Architecture Photography: The Ultimate Guide To Taking Great Shots

Updated: Nov 17


Cover image for the architecture photography guide
Source: andersjilden / Unsplash

Lately, one of my closest friends drove over to the architectural beauty Hampi in South India, where she perceived the knowledge of ancient Indian creativity and culture. Though there are thousands of pictures, stories, and guides of the city over the internet, I wanted to share an elaborate conversation to let my mind absorb the finest details. Ergo, when she arrived back in the town, in no time, I DMed her instantly to meet me in the nearest cafe. It was then my mind flew to my dream place, Hampi, while she narrated her travel stories. When the final part of her foretelling occurrences bypassed through the pictures she clicked, it felt like hundreds or thousands of emotions held me still to convey the blast of experiences, fun and joy. It made me discern how one single picture can take over anything, and maybe this is why photography is a profession and not merely a hobby. It's about recapturing the entire moment in one single shot, and a good photographer is someone who brings life to the subject. You might have noticed that a few pictures throb your heart while some don't even manage to raise your brows. It happens because of the quality of the photograph, but only through expensive accessories; you can't beat those talented ones. But, hey, there was nothing behind to disappoint you, instead a purpose on why you should read this article. Having watched hundreds of videos, experimented with guides, and read a few books, I decided to explain everything to you from scratch. Regardless of whether you are a professional photographer or not, your beginner ability will make the internet go wild. It's time to get started with the ultimate guide on architecture photography.


What Is Architectural Photography?


The term architectural photography consists of two words- architecture and photography, encompassing the brief denotation of the means to capture the subject righteously. Now that you understand its meaning: let us move on to learning the words separately so that you can coincide them to get the utmost information.


Building photography infront of a pinkish sky
Source: elevenphotography / Unsplash

The term architecture comes from the root meaning "chief" and "builder", so everything that serves as a shelter and can be used for various purposes is classified as architecture. Humans are driven by the urgent need to have a place to live. As such, good architecture solves problems for individuals and the entire planet.


When it comes to photography, it relates to drawing with light, as it also refers to capturing the impressions of things, places, and people in a likable way that the palpability cannot be perceived normally. Having said that: imagine this article without any picture or your daily newspaper without a single image. Would you be willing to read it even though it makes importance and deep sense to you? No, you won't! Because it is the art of images and conveying messages through it, making everything adorable and connecting our mind strings to the actual occurrence.


Now you might wonder about the beginning of the photography so let us move on to the next section.



The Invention Of Photography.


Numerous people like you want to skip the portion as they might believe it is irrelevant but tell me, without knowing the beginning, how could you survive learning the whole concept?


Okay; for your adorable smile, I would make it quick so that it doesn't bore you anyway!


It was only in the 1820s that Nicephore Niepce used an exposure for several hours, capturing a glimpse of the scene from his window, which became the first surviving photograph, despite light-sensitive materials and camera obscura discovered long ago. The image coincided with the first architecture photograph, even if the subject was practical rather than aesthetic. It completes the early depiction tale. As promised, I took less than a minute.


Now, if someone asks you about it, boast about it proudly.



Forms Of Architecture Photography.


Now that you know a bit about the course of the past, let us move on to its forms. You know that there are numerous approaches available in architecture. Likewise, there are various procedures available in architecture photography, ranging from leisure to purely functional. It led us to learn about the forms, which are-


1. Documentary Architectural Photography.


Documentary architecture photography is necessary to describe plans, drawings, and explanations of a structure in books, magazines, and construction documents.


Documentary Architecture Photography of Ransom Gillis Mansion in Detroit
Ransom Gillis Mansion in Detroit, 1993

2. Postcard Photography.


It serves the sole purpose of recognizing the sender and location. Hence, such photos are reproduced with oversaturated colors and scant regard for technical prowess.


Postcard architectural photography of a residential property
Source: Apalmanac

3. Vacation Photography.


Whatever picture you take with your camera while you visit a place for memories comes under this. There is no science and explanation here, as it is simple!


Vacation architecture photography of a bridge in Venice with an old man crossing it
Source: Carla Coulson


4. Advertising Photography.


Enhancing the significance of a product through the stylist features, colours, image blending, and artificial reflections used for advertisements have this kind of photography.


