I’ve always had a passion for photographing architecture, ever since I started photography at age 18.
Well— I have always been drawn to the composition, lines, and powerful steel muscles of architecture.
Not only that, but I find architecture interesting because it is a manifestation of humankind’s ingenuity, strength, and ability to cooperate. I still walk around downtown areas, gaze up at these skyscrapers, and my jaw drops— “How do human beings create such epic monuments?”
Also sociologically, architecture and buildings are interesting because architecture, the way a building is built — changes how people interact. Anything that changes social interaction is interesting to me (I studied sociology as an ungraduate, and I understand that a lot of architecture students need to study sociology to become better architects).
Taking architecture a step further— you are an architect. A visual architect. You create a frame of your pictures, a scaffolding, and a structure. Also, when you’re making an art project, you’re an “architect” of the viewing experience.
To me, an architect is a builder of society.
Street photography and architecture
I think every street photographer should shoot street photography— if it interests you.
There is a strange thing, where the genre of “street photography” is separated from “architecture photography”. To me, they blend together well.
I first started to shoot street photography by finding interesting architecture or backgrounds and waiting for the right people to enter the frame. In street photography, they call this the “fishing” technique.
Generally, I don’t like separating photography into genres. It is easier for the sake of communication, but it generally hurts our creativity.
No limits on your photography— no boundaries, no genres. Just make pictures of whatever you find interesting.
1. Look up
The first thing to do is look up. I’m surprised— as adults, we rarely look up. The more you look up, the more you can notice architecture, and wonder.
2. Tilt your camera (Dutch angle)
The more you can tilt your camera in architecture photography, the better. I honestly think that perfectly straight and symmetrical architecture pictures are boring. They lack dynamism, sex, and soul.
You want to add diagonals into your frame. You can do this by tilting your camera (Dutch angle technique from the prior tip), or just look for edges of your frame to connect diagonal lines.
4. Corners of buildings
Try to position yourself, to get the corner or the edge of a building, without distracting elements around it.
As a general composition tip, don’t crop your pictures. That will force you to force yourself to have a clean frame.
5. Look at the edges of your frame
Another tip: to make better compositions, make clean edges in your frame. Don’t focus on the center of the frame and get “tunnel vision”— make the edges of your frame clean and dynamic and you will make better architecture pictures.
6. Golden hour (sunrise/sunset)
Try to shoot architecture with the golden light— during sunrise or sunset. The good tones of the sun on the building will contrast well against the blue sky.
7. Shoot in bad weather
Don’t just shoot sunny days. Shoot during dark, gloomy, and rainy days. It will add more emotion, soul, and mood to your architecture pictures.
Don’t always fill the frame with your building. See how little of it you can add to the frame, and create a minimalist effect.
9. Frame in a frame
Shoot from inside, looking at other buildings. Use the frame of your own window be a frame into the world of another building.
10. Subtle line
Last tip: look for a subtle line— a small power line in the foreground or the background.
The advice I have: avoid overlapping lines. Allow a little bit of space in-between the line and the buildings in your frame.
The funny thing about architecture photography is this — it is so easy to photograph, yet so challenging. Easy to shoot, but the subtlety and nuance of making a slightly better composition is difficult.
When I shoot architecture pictures, I always hold my breath. I always am on the edge of my seat… focusing on my composition, looking at the edges of my frame through the viewfinder, and trying to make the perfect composition.
The ultimate tip I have for shooting architecture is this: keep it simple and dynamic. Simple and clean lines, and not too much clutter. Dynamic, with diagonal lines or dynamic weather.
Have fun and never stop exploring,