A Heuristic step into Architectural Photography and thoughts of a local professional photographer

The alignment of vertical lines in architectural photography, I think is the most distinct difference when comparing to other photography styles. As architecture itself, generally speaking, lends itself to more straight lines which therefore results in a focus on photographic conventions such as leading lines and parallel projections. Secondly, buildings do not move which allows the photographer to nitpick on finer details; where objects can be placed and composed properly in the frame or taken away.

I spent some time taking shots of a unit in Yokine, WA for a small architecture firm AD design. In the process leading up to the shot, I studied some architectural photography in combination with the research for the other articles in this series, to properly grasp my plan of attack. For the most part, I talked to the architect to understand what shots he wanted, as he was my client after all. In my mind, I knew that architecture needed a wider angle lens, but not too wide that perspectives started to become distorted or have a fisheye/barrel effect. It was also important that I harness natural lighting to light up space, removing my need to rely on rigging artificial lighting heavily.

A blog I read, fstoppers has a great article (here) on some tips, they are:

  • Be mindful of vertical lines
  • Take some time to stage and organise
  • Add and control the light
  • Be patient

(Kelley 2012)

The article explains exactly why each tip is necessary.

Below are few shots I took, with no additional lighting besides the building’s lights. Using a tripod, I was able to take long exposure shots to capture as much light as I could, whilst keeping the aperture high to increase the depth of the depth of field and a low ISO to ensure that the photo was free of noise.

Upper Floor Living Room – Yokine House by AD Designs. Photographer Eric Nguyen (2017)

 

Ground Floor Dining – Yokine House by AD Designs. Photographer Eric Nguyen (2017)

 

I interviewed a local professional photographer, Hien Nguyen of Lumens Photography who gave me some insight. The transcript of our conversation is below.

 

Transcript:

Wednesday, 20th September 2017

Eric: What do you have to say, in general about Architectural photography?”

Hien: “Architectural photography requires an understanding of both photography and a little about architecture. In terms of photography it’s a mix of both art to get the right composition, emotional feel out of the building and using the right camera settings to complement this. I’d say it’s a less common genre of photography  because of this.”


Eric: “What elements to you, do you find most important when capturing architecture/built forms?”

Hien: “I’ll generally look at elements that provide contrast – maybe in colour, materials used, or even contrast with the sky or natural environment, and then form a composition that works from there. I’ll look for lines, leading lines, lines that I can blur out when using a shallow depth of field, or just lines that make patterns that was perhaps intended by the architect. Sometimes photographing symmetry works, or even lines that create distinct borders separating elements in the photo. Materials is something I’d consist at the scene. Glass, metal, bricks etc that was intended  to blend in with the setting or contrast. I’d try and form a photo based on this. Sometimes colour based on material is also important and if we can separate elements keeping a shallow colour spectrum, the photo works better. Alternately, using a splash of colour and then composing the photo so that the rest of the photo is uniform in colour may serve well to isolate what we’re trying to capture.”

Eric:“Specifically, what technical methods do you use to highlight those important elements?”

Hien: “There’s a few technical methods that a photographer can utilise that will help form the photo. Using depth of field. Shallow depth of field will isolate a scene that we want a focus on whilst blurring out everything else.
Smaller apertures will create more depth of field which serves to give a more holistic view of the subject. I would consider the point of view from where the photo was taken. Sometimes aerial looks better and other times ground level looks better. It would depend on the scene and that’s something I’d consider. Another important consideration is the focal length of the lens used. Wider focal length will accentuate size but may come at the cost of distortion. Long focal lengths serves to minimise background elements but may make the subject appear smaller, depending how far the photograph was taken from. As such focal length is very important and it needs to be considered at the same time as everything else. We can get more technical and start using tilt shift lenses. To keep parallel lines or use it a way to create a tilt effect to our advantage. Maybe using this very method to highlight something and then blurring out the rest of the photo.
Finally, I would consider using shutter speed as a tool. Consider things like blurring cars and people whilst the building is focus gives a perception of movement and motion. This adds a human element to the photo…More importantly, I would have a long chat with the firm, to see what they want. It’s fine to do what you want but if it doesn’t fit their agenda then you won’t get paid.”

 

From that interview, it’s safe to assume we share the same views about architectural photography. As my first shot at architectural photography, I am pleased with the results after some post-production touch ups – it was surely a different and more controlled style of photography that I could potentially get used to. A nice combination of two very important things to me. This experience has taught me in a heuristic manner the eyes in which the architect sees his/her work. Working my way through the building choosing the frame in which the architect had intended for it to be viewed and seen, digitally through the photos themselves but also within the space.

 

References:

“10 Tips To Perfect Your Architectural Photography.” ArchDaily. February 06, 2017. Accessed September 18, 2017. http://www.archdaily.com/804685/10-tips-to-perfect-your-architectural-photography.

“Interiors.” Dion Robeson – Architectural Photographer and Interior Photographer Perth. Accessed September 21, 2017. https://www.dionrobeson.com.au/interiors/.

Kelley, Mike. “Taking Your Interior and Architectural Photography to the Next Level.” Fstoppers. May 21, 2012. Accessed September 20, 2017. https://fstoppers.com/location/taking-your-interior-and-architectural-photography-next-level-3130.

 

Notes:

Yokine House. Architect Kim Long of AD Design.

Interview with Hien Nguyen of Lumens Photography. http://www.lumensphotography.com/