Advertising architectural photography of a luxury house with a swimming pool
Source: Maison de Campagne 2014 / George Fakaros

5. Artistic Architecture Photography.


Often found in exhibitions and galleries, these images are in the context of a particular theme or artist. Hence, the architecture serves as the means to an end and doesn't display the architect's qualities; instead revolves around the photographer's ability.


Artistic architectural photography of a building with a shop named The Drake and a woman passing by where her shadow is being shot as well
Source: Chris Hytha / Instagram

You have beautifully surpassed this section with a worthy read. Now it is time to learn about the cameras.


Best Camera For Architectural Photography.


The most crucial aspect of photography is the choice of camera. Certainly not, peops. You might think otherwise, but it is a minor concern since a good photographer can gratify emotions despite technical severities. Sometimes, even a bad-resolution image with technical distortion will surpass the ambition to impress the viewer with the best-shot photograph.


Returning to the section, we still need to learn about good resources and cameras. I am skipping the part about digital compact and bridge cameras as they are unsuitable for architecture photography.


I am directly giving prominence to Four-Thirds, APS-C, and DX-DSLRs. Now, most DSLRs have sensors smaller than traditional 35mm image format as they are cheap or inexpensive.

But the minutest DSLR sensors rely on the Four-Thirds standard, which had a diagonal measurement of half the size of a 35 mm film frame and a focal length multiplier of 2. Now the question is how this factor is relevant to the photographer.


APS-C VS Micro 43 VS Fullfrane camera for architecture photography
Source: benobro / Unsplash

It is a theoretic value, which helps a photographer to estimate the angle of viewing a lens in such a way that it produces relative to the size of a 35 mm frame. So briefly, if there is a 14mm lens used on these types of cameras, they will depict an angle of view equivalent to that produced by a 28 mm full-frame camera. Compared to the older system, the Micro Four Thirds system uses the same sensor but eliminates the mirror box. These are mirrorless cameras. You must know about the pixels in these types of sensors. Each pixel is substantial and captures more light, resulting in images of higher resolution and dynamic range. Hence, you can go for APS-C, DX, and Four Thirds DSLRs for architecture photography at a hobby level without spending much.


The next category you must know about is full-frame format cameras. Companies like Canon, Sony, and Nikon provide full-frame format DSLRs with sensors similar to the traditional 35mm film frame. However, you can use them under certain circumstances, as the smaller image circles, they produce cause severe vignetting. But if you have good-quality lenses, a full-frame DSLR is the ideal alternative for architectural photography. A quick tip I suggest is that if you are on a limited budget, you can go for an inexpensive architecture photography camera with a better-quality lens instead of buying an expensive full-frame camera with low-quality lenses.


Comparison of pixel sizes: light yield per pixel, APS-C VS Micro 4/3 VS Full Frame Architecture photography camera
Comparison of pixel sizes: light yield per pixel | Source: Adrian Schulz / Architectural Photography

Briefly, there is no ideal choice of the camera as all of them have strengths and weaknesses in terms of architecture photography. For now, digital compact and bridge cameras are of no use if you are into even beginner's architecture photography. Talking about DLSRs, they can be practical for small-budget ones with advanced quality lenses, and so does the mirrorless cameras if you don't want to hang baggage around you every time for photography. Further, full-frame digital cameras are the best option for professional building photography with good-quality lenses.


You can choose accordingly, as per your convenience, but still, I am suggesting a few below in each category so that you can have a broader idea of the best camera for architectural photography.


Camera Type

Recommendation

DSLRs

Canon EOS Rebel SL3, Nikon D5600, Pentax K-3 III

Full Frame Architecture Photography Camera

Sony A7 IV, Canon EOS R5, Nikon Z9

Mirrorless Architecture Photography Camera

Fujifilm X-H2, Olympus OM-D E-M10 MARK IV



Architecture Photography Lens.


Now that you have a grip on choosing the right camera, let us move on to various lenses used in architecture photography. It is utterly foolish to spend more on cameras than lenses, as I've seen many people do exactly the same. It is about the lens that affects your image quality as it determines the angle of view, sharpness, and a minimum depth of field in your image. So whether you buy an inexpensive or an expensive camera, you have to learn about lenses.


Now, remember that architecture photography lens differ as they must provide good reproductions with the least lens error and an appropriate angle of view. You know that the subject has a large size and a wide angle of view, so the selective focus doesn't play a crucial role here. Architectural photographers know that the entire subject is in sharp detail, so they shoot with the lens stopped right down, causing less vignetting effects and other image deterioration prospects.


