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Week 14 Module: Photographing Architecture

Buildings were one of the few things that held still long enough to get an exposure.

In the early days of photography, of course the cameras were not as sophisticated as they are now. No Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilizer technology, and film of course had a limited ISO capacity. So one of the few things photographers could capture with the long exposure times their cameras needed was architecture. Buildings and monuments didn’t move.

Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok airport Thailand airport architecture night copyright Aloha Lavina.

Suvarnabhumi Airport at night via iPhone. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Later on as camera technology grew more sophisticated, the tradition of photographing architecture continued for several reasons, but the one that most emerging photographers cited is that it is easy to get into your portfolio. Architecture doesn’t change as much as say, people’s faces. Buildings are easy to find anywhere that’s inhabited. And you only had to wait for light, to make a good photo.

Simple as it sounds, there are a few techniques that transform an architectural photograph from a snapshot to a fine art piece. This module brings you some tips that could do just that.

Focus on Lines and angles and composition

Architectural photos are all about the language of geometry. The photographer finds how the structure’s lines and angles add to the design of a building. A common technique is to take a slice of the structure and highlight it in the image. This sort of abstraction eliminates the clutter, makes the composition cleaner, and renders an interpretive image.

Getty museum abstract architecture blue and white california copyright Aloha Lavina

Getty Museum and sky. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Focus on color

Colors on a building are no accident; like everything else, they are part of the design.  Sometimes, the colors in a building can be used as elements in a composition.

Adding Context

Where is the structure? What surrounds it? Sometimes it is better to include this part of a building’s story. Other times, it isn’t a big help to the composition. It’s the photographer’s decision to add context or to cut it out. Everything you include or exclude in an image adds to the message and effectiveness of that image.

Luang Prabang temple storm Laos Asian Asia southeast asia Buddhist temple copyright Aloha Lavina

Wide angle shot of a temple with storm approaching, Laos. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Light and shadow

Here is a great video talking about using light and shadow to make an architectural photograph with character.

What’s it like at night?

Night photography is a great way to explore architecture. Buildings are lit at times to showcase their forms. Here is another tutorial from expertvillage on how to take a photo of a city at night.

Finally, how about some inspiration? Click on these links to see what I mean about the elements discussed in this post.

 50 Stunning Examples of Architecture Photography by Smashing Mag

Maxwell MacKenzie’s Website

Finally, your goal this week is to apply these tips and tricks to your photography. Experiment with your imagery, and take photos at different times of the day. Then, share your best image on the Imagine That Photography Tribe Facebook page! Have fun!

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About Aloha

I am a photographer and writer currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. My work has appeared in CNNGo, Canon's PhotoYou magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, Thailand Tatler, and a few photography books including recently Blogging for Creatives, a book published in the UK. I believe there is nothing you cannot imagine that you cannot do.

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