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Architects: Here are 5 Quick & Actionable Tips To Help You Take Beautiful Photographs

Nothing will gain you new architecture clients like a website filled with beautiful images of buildings you've designed. In our 5 Essential Features of Your Architecture Website article, we talk about the importance of beautiful, vibrant images to sell your designs to potential clients.

But what if you're a young firm, just starting out, or you've having a bad year, cashflow wise, and you can't afford to hire a professional photographer? Should you let your website or portfolio languish unadorned until you can afford to pay a professional?

Not necessarily – you could take your own photographs.

Most architects have an eye for composition and light – you have to, to be able to create beautiful and elegant buildings. This means you've probably got a natural knack for taking decent photographs. Why not grab your camera and begin to explore your projects again – this time with an eye for creating a beautiful website that showcases your talents?

Taking good architectural photographs isn't as difficult as you think – as long as you practice using these 5 tips:

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Tip #1: Use a Fish-Eye or Wide-Angle Lens

Ah lenses. There are so many options to choose from, and it can be daunting figuring out which one is best for which application.

Well, I've made it easy for you. Buildings are, generally speaking, quite large. So you want to use a wide-angle lens in order to frame the entire building, or a part of the building. Using a panoramic format (especially if your camera or software offers the function of stitching together panoramic shots) will help you capture every detail of an enormous space.

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Tip #2: Shoot in different types of weather

Buildings are designed to incorporate into an environment, and so they will often change their appearance depending on the weather. Different weather conditions can make for interesting and vibrant images.

A modern office building on a sunny day may appeal stark and sterile, but visit it when it's overcast and it can appear homely and elegant. Shooting your new eco-house with a storm raging in the background or snow falling on the roof will add a real dynamic element to your images. So don't be afraid to get shooting even when the weather isn't perfect – you could be surprise what you come up with!

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Tip #3: Focus on Capturing Symmetry

Most architecture is designed around symmetrical forms, and it's this symmetry that can create some of the most bold and dynamic photographs. Use the horizontal and vertical lines of a building to create interest and draw the viewer's eye into the photograph, and use natural curves and forms to lead the eye around. Playing with, and sometimes distorting, symmetry will create a strong image.

Don't be afraid to use light and reflection to further emphasize symmetry, such as photographing parts of a building reflected in glass or water.

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Tip #4: Interiors Matter

Although a potential client is interested in how a building looks, they are much more concerned with the interior – how a building uses space and light to fulfil it's purpose. How do people interact with the spaces? How does the utility of the space function? So make sure you capture the interior of your building, too.

Lighting in interior spaces can be tricky, especially if you're shooting an older building with small windows and doors. Adjust the light balance settings on your camera, or set up a tripod and take a series of long exposures. You want to avoid using a flash if at all possible, as it will destroy much of the atmosphere of an image.

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Tip #5: Exploit Extreme Angles

The angle you choose to shoot at can drastically change the way a viewer understands a building. By standing very close to a building and shooting up, you emphasize the building's size and height. The building appears impressive and imposing as it towers above you. Shooting interior spaces at eye level helps them to feel welcoming and cosy, and shooting down on a space is often used to emphasize the height of a space of the quality of light.

Examples of Beautiful Architectural Photography:

Check out these sites for some exquisite examples of architectural photography that follow these tips:

  • Weburbanist - a digital magazine on urban architecture, art, design, technology and travel. Features a lot of abandoned and re-interpreted spaces.
  • Architizer - A resource for exploring, collecting and sourcing architectural and interior elements.
  • Archdaily - The world's most visited architecture site, archdaily features user-submitted projects as well as staff-curated work.
  • I Like Architecture - A blog and weekly newsletter on the latest in architecture and design. I like that this site also includes student work.

By following these five tips, you'll be on your way to creating an image that captures the light and space and majesty of your architectural creations. It's important to experiment with different settings, angles, light sources and compositions, to figure out what works best, as every building is different. Take several image – hundreds, if possible – and choose the best to present on your website. And remember to relax and have fun! You're learning a new skill and finding new ways to think about your design.

What tips can you offer other architects wanting to shoot their own photographs? What has been your most successful image so far? Post in the comments below.