The EIGHT Common Mistakes Made in Architectural Photography
This recent post from Architizer.com was actually titled:
The Seven Common Mistakes Made in Architectural Photography
As explained in the article they are:
Shooting an image that is too broad or busy.
Composition is arguably the most important aspect of photography. Inexperienced photographers often fall into the trap of relying on wide shots in order to capture every possible element within an image. Before shooting, you should consider what your photograph is attempting to convey within a space, and then decide what features or details to focus your lens on. Also, don’t be afraid to incorporate negative space into your photography, as this can give a composition extra strength.
This is a worthwhile comment. There's no question architects often obsess about the "grand view" of a project. A skilled photographer is trained to create a visual narrative by subtracting elements on the periphery of the image that don't contribute to the story.
Aria Apartments. Edina, Minnesota. Client: Doran Companies. This image of the project's club room tells a story about the amenities available. The photo shows how the interior design complements the features of the space. Even though much of the room has been cropped out, the architectural image remains strong.
Shooting only "iconic" buildings.
The task for The One Photo Challenge is to capture a single photograph that tells a powerful story about architecture. Telling a compelling story does not always equate to documenting the most “iconic” or flashy buildings, when regular buildings may do a better job of conveying a narrative. There is beauty in the everyday, that can make for a very captivating image.
Quite true. There are many great architectural projects, including corporate architecture, education architecture, residential design, and civic architecture that important but not necessarily award winning. Making them look good requires a skilled eye. One architect told me, "You make our projects look great when we think they look like sh*t."
Bridgewater Bank, Bloomington, Minnesota. Client: Momentum Design Group. The design concept and details of this project are stellar. It may not rise to the level of Frank Gehry, but it functions well and is pleasant to the eye.
Relying too heavily on HDR.
When used correctly, HDR can really elevate an image, allowing for astonishingly accurate reproductions of what you see or fantastical, dream-like visuals. However, many photographers fall into the trap of overusing HDR to the point where key details are erased and colors look too far from reality. It’s important to find a balance between realism and a quality photograph. Check this guide for when and how to use HDR.
Model Home. Lakeville, Minnesota. Client: Robert Thomas Homes. This is a natural HDR or, as I call it, a photo realistic HDR image composed of about 16 captures for both tonal compression and focus stacking.
I use a custom designed technique to edit my architecture photos called Photo Realistic HDR. It took several years to develop this process to make images look good but not "cooked" as many HDR images appear when they are over saturated and overly sharp. HDR is NOT a one click solution. It's folly to think someone with limited photography experience can use HDR properly. Even some experienced architectural photographers have trouble with the process. They either abandon it for some other technique or use it badly.
Getting obsessed with minimalism.
General architectural aesthetics are often synonymous with minimalism. Architectural photography is awash with shots of minimalist designs that, while visually pleasing at times, are fast becoming generic. Telling a visually captivating story is helped by focusing on architectural details, attempting to capture the character of a space and embracing imperfection. Go against the grain and pursue every-day, less “clean” architecture to photograph — these can yield more unique and compelling stories.
Agreed. Many projects are feature rich. Isolating major components of a design just to create an "artful" image negates the impact of a strong visual narrative.
St. Paul, Minnesota. Clients: Capitol Region Watershed District, MSR Design, and JE Dunn Construction. This feature rich image showcases the building, landscape design, and LED signage.
Spray and pray.
In the digital era, a common technique used among new photographers is to “spray and pray” or just shoot a mass of images with the hope of getting at least one good one. This isn’t an ideal method because capturing a quality shot requires thought and consideration. Your goal should be to capture your preferred image in one or two shots. This will force you to pay close attention to the most important aspects of an image: composition, lighting and color.
Fridley Civic Campus. Client: BKV Group. Over 100 images were delivered of this project encompassing two large buildings. This included city hall, public works, police department, fire department, and numerous city agencies.
Good point but it depends. Some projects, because of their scope, require a large number of different images to properly create a strong visual narrative. It really does no one service to try to limit photography to a small number of hero images. Those chosen images may not satisfy everyone's needs or cover all possible applications of the images. On the other hand, choices have to be made. An experienced eye will be able to tell what views are the most important.
Architecture is usually communicated more clearly through strong lighting, shadows and expressive tones. It is worth honing your skill working with an image’s contrast, exposure, black levels and highlights, and attempt to capture details as best you can on the camera, instead of relying on post-processing. Sometimes this requires a little patience, as photographer Mike Small suggests when referencing the above image comparison: “The photo on the left was taken at 6:39 PM and the one on the right at 6:53 PM. Not only is the sky very different but the artificial lighting on the building itself takes on a whole new effect just 14 minutes later.”
Aria Apartments. Edina, Minnesota. Client: Doran Companies. Numerous challenges presented themselves in creating this architecture photo. Weather conditions were changing rapidly and the sun was setting. We had trouble getting the pool deck lights on. Since this was a new project and mostly vacant, the client had to run around to various apartments turning the lights on.
Field conditions narrow the opportunity to take pictures. If you don't have an intimate understanding of the relationship between ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed, you'll struggle or have to rely on getting lucky. Most architects who take project photography don't know how to read a histogram and improvise with their camera settings.
Out-of-focus images are one of the most common mistakes made in photography. It’s an incredibly easy error to make given the amount of activity and random elements that can interfere with a shot. The Digital Photography School cites the following four causes for lack of sharpness:
- Poor Focus – the most obvious way to get images that are ‘un-sharp’ is through having them out of focus. This might be a result of focussing upon the wrong part of the image, being too close to your subject for the camera to focus, selecting an aperture that generates a very narrow depth of field or taking an image too quickly without checking it is in focus.
- Subject Movement – another type of ‘blur’ in shots is the result of your subject moving – this is generally related to shutter speed being too slow.
- Camera Shake – similarly you can get blur if you as the photographer generate movement while taking the image – this often relates to either shutter speed and/or the stillness of your camera.
- Noise – ‘noisy’ shots are ones that are pixelated and look like they have lots of little dots over them (get up close to your TV and you’ll get the same impact).
Whether you shoot in manual or auto focus mode, make sure you are comfortable with the necessary techniques to capture clear photos, including an understanding of shutter speed, aperture, ISO and the use of equipment such as a tripod.
The Brickhouse Restaurant. White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Focus stacking was used to insure this image was tack sharp from the foreground to the background.
These comments are true but harder to execute than you'd think. Most people rely on a camera's auto focus to make sure the image is sharp and in focus. Where the focus point is and, as mentioned before, a strong understanding of Aperture is critical. A $2200 lens delivers a much sharper image than a $400 lens. Most architects either rationalize the use of their cheaper lens. I'm amazed at the number of people who don't use a tripod for architecture photography. There is just no way you can get a tack sharp architecture photo using a handheld camera. In addition to focus stacking to add sharpness and Depth of Field, we preview images on an iPad Pro to verify focus.
Hire a professional photographer.
Would you suggest someone hire a photographer to design and provide architectural drawings for a building?
Architects should design projects. Photographers should take pictures. Expecting an architect to master what an architectural photographer does leaves no time to be an architect. It's not hard to take pictures; it's challenging to make pictures.
More articles about photography: click here
Silverman Be Remarkable