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  • Writer's pictureAbdul Qudoos

13 Architecture Photography Tips to Capture Breathtaking Building Photos

Updated: Jan 23


architecture photography tips

Have you ever wondered how some photographers can capture such stunning images of buildings? How do they make them look so impressive and majestic?


If you want to learn the secrets of great architecture photography, you’re in luck. 

In this article, you’ll find 13 practical and easy-to-follow tips that will help you take your architecture photos to the next level.


By applying these tips, you’ll be able to create beautiful and captivating photos of buildings that will make people stop and stare.


Let’s get started!


1. Scout Locations Thoroughly to Find the Best Angles

The first step to snapping an amazing architecture photo is location scouting. Identify vantage points that showcase the most interesting or flattering perspectives of the building.


Walk completely around the structure several times, looking for unique ways to frame it. Pay attention to the direction it faces and how surrounding elements interact with it visually.


Examine the site at different times of day to understand the interplay of light and shadow. Make notes or sketches for future reference.


You can also use Google Maps and aerial views to identify potential vantage points before visiting the location.


Thorough scouting results in more dynamic, well-planned shots. You’ll discover angles and details you may have otherwise missed.


2. Shoot from Low Angles to Highlight a Structure's Height

One of the most striking architectural photography techniques is shooting from a low vantage point.


Positioning the camera below the structure’s midpoint will elongate its vertical dimensions for a powerful visual effect. This perspective showcases the building’s imposing presence and grandeur.


Try angles where the camera is close to the ground, similar to a child’s viewing level. Or elevate slightly by photographing from bent knees. Position yourself diagonally rather than directly below for more dynamic upward viewing angles.


Low angles work exceptionally well for highlighting tall elements like towers, spires, and skyscrapers against the sky. The scene takes on a monumental quality.


3. Capture Entire Buildings from Afar for Striking Contextual Photos

Including the entire structure in your frame adds crucial context about its size, surroundings, and purpose.


To fit a large building into a single shot, you’ll need to create distance from it. Move progressively further away while zooming out until you achieve the desired framing.


Ideally, incorporate interesting foreground elements like trees, statues, or water features to accentuate depth and lead the eye. Cloud-filled skies also add appealing background interest in wide contextual shots.


Just ensure your vantage point alignments with the building. Avoid distorting vertical lines by shooting straight on.


4. Photograph Structures at Dawn or Dusk for Dramatic Lighting


contrast of same building at dawn and dusk

The warm, directional light at dawn and dusk casts structures in a breathtaking glow. Lower illumination creates elongated shadows that accentuate surface textures and depth.


Position yourself so the building is frontally lit by the rising or setting sun. Side lighting at this time of day can be harsh.


Adjust your timing according to the orientation of the architecture and time of year. Generally, dawn light will favor east-facing structures while west-facing ones photograph better at dusk.


Arrive early so you can scout compositions and then be ready the moment the ideal lighting unfolds. These magical hours are fleeting.


5. Use Long Exposures to Create Dreamy, Ethereal Cloud Effects

During the day, long exposure techniques can impart a soothing, artistic quality to architectural scenes.


Use an ND filter over your lens to reduce incoming light. Then set your camera to shutter priority mode and select exposures of 5 seconds or longer.


The extended exposure time will blur and soften any moving elements like wispy clouds, lending a smooth, ethereal effect. Water will also be silken as it flows.


For maximum impact, compose so the moving components contrast with sharp, defined architecture. The juxtaposition accentuates the long exposure’s visual magic.


6. Include People to Convey Scale and Add Human Interest

Adding people to architecture shots provides an instant sense of size and proportion. Without a human reference, it can be tough to convey immense scale.


Try framing someone dwarfed by a towering structure or walking through a grand entrance. Position the person off to the side if they will distract from the architecture itself.


Candid moments also infuse a mood and spontaneity: a child playing, a couple holding hands, or a lone person gazing upward. Observe and capture authentic interactions.


Just secure permission before photographing identifiable people, especially close-ups. Respect privacy concerns.


7. Frame Key Elements with Foreground Objects for Optimal Compositions


building framed with ceiling

Strategically placing foreground elements in your composition directs viewers to important parts of the structure. The framing device could be anything from a fence to a tree.


Position the object so it overlaps and mimics the lines of the building. This alignment creates visual coherence and naturally draws the eye.


Keep the framing minimalist. It should complement, not distract from the architecture itself. Leave negative space around subjects for balance.


Low foreground elements like stair railings, benches, or flower beds work especially well to creatively frame tall buildings.


8. Follow the Rule of Thirds for Balanced, Harmonious Architecture Compositions

The rule of thirds is a basic photography guideline for aesthetically pleasing shots.

Divide your camera's live view grid or frame into even thirds horizontally and vertically.


Position important architectural elements along these imaginary lines or at intersections.

