It’s great to get a technically sound photo, and architecture photos demand this. Getting the technical side of your photo correct should be your first priority, but beyond that, it’s worth experimenting. In this article, you’ll learn about some creative photography techniques, and how you can apply these to your architecture photography. Whether you adopt any of these for your work will be at your discretion, but having extra options for your photography is never a bad idea. So read on to find out which creative architecture photography techniques you could apply.
1. A different perspective
Many architecture photos are taken at eye level. In other words, a standing composition from street level or an elevation that brings you level with the building if that’s available. This is far from the only way to photograph architecture though. Using extreme perspectives like worms eye or birds eye views can give dramatic results.
- Worms eye view – This is likely to be the easiest perspective to achieve and works best when photographing taller structures. You can use this to emphasize interesting ceiling features or to take photos of skyscrapers from the base of the building. If you happen to be surrounded by tall buildings that are close to each other, you can use this perspective to fill the sky.
- Birds eye view – To get this type of angle, you’ll first need to find a way of getting above the structure you’re photographing. With the advent of drone photography, this has now become a lot easier to achieve. No drone? No problem. You can always find a tall building to photograph from or, if you’re lucky, a hot air balloon ride!
2. Infrared photography
You can change the nature of your creative architecture photography, without needing to use extreme perspectives. One of the best ways to do this is by using infrared photography. This will change your image into more of a dreamscape. This style of photography works much better outdoors, and in places where there is some vegetation. Through some post-processing, you’ll create an image where photosynthesizing plants are white, and the sky is dark. Architecture then forms a powerful focal point within your infrared photo. There are some excellent guides on this style of photography. You have three main choices when it comes to carrying out this style. You can convert your camera for infrared, use an infrared filter, or you can produce this effect through post-processing.
3. Light painting
One of the most creative photography techniques out there is light painting. Through the use of light painting techniques and styles, you can customize the way you photograph architecture. The trick is knowing where and how to apply this to your photograph because not all architecture lends itself to every technique. Perhaps it’s impossible to gain access to the area of the structure in which you’d like to light paint? Perhaps light painting will be too big a distraction and detract from the architecture itself. When you can use light painting to form a leading line to the architecture, or perhaps to frame the architecture, you’ll be on the right lines. There are various tools you can use. Below is a selection.
- A torch – The simplest of light painting tools. This can be used to create patterns in front of the camera, or perhaps to light up a section of the architecture you wish to photograph.
- A light source on a string – Repeating patterns work well in photography, and spinning a light source on a string will provide this repetition. You could also use this to create a light orb, and strategically place the orb in front of your architecture.
- LED light sticks – In recent years products like the pixelstick and the magilight have really revolutionized light painting. These excellent tools can be used to create bespoke light paintings in front of the architecture you’re photographing.
4. Kinetic light painting
Light paintings’ cousin is kinetic light painting. The technique also requires a tripod, but this time you move the camera rather than the light source. Once again, this can be quite experimental, and not all locations are well served by this photography style. The two main types of kinetic light painting are the zoom burst and camera rotation.
- Zoom burst – This technique works well with tall buildings, from a distance, and where they’re lit up with lots of interior building lights. You’ll need to set the camera on a tripod, with a lens that can zoom. A kit lens works very well for this, or perhaps a 24-70mm lens. You begin the photograph at the longer focal length, and then zoom out. You can read more about this technique here.
- Camera rotation – This time you rotate your camera around a tripod head. It works well with tall buildings, where you have a worms eye view. Once again, you can read more about how to do this by reading this guide.
5. Refraction photography
You can also use refraction photography with a crystal ball for creative architecture photography. That’s because the fisheye-like properties of the glass ball will capture the entire piece of architecture you intend to photograph. There are tricky aspects you need to handle including the upside-down image within the ball, and centering the architecture within the ball. Providing you can find a good place to position the ball, you’ll be able to use this technique to produce a unique photo of a building or sculpture.
6. Detail photos
The main focus of architectural photography is to capture the whole scene. That’s not always needed though, and you can find great detail photos by using lenses of longer focal length. These photos might not work on their own but would certainly add to a selection of photos of one particular piece of architecture. You’ll need to look out for details in the roofing, lines of repeating architecture like arches in a church, or ornate decorations on a wall. Then look to focus in on this particular area. Look to light the detail photo well by either choosing the correct time of day for the sun or using an external flash.
7. Digital blending
A process known as digital blending allows you to get perfect pictures. The technique is great for getting technically perfect photos, but you can push beyond that and get more creative. One of the main advantages of this is the ability to photograph towards a sunset sky, and then to balance light across the scene so your architecture doesn’t become too silhouetted. The technique requires you to use a tripod for best results and to take a set of bracketed images. You’ll then need to use luminosity masks to blend the bracketed images in post-processing.
Contrast is a broad term, and can be interpreted in several ways. You can use any of these interpretations for more creative architecture photography. Let’s look at some of the ways contrast can be applied.
- Light and shadows – The most obvious when it comes to photography is to use the light in your photo. You can use this to accentuate areas of interest on the architecture, by using shadows to show detail points.
- Colors – In some cases, you can play colors off against each other. Obviously, you can’t move architecture, so you’ll need to be creative about how you add opposite colors that contrast with it.
- Old and new – Old architecture surrounded by new can make an effective photo. Think of a church or temple surrounded by modern skyscrapers.
Look to frame the architecture you’re photographing. An arched doorway is a great way to frame your main subject. You could introduce the framing yourself, by holding something in front of the camera. You can use gaps in a fence as a way of framing your photo.
Which creative architecture photography technique will you use?
There are many ways to add creativity to your photography. You’ve now learned about some of the best creative architecture photography techniques. Are any of these techniques you’ve tried before? Which of these ideas will you try? We’d love to see the results of your photography from the past, and anything you might take in the future. As always please share your thoughts and photos in the comments section of this article.