Tilt/shift lenses are the optimum choice while shooting an image and making physical adjustments. They give you the freedom in viewpoint and framing and make a perfect shot! Furthermore, remember that expensive lenses are a better choice as they are made with premium optical adjustments than cheaper ones.


A comparison of pictures taken with shift lens and with normal architecture photography lens
Comparison of pictures taken with shift lens (left) and without shift lens (right) | Source: Chris Crumley & Chuck Guthrie

Best Lens For Architecture Photography.


Some of my favorite or as I may say the best lens for architectural photography are, Canon 16-35mm f4L IS Lens, Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8, PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED, PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED.



Best Combinations Of Camera & Lens For Everyone


I have already given you a brief account of lenses and cameras according to budget and profession, but still, there is one thing missing. The combinations!


I do not want to burden you with choosing the best combination for architecture photography, so I have decided to draft the list according to your leisure and profession.


Beginners.


If you are a complete beginner and have just started your journey in architecture photography, you can use an entry-level DSLR or a mirrorless camera with a bundle of lens kits. You can further update your lenses as you become advanced in building photography.

So, Nikon D5600 is a good choice for budget and beginner purposes.


Hobbyists.


For photographers who have a great sense of taking an architecture photograph and are passionate about their career, you can buy a good DSLR with an additional ultra-wide-angle zoom lens.


I have already given you a choice of DSLRs. Choose any according to your budget. About lenses, you can go for Nikon AF-P DX 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR and Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S.


Intermediates.


If you are already a great photographer and wish to progress in architecture photography, you can go for an adequate budget and buy an expensive camera with equipment. Buy a full-frame DSLR and a set of high-end zoom or tilt/shift lenses as the complete kit. I have already recommended you so you can make combinations! Consider it as your task.


The Advanced Professionals.


I don't believe that if you fall into this category, I have to suggest anything to you. Because for pros, even the best is just better. You might choose a full-frame camera with high-end and wide-angle lenses or sometimes tilt/shift lenses. Do not think about the cost as it will go in five figures, but C'mon, you can afford it now.


Photography Accessories You Can't Miss On.


Even if you buy the best camera and lenses, you will still need a kit of accessories. I am providing you with the complete list, so you do not miss anything.


1. Tripod.


Everyone knows it is a fundamental part of every photography, as it is responsible for shake-free images. You have to use a stable tripod and always make sure that you know about its load capacity or the weight it can withstand. A few good ones, I can recommend are made by Manfrotto if you have a smaller budget and Berlebach or Gitzo if you can afford it expensively.


A picture of Gitzo tripod with a camera for architectural photography
Gitzo Tripod | Source: Trusted Reviews

2. Tripod Head.


Tripod heads are part of tripods available separately so that you can use them for various purposes. Remember that you certainly can not miss these, as a cheap or inferior quality tripod head can disturb your shooting and give you the worst results. Markins, Linhof, and Arca Swiss make the best of them. I will add a few recommendations so that you don't get confused.


Linhof tripod head
Linhof tripod head | Source: B&H Photo Video Audio


3. L-Bracket And Panorama Head.


If you are among the photographers who shoot a lot of portrait format images, then you can not miss L-Bracket. With them, you can easily switch from landscape to portrait format without losing the camera's center of gravity. They are available as per your camera choice in generic and custom-made models.


Cambo CLH-500 Panoramic Leveling Head with L-Bracket
Cambo CLH-500 Panoramic Leveling Head with L-Bracket | Source: B&H Photo Video Audio

4. Lens Hood.


Whenever you pack your lenses, you have to ensure that no stray light enters them, as it causes additional vignetting effects and distorts your image quality. The Lens Hood, while costly, protects your lenses from damaging and spoiling shots.


Sensei Pro Lens Hood
Sensei Pro Lens Hood | Source: B&H Photo Video Audio

5. Filters.


I am certainly not referring to the Instagram filters here. They are way too much nonsense. By filters, I meant Polarizers, Graduated filters and neutral density filters.


Coming to Polarizers, help to suppress the unwanted reflections from water or shiny material and intensify the blue range of the sky concerning the sun. Circular ones are a good choice among them.



Graduated filters mounts on a distinct holder attached to the front of the lens and provide an effect for balancing exposure in contrasting scenes.


