Top Tips from 14 of the World’s Best Architectural Photographers
Architectural photographers have a very demanding job. In order to capture a building or structure in a way that is both aesthetically pleasing and accurate to the intentions of the original architect, they have to be incredibly patient and very skilled with their equipment. Most of us will only ever see landmark buildings through the lens of an architectural photographer, so capturing the building at its finest is of huge importance to the architect as well as to the photographer.
With perhaps a less commercial emphasis, architectural photographers are also increasingly finding ways of capturing elements of the built environment in intriguing ways; finding beauty in benign structures, the strange effect of shadows at a certain time of day, highlighting the relationship between man, nature and the built environment, and drawing this out with their camera. Some of the finest art work of recent times has come from architectural photographers.
In order to find out more about this fascinating and growing profession, we asked a few of the world’s leading architectural photographers to tell us about their profession and share some helpful tips for the architectural photographers of the future.
1. Will Scott
“I really enjoy seeing new places and spaces and I think one of the great advantages of being a photographer is that you quite often get to access unusual places that very few people get to, often when you’re trying to get a unique or interesting angle to shoot from.
“I shot a project recently, the newly revamped Kings Cross Station facade/square, and it was really interesting getting to go onto the roof of the station as well as accessing some adjacent rooftops for different viewpoints, especially at twilight when you get amazing views of the city.”
Image by Will Scott
2. MIKE HOLLMAN
“I’m passionate about photographing interior architecture, especially modern architecture.
“My aim is to capture the essence of the building, showing how the architect has expressed themselves through design and the use of materials that allow the building to make a statement”
Image by Mike Hollman
“What I love about architectural photography is how the act of taking a photo turns the world into a wonderland to explore. A little black box gives you a reason to go on adventures, to find out what’s behind closed doors, or what you might find on top of a building.
“The city becomes your playground full of mystery and imagination. And more than just documenting what you find, you get to create new ways of looking at the world.”
Image by Nic Granleese
“I’m particularly fascinated by the aesthetics of constructions and the details of their shapes. Every building has its own architectural language with a totally individual vocabulary. In all of these languages I look for the most beautiful letters and words. I abstract urban shapes and underline their clear forms and structures.
“By breaking the essence of a city down to the substance, I aim to free buildings from their spatial context and known surroundings. In the end, I hope to model a new uniqueness of shapes with my pictures.”
Image by Sebastian Weiss
5. MIKE KELLEY
“What I love most about architectural photography is that it isn’t so much an act of taking a picture, but creating a piece of art.
“There is so much that goes into one of my photographs – from composing, to staging, to lighting, to retouching and processing – that it is really a very long and exciting process in which I can spend in some cases over 12 hours just crafting one image. Every frame must be carefully considered, as architectural photographers are not able to disregard parts of the image and let bokeh take over, and every element in the photo is either contributing or taking away from the shot.
“It’s a great mental exercise, and every shoot is a new challenge! As no two homes or buildings are alike, there are regular curveballs and you learn something new on every shoot.”
Image by Mike Kelley
“I am always in search of perfect forms. Lines, curves, geometry fascinates me and for my photographic composition they have a fundamental role.
“Even in outdoor scenes I always try to capture the shapes of urban nature, and bend them to my vision.”
Image by Paolo Tangari
7. Johnny Kerr
“My advice for a beginning fine art or abstract architecture photographer is to put as much energy and focus as possible into developing your artistic vision. Equipment and technique are important, too, but those are the easy part and should be second to your vision.
In this day and age anyone can spend a Sunday afternoon on YouTube and learn about exposure, the latest photo gear, and trending post-processing techniques. You should definitely know your equipment and craft but don’t overemphasize its place in the creative process. Some of my favorite images started out as iPhone snapshots for my Instagram feed. It doesn’t matter what camera you have, your unique vision is what will set you apart from the pack.
“Don’t get caught up in the numbers game on social media. It is frustrating to see the picture of a grumpy cat with some clever saying about hating Mondays gain thousands of “likes” on Facebook when your images only garner a handful of clicks.
“Persevere, keep your head in the long game, and it will eventually pay off in a much more meaningful way than a few minutes of fame on Flickr.”
Image by Johnny Kerr
“My top tip for beginning architectural photographers is simply to get out there and do it a lot. This is the best way to understand how architecture photographs in different light, from dawn to dusk and into the night.
“Also, you need to know what the rules of this niche area of photography are, even if you decide in the end not to follow them.”
9. Janie Airey
“Shooting spaces and architecture is an exciting place to be at the moment with all the brave, bold and inspiring architecture we’re creating on the planet.
“My top tip for beginner architectural photographers would be to try and approach it with a different eye. There doesn’t have to be a pure blue sky and you don’t have to show the whole building and don’t just stand and shoot from your head height; find different angles, times of day and be inventive and free with your image making.
“It’s good to realise and work out how and why a shot works when you capture a good one so you can develop a style of your own.”
Image by Janey Airey
10. Connie Zhou
“I’ve always had a hard time articulating why I am interested in photographing architecture. Personally photographing architecture has always been super exciting for me. Large and grand structures are what I’m generally interested in. I like photographing things that are larger than life, but that I can capture into my camera frame.
“The graphic lines of a building are what draw me in. I always tell people that I’m interested in photographing anything that looks like it can be from outer space, I think that best describes my work.”
Image by Connie Zhou
11. Nick Guttridge
“Persistence pays – Just keep on going, even when things are looking hard.
“Trust yourself to take the occasional risk, whether it is a personal project. A trip abroad for an idea or simply contacting people local to you to dream up a photographic project. You don’t have to go far to find great subjects.
“Don’t get bogged down with cameras, I bought mine in 2005 and it is still perfect for what I do. I may have bought some video kit and lighting since but essentially the camera is perfect for me. Perhaps I am lucky that I don’t need the latest camera.”
12. Koen Van Damme
- Architecture arises from images in your head.
- Architectural photography arises from architecture.
- Images in your head arise from architectural photography.
- You empty your head.
- You purify the building
- And press the shutter button.”
Image by Koen Van Damme
“Imagine the interior scene you are looking as if it were a composed landscape, so try to make a composition that the viewer’s eye can wander through – reading, possibly, from left to right, and make sure key objects are not overlapping with each other so as to ensure the scene is easy to understand.”
Image by Kilian O’Sulivan
14. Steve Mayes
“Architectural photography is a niche area, where client’s standards can be particularly high. Usually they want to show the building – whether exterior or interior – at it’s absolute best. That means having a very well developed understanding of lighting, and a fine eye for detail. Scour the scene carefully – line up chairs and tables, remove ugly signage. Take the time, if you can. Close enough is not usually good enough. If you’re going for symmetry that is particularly the case. Likewise for straight lines, but don’t be afraid to look for quirky angles and details. Most of all, enjoy it and try to appreciate the space you’re working in – stop and look around every so often.”
Image by Steve Mayes
So there you have it, wise words from 14 of the best architecture photographers around today. Let us know who your favourite is in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post why not check out our handy photographer’s checklist?