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Architectural Photography: Tips For Those Who Like To Take Photos

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Author: Artyom Kashkanov

It is widely believed that shooting architecture is a fairly simple genre of photography. At first glance, the way it is - there is nothing easier to photograph a stationary object (house, temple, architectural ensemble), it can be done in elementary mode! However, to photograph the architectural structure beautifully, often have to strain your brains very much. And it’s not the camera settings, but the choice of the shooting point, as well as the technology itself.

When the amateur photographer chooses a camera or lens for shooting architecture and addresses this issue on the Internet forums, for some reason, the “photography guru” recommends using ultra-wide-angle optics for shooting architecture. This is the most important catch - a good wide-angle lens is very expensive (at least autofocus), but the picture it gives does not always satisfy the requirements of a photographer (or a customer).

In this article, I will give some recommendations on how to photograph architecture based on my own experience.

Perspective

The linear perspective effect, which most often does not bother us when shooting nature, when shooting architecture has a huge impact on the final result. When choosing a shooting point, preference is often given to the one that is most convenient for the photographer (no need to go anywhere, climb) and the building at the same time fits into the frame as a whole (a wide-angle lens to help). Alas, such shooting points are very rarely optimal and the result does not look so hot - buildings look tilted in photos.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

Naturally, for an amateur “tourist” photo this is acceptable (it’s better than nothing), but if you aim “in the big leagues”, you need to get rid of the habit of shooting architecture in this way.

Falling walls - who is to blame?

Often, due to the appearance of "falling walls", the lens is undeservedly blamed, saying "it pulls the corners." In fact, the lens has almost always nothing to do with it, you have to blame yourself. Have you noticed how sometimes people take pictures of the city landscape?

Photos from the Internet

Such photographers act according to the rules:

Take pictures from where you stand. If the building fits in the frame, why change something?

If even at the "minimum zoom" the building does not fit into the frame, you need to sit down (or lie down), anything - just do not step back.

After that, the "shutter" button is pressed and the next photo with littered walls is obtained! Is funny And many do just that!

Regarding the second point - shooting from a low point really helps to “cram” the frame more - thanks to the perspective effect, the upper part is slightly flattened vertically and horizontally, but because of this, the facade of a rectangular building looks like a trapezoid.

Even at a wide angle, all zoom lenses, without exception, have such a thing as distortion. Speaking in Russian - a distortion, because of which the picture does not look flat, but slightly convex or concave. Because of this, the straight lines at the edges of the frame look curved.

Distortion is noticeable when shooting architecture and interiors

To reduce distortion, it is often enough to pull out the zoom a little when shooting.

In fact, the distortion is not so terrible - it can be easily fixed during processing. For example, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom “knows” how most lenses distort a picture. It is enough to check the corresponding box, the distortion will be removed (more). Surely there is a similar opportunity in other more or less serious programs for processing photos.

And if you shoot from afar?

And now let's see some more photos of architecture objects:

Did you notice that the buildings stand on them exactly? These photos have several common symptoms:

All of them were shot with a focal length of at least 50 mm. To be precise - the first photo was taken with a focal length of 100 mm, the second and third - 50 mm (in full frame).

  • For all photos, the horizon runs in the middle of the frame.
  • Output - If you don’t want the walls to be falling on the photo, step away and shoot with increased focal length. Place the horizon closer to the middle of the frame.. I must say right away that it is very difficult to find such a shooting point - this is the main difficulty in photographing architecture.

    Aggressive Perspective

    On the other hand, there are situations when the underlined “aggressive” perspective is part of the artistic design.

    This photo was taken with a Zenitar 16mm lens (fisheye), which noticeably "rounds" the edges of the image. It can be seen that the wall of the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin quite effectively fit into the composition, but the photograph is perceived very unusual.

    This photo was taken with another super wide angle - Samyang 14mm. He, unlike the Zenithar-16, does not round off anything, but still gives a picture that is very different from what we are used to seeing with our own eyes.

    In other words, when using ultra-wide-angle optics, the prospect must be handled like salt and pepper: a little is bad, a lot is even worse. Photos with inappropriate use of an “aggressive” perspective instead of interest can cause rejection.

    The principle is simple - the stronger the lens is pulled up or down, the stronger will be the perspective distortion.

