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Understanding What Is Needed To Be A Professional Architectural Photographer

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.

In Conclusion:

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.


The value and influence of Professional Architectural Photography

Architects spend many years planning, designing and creating their architectural ideas and hoping for the recognition they believe should follow.  That said, most architects are not looking for the fame and the notoriety of someone like Frank Lloyd Wright, but everyone wants recognition for their hard work.  From the first sketch to the last cornerstone, it takes a great deal of vision and an enormous passion.

The upside for architects in today’s environment, they can be seen by their peers and many others through magazines and websites.Even though architectural websites and magazines might be interested in a given design, they do not want uninteresting, boring photos that you shot at various times of the day but do not showcase the architecture itself.  Professionals and novices, alike, are welcome to submit images to these places, but they must stand out and not lack inspiration.

Even though architectural websites and magazines might be interested in a given design, they do not want uninteresting, boring photos that you shot at various times of the day but do not showcase the architecture itself.  Professionals and novices, alike, are welcome to submit images to these places, but they must stand out and not lack inspiration.

This is where a new marketing niche has sprung up, the field of the architectural photographer!  Just because an architect has the gift of design and can create amazing structures, does not mean they are brilliant at photography!  Professional photographers who have jumped on this relatively new niche realize how important it is to create outstanding, captivating images of a given structure.  A good photographer fully understands that the images of an architect’s creation must command the same attention as the the architect’s vision.

Professional architectural photographers know that the beauty of a structure must be captured in their photographs.  They know that what they capture could decide the success of the architect’s work.  A leading architectural photographer will successfully capture the uniqueness of an interior, both in design and lighting while showcasing the building’s distinctive angles.  Photos should never appear as cold and distant but should apply time-sensitive shots that an amateur does not have the ability to do.

Architectural design firms are always looking for photographers that will bring their designs to life while enhancing their firm’s customer base.  The quality of excellent photography overrides what amateurs able to achieve.  Through natural lighting, attention to details, and emphasizing the structure will speak volumes.  Professional architectural photographers will go out of their way to stay away from distractions in order to capture the overall integrity of the photos.

One of the leading challenges for an architectural photographer is the best lighting.  Unless they are highly experienced with artificial lighting, they should stay away from it, especially with large structures.  Their shots must come across as simple and effortless while highlighting the best assets of a building in a very natural way without causing alterations to the image.


An architect must collaborate with the right people to complete their designs with the right finale.  When hiring the right photographer, an architect must take a few things into consideration:

The architect must decide why they want photographs taken and where or how they will be used.

They should interview professional architectural photographers by letting them understand why photographs need to be taken and provide the overall theme of the building.

When a professional photographer fully understands the actual architecture, they will appreciate the technical challenges that lie ahead of them.  The best time for photo shots of the building should be taken into consideration.  The interior of a building should be photographed when the building is brand new.  On the other hand, taking photos of the exterior should not happen for an entire year.  This gives the landscaping a chance to grow and mature which will accentuate the building’s structure.  Photographing the exterior directly after construction will make the building appear cold and unapproachable.

The architect must keep in mind, the photographs should reflect the quality, artistic style, credibility and professionalism of the entire design.  He or she should have a firm understanding of the design’s purpose in order to capture it correctly.  They must capture the personality of the building while transforming it into a beautiful work of art.

A professional, talented architectural photographer will be able to clearly see and highlight the artistic beauty and functional details of the building.  Their images should bring the building to life while drawing attention to its unique aspects.

Creating notoriety and recognition in the architectural world will take more than the sketching of a vision and the final cornerstone.  The final structure must be brought to light for the whole world to see.  All your years of creating the perfect design and implementing it into a blueprint are wasted with poor photography.  Your photographer must understand your vision and capture it for years to come.

The field of architectural photography has exploded and design firms are looking for those who will bring their designs and artists recognition.  A highly qualified, professional photographer is in great demand.  Understanding what the architecture is saying and its impact on the surrounding area is imperative.   This is just as critical as when Frank Lloyd Wright took the surrounding environment and implemented designs that made them become one.  Unlike Wright, today’s architects have the internet and power of the press.  Somewhere out there is the next Frank Lloyd Wright looking for the architectural photographer to capture an amazing moment for future recognition.


Some Techniques Used By Photographers:

Walk around the exterior and interior of the building.  Look around at the ceiling, moldings or a beautiful staircase.  The obvious subject might not be what’s directly in front of them but just a little bit off.

Tripods are used for a number of reasons but especially to prevent movement or while using a much slower shutter speed.

Always remain patient when looking for the perfect light.  When shooting interiors, light coming through a window can offer a very dramatic affect and add quality to an image.  Early morning or late afternoon light have totally different affects on textures and patterns.

White balance is very important when shooting at night or indoors.  Photographers will keep a close eye on the color temperature of artificial light as it can change the perceived color of the building.

Photographers can take advantage of a cloudy or rainy day.  Whether conditions can soften lines and shadows for a new perspective.  Puddles can add an interesting look for the exterior of a structure.

Reflections, if worked properly, can be quite dramatic.  Mirrors or windows reflect light but will also reflect the photographer if he or she is not careful!

Textures on walls, floors or ceilings will interact with the light that is present at the time.

A good photographer must know their equipment.  The best shots will come from a camera that is set to its native resolution.  Digital cameras operate at best when set to their native ISO for the best results.