we rarely spend a long time looking at the architecture around us. Choose a location you find interesting and go there a day before without your camera. Walk around, sit on a bench and observe how people interact with the building and its surroundings.
I chose to photograph Nicosia’s square for this project, a recently finished project designed by Zaha Hadid. I also photographed some of the square’s surrounding buildings.
Think of how the building makes you feel. A museum inside a forest will make you feel differently than a glass skyscraper on a busy street. This is not a technical tip but yes, it will improve your photography and help you communicate more than just how the building looks like.
2. Capture different perspectives
Most buildings will be photographed at eye level. This perspective will always feel right to the eye because it’s our natural way of seeing the world.
There are many ways to look at buildings so take the time to experiment with different angles. A worm’s eye view can help with capturing tall structures when you’re standing at the base. I found the square’s ceiling openings interesting and chose this angle to emphasise them.
It’s also a good perspective to try out when you’re surrounded by tall buildings that you want to fill the sky with.
3. Include people
Buildings don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather in relation to how people exist within them and experience them. You can use people in your photographs to show scale or demonstrate the building’s purpose.
Experiment with expression body language to convey a specific mood that you feel is appropriate for the building.
This stage will largely depend on the first stage where you looked at the building and decided on how it makes you feel. In a nutshell shoot raw, mind the white balance and keep the colours clean and simple.
I discovered that Lens distortions are quite common when capturing buildings. This was especially the case when I used a wide-angle lens. Luckily this is quite easy to fix with Photoshop’s lens correction and perspective crop tool.
Remove unnecessary elements from your photo if you think it doesn’t add value to the composition. I used the clone stamp tool in photoshop to remove some background details from my photos.
Be careful with this kind of post-processing, if you’re photographing for a client make sure to communicate with them before removing any elements.
Architecture is a particularly challenging theme to photograph. While it may take a lot of trial and error until you are happy with the results, go out there, look with intention and have fun with it!