Graduated filter mounted on a camera
Graduated filter mounted on a camera | Source: David Clapp

Natural density filters reduce the entrance of lights entering through the lenses. The better the quality of these filters, the lower the risk of diminishing the image quality. Best ones to buy by B+W, Hoya, Heliopan, LEE Filters, and Haida.


A collage of a picture taken without neutral density filter, a hand holding neutral density filter while pointing towards the scene for difference and an image taken with neutral density filter
Neutral Density Filter | Source: Kent Faith

6. Lens Adapters.


With the transformation of the lens over time and the introduction of new ones into the market, DSLR owners consider that they could only use a lens made by their camera manufacturer or compatible third-party lenses by accepted brands like Sigma, Tamron, or Tokina. However, lens adapters help to attach older manual lenses with M42, Olympus OM, Pentax K, Contax/Yashica, Leica R, or medium format mounts to various DSLR bodies. Combining a contemporary DSLR with Zeiss or Leica lenses often produces the best results.


A Fujifilm camera with lens adapter and a lens
Lens adapter positioned between the camera and the lens | Source: Urth Magazine

But before leaning completely towards them, one needs to know that not all lenses can be adapted to work with every camera body. The reason is the flange focal distance.


Flange focal distance is the distance between the front of the lensless mount and the sensor. If this distance is too large, it will limit the adapted lens to focus at infinity.


In a simple definition, a DSLR with a large flange focal distance (for example, Nikon) have limitations to toil with a small gang for distance lens (for example, Canon FD lenses).


Adrian Schulz, author and photographer says,

"If you want to use unusual camera/lens combinations, you either have to simply do without an infinity focus setting or use a special adapter with additional built-in optical elements. The latter option can, however, lead to re- duction in overall image quality. "

Tip: Canon EOS cameras are the easiest adaptable DSLRs in the market as they have a short-range focal distance and a large diameter of the bayonet opening.


Other crucial items you must have in your accessories kit are memory cards, batteries and a flash. Further, keep rain covers and blowers brushes for cleaning your lenses and camera. I have given you everything here regarding the accessories needed for architecture photography. You might think a few are irrelevant, but there will be a time when you need them and when you will miss this article. Anyways, you can bookmark and read it anyway later to cover up.



What Makes A Great Architecture Photograph?


Now that you know about accessories and camera kits, it is time to learn about the photograph. Tell me, what do you think a perfect architecture photo is all about? How can you judge it? If you have too many thoughts and your mind has distracting opinions, calm down and reflect on your previously taken shots. In case you are unable to figure it out, compare it with the best picture you find online. By the way, even if you are fetching your thoughts hard and running out of opinions, don't worry; I will let you know.


A good architecture photograph of Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid Architects
Photograph of Heydar Aliyev Center with the composition having surrounding elements and the building in focus | Source: Hufton and Crow

It is the perfect way to convey a message in an intelligible form of expression. It also means that the picture should include the vital element in a way that the viewer can see it immediately. Even if the viewer knows nothing about the building, he must understand and communicates with its familiarity.


A Brief Guided Step For Building Photography.


There is no such perfect guide that can make your architecture photography or even normal photography skills fantastic. It is only the experience you get with time and practice. You can, however, follow a brief norm, which will lead you to click masterpieces, and I am going to tell you what it is.


Building photography of two skyscrapers adjacent to eachother
Source: Simone Hutsch / Unsplash

Analyzing the situation is the first step after choosing your subject. Now how to do it? Just a few questions need to be answered, and it's done.

  • Know your surroundings, which includes weather, and sunlight positioning, so that you know the exact side of shadows and backlight.

  • Remember, if you chose a spot now, it is time to check for irritable reflections, so do it.

  • How can you portray the building? An artistic style or a documentary?

  • Choose the right camera angle accordingly by emphasizing the building's strength.

  • How will you shoot it? Portrait or landscape?

  • What is the correct camera position which will deliver a great shot?

  • What are the other elements that you want to keep in your shot?

Once you know all the answers to the above questions, the final step is to choose the right lens, accessory, and camera settings. A quick tip is to know the right moment to release your shutter to include the people, cars, or shadows you were waiting for.



Interior Architecture Photography Guide.


There are many more points to be covered, such as shooting techniques and camera settings, but I'll be able to address them in my next article. Let me try them out, and then I'll write a separate blog post. So far, you have studied the basics of exterior architecture photography, but interior architecture photography is a crucial shoot that shouldn't be overlooked. So in this section, I will let you know about it.


