Building photography: tips for pro results without the specialist gear

Building photography: tips for pro results without the specialist gear

Cities offer huge image potential for photographers with a creative eye, and shooting building photography is a great way to extend your portfolio. You don’t need lots of specialist (and pricey) equipment to for top-notch pictures of buildings; you can get started with just a camera and a few basic lenses.

Building photography: tips for pro results without the specialist gear

All images by David Clapp

While weather is important when shooting landscapes, it doesn’t play such an important role for building photography. Many urban areas seem rather unattractive in the daytime – a multitude of shades of grey – but shoot at dusk or at night and the buildings and their surrounding area can transform entirely, even under heavy grey skies.

Shoot too early and a building will look unnecessarily floodlit, but wait until night-time and important detail can be lost. 
Try shooting at dusk when ambient and artificial lighting are in balance.

Some cities have excessive sodium lighting that will make the subject and the sky appear very orange, whereas others will look a complementary magenta, even way after sunset.

Good building photography is all about camera position. As with powerful landscapes, a successful image can contain the entire subject or just part of it, so lens choice and viewpoint are critical to its success.

Walk around your building of choice and identify potential shooting angles before you start taking pictures. Look at the building from a distance, from close up and then look directly upwards.

Keep an eye out for symmetry, centre lines and powerful lead-in lines that you can use to pull the viewer’s eye through the frame. Think about lighting angles too – just as in landscapes, attractive lighting plays a vital role in the success of an image.

Let’s not forget interiors either. Churches and cathedrals are perhaps the obvious choices, 
but cities contain plenty of modern architecture that’s worth photographing too. Find out if you need permission to shoot inside.

Try to plan an architectural shoot in advance by researching the buildings. Build up a list of interesting structures to shoot and work out which way they face so that you can decide what time of day they’ll look at their best.

A mix of modern and historical subjects will provide variety, and you can use image searches and photo communities to give you ideas.

Building photography: converging verticals will be the biggest thorn in your side

One of the biggest challenges when shooting buildings from ground level is avoiding converging verticals, where the vertical sides of structures appear to lean inwards.

To avoid this, ensure that the back of your camera is parallel with the building, rather than tilting it. You’ll find it easier to position the building in the frame by shooting with a tilt-shift lens.

Investing in equipment
If architecture photography really inspires, then a tilt-shift lenses can become essential kit. For most enthusiasts, the lenses and their specialist movements are hard to justify (£1,500+), but it’s worth considering their potential.

These wide-angle lenses prevent converging verticals, but a certain amount of image correction can be performed in Photoshop if necessary. Also consider a fisheye lens as an alternative, which is far cheaper (£500), and fun to use.

PAGE 1: What you need to get started with building photography
PAGE 2: Set up your camera correctly for building photography
PAGE 3: Get creative with filters
PAGE 4: Building photography tips you need to remember


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