Photography like any visual art takes skill, experience, and a talent. Light is a critical element when an architectural photographer has to consider exterior lighting as well as interior lighting.
Interior lighting can be challenging because light dictates spaces and structure inside the building. That said, interior lighting is a great deal more controllable than exterior lighting. In either case, a photographer has to have control over the lighting in order to get the best shots.
There are certain areas that are more difficult to photograph than others and it can be very frustrating. For instance, in the Midwest of the United States and the city of Chicago, the weather and conditions are unpredictable and cloud formations can develop very quickly due to the lakes in the area. High humidity can lead to gray skies and overall, unpredictable weather can leave a photographer waiting days or even weeks to get the conditions needed to get the best images.
In other areas like Arizona, you might think this is the perfect place to set up shop but think again. Between July and August, the afternoon skies can be very cloudy and there’s always a high probability of rain. You might say, Arizona! I thought Arizona was dry! Well, think again. This is only being brought up because photographers must understand the challenges and parameters in order to capture high-quality images. Unlike a studio environment, architectural photographers must learn how to deal with the unpredictable and uncontrollable circumstances in order to capture the images their client expects.
When photographing exteriors, sunlight is critical and the architectural photographer must be able to control light at all times. This can be a great challenge because the only light source an architectural photographer has to work with is the sun. Controlling the sun can be complex because obviously, you can’t truly control the sun! That said, the photographer must control what he or she can, in order to get the very best photographs and that brings the time of year into the equation. The time of year should also include the time of day and the quality of the light. Directional light is extremely important when the building is being photographed. Therefore, a photographer must wait for the best conditions, the clarity of the light, the condition of the sky, the direction of the sun, and the quality of the light. These are all critical factors when photographing architecture in order to get the best images.
When an architectural photographer is shooting elevations, it’s critical to be able to separate the planes of the structure in order to capture the details and textures of the building. Considering the light in front of the camera or behind the camera is not an acceptable solution. An architectural photographer must choose the time of day when the sun is approximately at a 45-degree angle to the elevation. The best light will be a few hours after sunrise or a few hours before sunset. Of course, this theory will depend on the orientation of the building. Choosing these two times of day, the sun’s low angle will add mood, drama, and warmth to a photograph offering long, deep shadows. Also, this allows for softer sunlight vs harsher sunlight found in the middle of the day. A building facing north can only be photographed in a short period of time during the summer and should be done as close to June 20th as possible, which is the summer solstice. Also, June 20th is the longest day of the year and northern light diminishes with each passing day thereafter. By September 20th, the northern light is gone as the direction has slowly moved south.
Many clients have no idea what goes into creating high-quality photographs or what is the perfect time of day. A professional architectural photographer must show patience, discipline, and learn how to work with weather conditions and the sun in order to control what seems uncontrollable.
Architecture can be an unpredictable business. Many architects spend years planning and creating their masterpiece and then never get the recognition they feel they so rightly deserve. Not all designers are looking for fame and glory but, like anyone else, getting recognition for their work is important. From the very first sketch to the finished structure, the process is without a doubt a labor of love and a great deal of sacrifice is involved. Architects want their work to be noticed and appreciated by their peers. In order to enter the world of architectural magazines and website, professional and amateur architects can submit photographs and articles to various magazines and their peers websites. They will take a few shots and then email them off and hope they will be regarded as the next Frank Lloyd Wright! Unfortunately, magazines and websites might be interested in their design, but they do not want their standard, boring, unprofessional images of the structure. Their photographs are just not capturing texture, tone, or drama because this is not their forte.
In order for an architect to get successful results, they must get the right be people and the right resources. When an architect decides to hire a professional architectural photographer, there are a few factors to take into consideration first. The architect must decide why they want photographs taken and how and where the images will be used. Once that has been determined, they should interview different architectural photographers and make sure they are clear why they want the photographs and what the theme of the building should be.
Professional architectural photographers have a working understanding of architecture and the physical and technical challenges involved. Architects must also understand when the best time should be for photographing the interior of their building, which must be while the building is still brand new. On the other hand, photographing the exterior of their building should take place about a year later so the landscaping has developed and matured.
An architectural photographer understands that the images should reflect the design’s quality, value, and credibility. A good photographer should understand the meaning of the design in order to capture the perfect images. They should understand and retain the personality of the building and then create an amazing work of art. Professional, talented architectural photographers will observe the building, highlight the aesthetics and the functional details of the design and draw attention to various aspects through their images.
An architect must well be the next Frank Lloyd Wright, but without bringing in a professional architectural photographer they will probably never get the recognition they are looking for. A professional architectural photographer understands lighting, the surrounding conditions, the angles that will best represent a structure, and deliver high-quality photographs to their clients.
As an architect, you have spent years creating your masterpiece. Do not take it upon yourself to capture your work. You do not have the knowledge or understanding to capture images that will best represent your architecture. Interview professional architectural photographers and let them do what they do best – capture the magnificence of your building.