Balancing a building left or right creates space for it to imaginatively “grow” into. Likewise, vertical thirds alignment conveys an uplifting sense of grandeur.


Symmetrical compositions can feel static. The rule of thirds introduces natural dynamism and flow.


9. Use Leading Lines to Draw Viewers Into the Frame

Leading lines direct a viewer's gaze in a purposeful way. Use naturally occurring lines in architecture to move the eye gradually into and through your composition.


Converging lines like a long hallway suggest depth and draw focus toward the horizon. Curving lines lead towards a focal anchor point.


Diagonal lines angling from a corner imply action and movement. Repeat horizontal lines convey balance and harmony.


Position yourself to align with strong lines in the architecture. Let them guide and steady the viewer’s visual path.


10. Focus on Small Details and Textures for Intimate Photos with Depth

Get close and personal with a structure by highlighting its ornate details. Intimate architecture shots reveal refined touches that may otherwise go unnoticed.


Capture the weathered grain of brick or wood. Hone in on embellished moldings, carvings, tile mosaics, and ironwork. Notice patinas and aging.


A wide aperture blurs backgrounds, isolating details against soft bokeh. Try side lighting to accentuate texture. Convert to black and white for added focus on form.


Details disclose the care, handiwork, and artistry invested in the architecture over time. Pay tribute through your photography.


11. Shoot Through Fog or Mist to Soften Details in a Dreamy Manner

Fog and mist diffuse light in a way that delicately softens building features and edges. This lends architecture shots a romantic, ethereal quality.


Position yourself so the structure rises through the frame-enveloping fog. Sidelighting illuminates it through the mist.


Without a clear definition, visual emphasis shifts to overall shape, shadow, and light. Details melt away into watercolor-evoking softness.


Boost contrast in post-production to further heighten the moody, mystical ambiance. Convert to black and white for added evocativeness.


12. Hone Your Composition Skills Through Extensive Practice

Refine your architectural photography techniques with repeated practice. Train your eye to instantly identify pleasing compositions and optimal angles.


Study the masters to absorb how they frame, light, and shoot legendary buildings. Put this knowledge into action during every session.


With experience, you’ll learn how to quickly maneuver around structures for ideal vantage points. The excellent composition will become second nature.


13. Study the Work of Legendary Architecture Photographers

Immerse yourself in the craft’s iconic masters for inspiration on composition, style, and technique.

  • Philippe Ruault - His refined symmetry and geometry influence architects worldwide.

  • Andreas Gursky - Famed for epic, highly detailed large-format shots.

  • Julius Shulman - His mid-century images defined Los Angeles modernism.

  • Hélène Binet - She captures the essence of famous architects’ structures and spaces.


Learning from the greats will profoundly expand your photographic vision. Let their artistry elevate your own work.


Choose the Right Gear for Architecture Photography


architecture photography gear

Before applying these tips for capturing great architectural shots, it's important to have the proper photography gear. The right equipment allows you to maximize image quality and take full advantage of the tips below. Here's a look at some of the most useful gear for architecture photography:

  • DSLR or Mirrorless Camera: Look for a camera with a high-megapixel sensor for resolving fine details in large prints. Useful features include live view, tilt screens, and focus peaking.

  • Wide Angle Lens: A wide-angle zoom like 16-35mm captures expansive architecture exteriors and exaggerated perspective.

  • Telephoto Lens: A telephoto zoom like 70-200mm compresses perspective and isolates architectural details from a distance.

  • Tilt-Shift Lens: This specialized lens minimizes perspective distortion through tilt and shift movements. It provides a miniaturization effect.

  • Neutral Density Filters: ND filters allow long exposures to blur motion like clouds and water. A polarizing filter reduces reflections.

  • Tripod: Essential for stabilizing the camera, especially for low light and long exposures. A sturdy tripod prevents blur.

  • Remote Shutter Release: Used to trigger the shutter without touching the camera, preventing shake. Essential for long exposures.

  • Post-Processing Software: Programs like Lightroom and Photoshop refine architectural photos through adjustments like perspective correction, sharpening, and saturation.


Having optimal gear gives you the creative flexibility to put these tips into practice.


Conclusion

Striking architecture photography requires vision, preparation, and a meticulous eye. With the tips in this guide, you now have the tools to transform any building into a breathtaking photograph.


Approach each shoot with patience and creativity. Scout thoroughly for standout perspectives. Harness natural light at its peak moments. And compose carefully using techniques like leading lines, rule of thirds, and foreground framing.


The more you photograph structures, the more their architectural beauty will reveal itself to you. So get out there with your wide-angle lens, tripod, and curiosity to see the built world in a bold new way.


The only limits are your imagination and willingness to experiment. With practice and dedication, your images will continue improving until you’re ready to join the great architectural photographers.


Now it’s time to make that happen! Just remember the tips in this guide, and soon people will be in awe of your jaw-dropping building photos.


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