Before we go on to read about it, remember that it differs from the exterior shoot since there is limited space where the photographer can move. It makes it impossible to communicate information about the size and shape of a building. In interior architecture photography, you have to take care of the volume, sequence and intersection of the room.


Taking interior shots has the advantage of not having to deal with fixtures and fittings, which have a significant impact on the overall mood of the picture. Hence, even a single misplaced plant, everyday objects and unneeded furniture can spoil the entire look. Hence, you must remove all the items that can't help you to illustrate the room in the best way.


Keep in mind that the first thing you need to do is clean the polished surfaces and remove even the smudge. Arrange the room so that no items do not contradict the overall theme. It is good to remove the blemishes manually so that you don't need to remove them digitally.


Clean interior architectural photography with complete landscape in the composition and polished surfaces
Clean interior architectural photography with polished surfaces and complete landscape in the composition | Source: Jon'Nathon Stebbe / Unsplash

The second point is arranging things perfectly or breaking all the photography rules by deliberately arranging things to attract attention. Do not be confused and go for leaving things tidy instead. Photography is about bridging the connection between the objects and fittings within, so ensure that there is communication. If it doesn't communicate with you, it is simply not successful.


The next thing you must learn about is perspective and standpoint.


Perspective.


To shoot the best and most realistic-looking image, you have to stand against a wall or other gaps in architecture so that you don't miss anything. There are two kinds of perspectives- central or two-point, for shooting in interior spaces.


If you have a small room, a central perspective works. Here you have to position the camera along the room's central axis and shoot in direction of the far wall. Remember that the larger the room, the more distance you have from the camera to the far wall.


For a two-point perspective, shoot diagonally into space. It creates a feeling of style and depth. In narrow spaces, it can create an inharmonious and dramatic result. So it is better to go for it in colossal places.


Also, choose your standpoint according to the direction of light and even the mixed light sources.


A quick tip is to shoot at eye level, approximately 6ft above floor level, which produces a natural-looking interior shot. If you have a low-ceiling room, you can shoot from 3ft-4ft above the floor, making it look more spacious. But keep in mind that if you keep the camera low, do not miss on objects and items. Whereas, if you keep the camera above eye level, it emphasizes the depth of distant objects in space.


The camera settings are the same in the exterior and interior architecture photography, and as promised, I will cover them in a separate article.


I am recommending a few architectural photography online courses that you can attend to master your architecture photography.



Architectural Photography Online Course: The Ones You Would Want To Attend.


Well, learning from scratch is about experimentation and discomfort. Eventually, you figure out every trick but doesn't it sounds foolish to waste time instead of investing?


Here are the masterclasses to learn most about architecture photography!

And of course, there are a few good books that can work wonders and meantime, give you a good read time. A few recommendations from my side are- Seeing Ambiguity, Maynard L. Parker: Modern Photography and the American Dream, and Architectural Photography: Composition, Capture, and Digital Image Processing – Adrian Schulz.


After learning them and experimenting with tricks, you can capture good shots and progress in your architecture photography career. But, Hey, wait, we are set to explore the editing part. So let us begin with the final part of our article.


Editing Softwares For Everyone.


Once you have good pictures, it is time to edit them on compatible software. You can not miss them as it is a crucial skill for the photographer.


In this section, I am only recommending the ones as per the demands.


1. Adobe Photoshop.


A worthy software to edit your pictures overall with the price starting at $9.63/month. However, if you are a beginner, you will need a lot of time to know the features entirely. But these features help you to get your job done.


2. Corel Paintshop Pro.


For all those who need easy editing software on a budget, it is a perfect fit. Beginners who have little knowledge of editing can create amazing pictures through Corel Paintshop Pro. The full package of the software costs $66.60 lifetime. However, you can not use them on Mac.


3. Photopea.


If you are a beginner running out of money, Photopea is one of the best free editing tools. The only downside is that it requires a good internet connection and can often lag.

Architecture Photography: The Final Shot.


You are an intelligible soul who grasped so much information in one go. For now, I have given you the complete information on architecture photography, excluding the camera settings and lighting, which I will cover in my next term. Meanwhile, keep experimenting, and feel free to tell me in the comments if you have any questions, and I will be happy to answer them.


Source:


Architectural Photography: Composition, Capture and Digital Image Processing by Adrian Schulz.

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