What Makes a Good Architectural Photograph?
We think good photographs have a very distinct, clear subject. The viewer should never be confused as to what the main subject of the image is. If our eye jumps around the frame too much then the likelihood is you have captured an image with multiple subjects and inherently / ironically nothing is the subject if everything is the subject.
A pleasing Architectural photograph will typically have straight vertical lines which run parallel to the edge of the frame.
The image will contain good quality light. This is a subjective topic however we think good light is a very fine cocktail of directional and ambient light. We like the sun to be lower in the sky to add drama to the shadows however we do not want the direct light to be overly strong as the result is a harsh looking image. We find around 2 hours before sunset or 2 hours after sunrise with a partly cloudy sky to be just about right.
One of the first questions many of our clients ask us is on image resolution. The general consensus seems to be the higher the resolution the better the photograph but this is definitely a myth. Whilst image resolution is important it really depends on the end application. We have seen many poor photographs with mega resolutions! Our photographs are typically between 20-30 MP as we think image sensors and lenses which operate around the 50 MP level are not producing as pleasing an image just yet. We assess this every 12 months and when we feel the quality is achieved we upgrade.
There are many technical aspects to making a good photo such as image depth, colour, contrast, depth of field, vignette, composition etc and as expected these all apply to a good architectural photograph.
Digital Cameras are now at a point where almost anyone can take a decent photograph, however composition is, and always will be the one thing the camera manufacturers cannot automate. A good architectural photograph first and foremost has a very strong composition. The structure should be shown in context with neighbouring structures to give it a strong sense of place.
The shot should show people interacting in some way with the structure but the people should be obscured. Techniques such as motion blur can be applied to achieve this. People give the structure a better sense of scale however care should be taken to ensure the people do not dominate the image and become the subject. People within a photograph can carry a significant compositional weight so it is vital they sit as ancillary to the main subject.
Honesty of shot. We want to add drama and sometimes a wide lens can provide some interesting effects however a good shot shouldn’t venture too far away from how the building appears to the human eye. A 50 mm lens is said to be the closest to the field of view of the human eye. This is a great lens for portraiture but not quite right for architecture. We think somewhere between 20-35 mm is perfect. However, in many instances due to limitations on the ground, such as the ability to stand far enough back from the structure a wider lens may be necessary.