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Architecture Photography Tips

Discussing architecture is inseparable from aesthetics, as architecture is a part of art, and one way to immortalize its aesthetic value is through photography. Photography is a crucial skill for anyone involved in the creative industry, allowing us to become more objective in perceiving things through the lens of a camera.


Since purchasing my first camera 12 years ago, I have always made time to visit buildings with intriguing architecture when traveling to a new place or city. For me, there is a unique satisfaction in 'hunting' architectural subjects and capturing them through photography.

Tips Fotografi Arsitektur, Jockey Club Tower Hongkong karya Zaha Hadid
Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Hong Kong (Fujifilm X-A2, 16-50mm). Image by Adityuwana.

I once read an interview excerpt with Sonny Sandjaya in the 2007 edition of The Light Magazine. As a professional architectural photographer, he mentioned that architectural photography can differ between professionals (as a vocation) and enthusiasts. Enthusiasts often focus on elements such as extreme angles, curves, contrast, color, patterns, shadows, which may not be suitable for professional use, despite being visually appealing in photography. After reading this article, I gained a clearer understanding of the differences in photo results between a professional photographer and an amateur. While I am not a professional photographer (as photography is just a hobby for me), I have learned a few things that I can share with you about capturing architectural subjects.


Equipment


A smartphone is more than sufficient for those starting architectural photography. Some smartphones come with high-quality cameras, coupled with applications that enhance photo quality. For those wanting to take it more seriously, consider a Mirrorless or DSLR camera. Both camera types offer various lens options. Using wide-angle lenses with a broad focal length can maximize the object's perspective, resulting in the best photos. Personally, I use the Fujifilm X-A2 with a 16-50mm kit lens and the Canon EOS 7D with a Tamron 17-50mm lens. Lately, I've been using Fuji more frequently due to its practicality.


Light


Try photographing an object at different times of the day. Sunlight can create varying effects on an object, significantly influencing the captured image. The sunlight produces intriguing shadow angles when shot at the right time. Therefore, capture images in various conditions, from morning to night.

Tips Fotografi Arsitektur, National Library Singapore
Sunset at National Library, Singapore (Fujifilm X-A2, 16-50mm). Image by Adityuwana.

Keystoning


Distortion can make photographed objects appear curved or uneven, especially when capturing tall buildings, causing them to seem slanted or tilted in the photo composition. Some people appreciate this distortion effect for its dramatic appearance, while others do not. If you prefer to avoid it, adjust your shooting position or find a higher point to align the object's midpoint with yourself. If changing the shooting position is not possible, tilt-shift lenses can be used, but they are exclusive to DSLR cameras and are quite expensive. Alternatively, you can use applications like Photoshop to correct distortion effects, as shown in the image below. Can you see the difference?

Tips Fotografi Arsitektur, Koreksi distorsi bangunan Milan Duomo
Keystoning correction, Milan Cathedral (Canon EOS 7D, 17-50mm f/2.8). Image by Adityuwana.

Detail


Highlight interesting details of a building, whether it's color, decorative ornaments, wall patterns, the connection between steel and glass, railings, handles, door shapes, and so on. Sometimes, these details make a piece of architecture unique and exceptional. Additionally, these detailed photos can be saved and used as references for designing future architectural projects.

Tips Fotografi Arsitektur, Detail Plafon Tunjungan Plaza, Surabaya
Tunjungan Plaza, Surabaya (Fujifilm X-A2, 16-50mm). Image by Adityuwana.

Include Humans


Occasionally, incorporate human subjects into your architectural photos. Human subjects do not diminish the beauty; instead, they make architectural photos look more unique and lively, as architectural objects or structures are fundamentally created and designed for human use.

Tips Fotografi Arsitektur, Jockey Club Tower Hongkong karya Zaha Hadid
Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Hong Kong (Fujifilm X-A2, 16-50mm). Image by Adityuwana.

Post-processing


Many people feel hesitant to edit a photo, yet professional photographers commonly do so as long as it doesn't alter the photo's essence. I usually use editing applications like Lightroom or Photoshop. For smartphones, Snapseed is a popular app with numerous features for editing. Choose an app that fits your budget. In architectural photography, common editing practices include adjusting perspective to eliminate distortion, cropping, tweaking lighting, shadows, and contrast.


How about that? I hope the tips above are helpful for you in producing better architectural photos. Enjoy experimenting and never tire of learning and practicing continuously.

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