    There is a way to programmatically correct the perspective using Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Although it is not a panacea for all ills, nevertheless, a small blockage of the walls with the help of it can be completely corrected. However, if you overdo it, it is easy to get a distortion in the shape of objects. More details.

    Make the building a part of the landscape composition

    Almost always, this is to the benefit of photography - the landscape looks more interesting than just a point-blank photograph of a building. Some architectural structures look much more interesting in the composition of the entire ensemble than individually. The scale of large objects is much better transmitted if there are any objects "for comparison" - people, trees, other buildings.

    Just a photograph of the cathedral, nothing more.

    With such framing, the cathedral was not lost, on the contrary, the surrounding landscape emphasized its greatness.

    Surely, a beautiful square is broken around a remarkable building, maybe the building is beautifully reflected in the water. Look for interesting angles! Try not to take “photo trash” into the frame - poles, wires, billboards. Of course, a significant part of the success here depends on what objects surround the buildings, but you and the photographer need to notice such details and angles that everyone passes by and does not pay attention.

    Choose the best time for shooting

    If we are not talking about shooting during a tourist trip, you almost always have the opportunity to visit the same attraction several times - at different times of the year, in different weather, at different times of the day. I will give a small example:

    In the photographs - the famous Nizhny Novgorod landmark - Chkalovskaya ladder. The perspective is about the same, but the second photo compares favorably with the first in color (green grass looks better than gray earth) and in lighting - sunset lighting has a huge advantage over the uniform lighting typical of cloudy weather.

    In the daytime and at night, buildings can look completely different due to different sources of lighting - the sun or lights:

    Buildings dominated by light colors (for example, the Winter Palace) tend to look good day and night. However, buildings made of dark stone look more interesting at night (Kazan Cathedral).

    The big problem when shooting at night is often to set the white balance - streetlights, as a rule, give a very warm yellow light and all illuminated objects fall into yellow. Manual adjustment of white balance does not always help, since many cameras do not have a preset capable of compensating for such a deep yellowness.

    The easiest way out of this difficult situation is to shoot in RAW and correct the white balance in the editor. When shooting, the BB setting can be safely set to "Auto" - even if it turns out badly, you can still fix it painlessly anyway.

    Which lens is better?

    For city streets with tall buildings and dense buildings, they often prefer wide-angle optics in the range of 14-50mm.
    In nature, the telephoto lens will be telephoto, in other words, a telephoto lens. With it, great photos of deleted songs come out. They help to crop the image, compressing the picture and removing everything superfluous from it.

    For beginners, optics with a displayed grid will help well. It is especially useful when photographing monuments with a "golden section".
    The large focal length of zoom lenses is for a patterned effect, which can emphasize some architectural advantages.

    In order to reduce the optical curvature of straight lines in the image, move a little zoom.

    If you need a photograph with a horizon running in the center, then a focus of 50 mm will help to eliminate the illusion of “inclined” buildings.

    Sometimes, when taking pictures with wide-angle angles, the space is rounded off and an “aggressive perspective” is obtained. Apply the principle - the stronger the curvature, the higher or lower the tilt of the lens. In other words, do not bulge upwards and do not lower the camera too down to avoid this impression. Not so often use this technique for the embodiment of artistic design.

    Lighting: We understand the nuances

    Architectural photography most often takes place under the conditions that exist. Therefore, consider the following.

    • On a cloudy day, it is difficult to create a good image of an ornament, decorative elements or relief: the forms are blurred.
    • With bright side light, remove the texture of the decor, their elements.
    • With a clear sunny day, it is useful to think carefully about where to click.

    Tips for travelers with a camera

    For quality shots, try these things.

    • Remove everything that distracts attention from the frame, focus only on the main thing. But to form an image, to scale into the frame, include people, cars, trees, etc.

    • Decorate the reflection composition in the windows of transport, in the glass walls of buildings, etc.
    • A great time for filming when the silhouettes of houses are visible against the backdrop of sunset, sunrise or architectural lighting.
    • Do not forget to take pictures of bridges, stairs, cozy streets and other types.
    • Architectural ensembles with a long extent are correctly photographed in parts for subsequent connection.
    • To exclude perspective distortions, keep focus in the center, from some height and with an “even” apparatus.

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