Tuesday, February 05, 2013

3 easy tips for shooting architecture

This was taken on 23rd Street where Broadway and Fifth Avenue intersect.  I chose to shoot at the widest angle possible on my zoom lens because I wanted to capture the different buildings on just one corner.  Thr appearance of an old water tower (one of my favorite aspects of this city's skyline) juxtaposed with the Flatiron Building, a residential building, two ultra-modern new construction towers and the Met Life Building is SO New York.

Whenever I'm asked about my favorite subject to photograph I always say people.  Whether it's a portrait of my kiddo or a portrait of someone on the street, capturing a person and their personality and emotion is what I love best.  Still, photographing architecture, and beautiful places and scenes is a close second because I love that you can take a permanent object, like a building or a bridge or any other structure, and make it look different based on your perspective, the light or even the weather.  So here are a few tips for taking cool photos of architecture with some examples of a few favorite photos from my hometown.  As you can tell I love to shoot buildings in black and white but post-processing is obviously a personal choice.  For me it always depends on the image subject, the lines, light, etc.

1.   Composition and Perspective

Approach your photograph with an open mind.  Think about what you'd like in the background or the foreground of your shot.  Taking photos of a building as part of a skyline with people walking around and many other buildings in the background is very different than taking pictures of a bridge where there is open space and sky.  Who says you can't approach these two very different subjects in the same way?  Take photos from straight on, above or below and compose your shot not just horizontally but vertically, as well.  You can also check out these tips for composition.

I loved the way the trees in Madison Square Park framed the famous Flatiron Building.  It was a new perspective and cool composition that likely wouldn't work in the spring or summer when the trees are green and full.

2.  Zoom in

Your first instinct might be to shoot with the widest angle you have to capture the entire building or scene. I would say that after you get those shots, zoom in with your lens (or step closer to your subject if you're shooting with a prime lens) and concentrate on the details of a place.  Architecture is art to be admired and studied and you can really appreciate it not only when you step back but when you look closely and watch the lines, curves and other details.

When I photograph a bridge I always try to follow the lines.  The Brooklyn Bridge is a wonder to see.

3.  Think about the light

As a photographer you should always be thinking about the light.  Shooting architecture is no exception.  If you're out taking pictures when the sun is too high in the sky it could cast undesirable shadows on your subject.  A building is obviously not like a person that you can direct or that you hope will move.  You have to take what you can get and my favorite time to take pictures (in general) is either early in the morning or of course, in the late afternoon/early evening during the "magic hour."
There are so many buildings and it is just so crowded downtown in the financial district that you really have to get lucky with the light.  Most streets are dark and shadowy but every once in a while there is a break between old architecture (in the foreground) and new (in the background) and because the height of the older buildings, some magic light streams in and creates the most interesting patterns.

These are just some very simple, straightforward tips but if you'd like to see more, here's a really great in-depth tutorial from an architecture photographer.

Do you have any of your own tips?  Let us know in the comments!

This tiny street is right off of Broadway near Wall Street.  There's hardly any light on it but I like the way the little bit of natural light is reflected off the windows from the sky.

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