We have specially created a complete guide to professional architectural photography so that you can easily improve your skills. You can use these tips and tricks for creating better architecture images.

The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization

Frank Lloyd Wright

Architectural photography is a special type of photography requiring a specialized (and at times expensive) set of tools and demands a discerning eye. When shooting architecture it is important to capture discrete elements that the architect has laid out. 

Since most people viewing your images will likely never visit the space you are capturing, it is up to you as the photographer to convey what the architect intended. For building photography, it is your responsibility to take what someone has created in three dimensions and translate their vision to the viewer through a two-dimensional image. If you are up for the challenge, here are a few tips and tricks to get pointed in the right direction. As a bonus, we’ll also introduce a photo editor that will help you achieve the perfect look for your images.


What is Architectural PhotographyArchitectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(2)

Let’s start with the architectural photography definition to provide some context for newcomers. Briefly, architectural photography is the art of capturing aesthetically pleasing and accurate photographs of buildings and other architectural structures.

It is one of the most technically challenging types of photography. The goal is to capture the beauty and uniqueness of buildings, their individual elements, and exterior decorations. This also includes photographing various engineering structures and small architectural forms, such as bridges, fountains, and pavilions.

Modern architectural photography in towns or cities aims to portray architectural objects, both interiors and exteriors, in the most advantageous and authentic way possible. It covers a wide range of subjects, from skyscrapers to small huts. Now, we will guide you on how to photograph buildings creatively.

Architecture Photography EquipmentArchitectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(3)

No matter how much we discuss photographic techniques in architectural photography, the technical equipment—camera, lens, and tripod—is equally crucial. We understand that choosing the right gear can be challenging, especially for beginners. That's why, before explaining how to do architectural photography, we've prepared a short guide on photography equipment to help you understand what is and isn't suitable.

Camera

Let's start with the basics: what is the best camera for architectural photography? Well, we recommend focusing on a compact camera with a silent mode. It's very convenient because if you go to the square to capture an element of architecture, you want people not to pay attention to you. That way you can just do your architectural photo and still be invisible. If you're photographing from low angles, the tilt-adjustable screen allows you not to kneel down. 

You can also raise the camera for structural photography above your head and tilt the screen down to capture a building from an unusual angle. These simple things can make a big difference in how you use the camera and interact with the subject.

Best Lens

Architectural photography composition requires careful attention due to the risk of image distortion. To prevent this issue, consider the following factors when choosing the best camera lens for architectural photography.

Wide-angle zoom gives you more leeway for structure photography compared to a fixed focal length because you won't always have the ability to get to the exact angle and height you need for your shot. For beginners, a zoom lens will also work better as it will help you get to the right angle with a sense of scale in exterior architecture photography. However, fixes usually boast cooler optics and sharper images, though it depends on the model.  

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When you shoot upwards at close range, perspective distortions appear. Also, note that strong perspective control is the process of composing or editing images to better conform to common distortions in the different perspectives. The control of perspective distortion is to make sure that all vertical lines look that way in the image. For example, in architectural photography, this refers to columns, vertical wall edges, and lampposts.

While these lens distortions don't always look bad, many professionals prefer special tilt-shift lenses. With this equipment, you can photograph impressive architecture, tall buildings, and rooms with high ceilings at once without distortion. Note that tilt-shift lenses are not suitable for cropped cameras. 

Additional tip: When shooting on a clear day, it's always a good idea to have a polarizing filter to help reduce reflections, highlight colors and get a clear view. Use a lens hood to protect against glare.

Best Tripod

Choosing the right tripod for architectural photography is essential for capturing sharp and well-composed images. When selecting a tripod, prioritize stability to ensure it can support your camera and lens, especially in windy conditions or on uneven surfaces. A stable tripod prevents camera shake, resulting in clearer images. Height adjustability is crucial, allowing you to accommodate various shooting angles, including low and high perspectives. This flexibility lets you capture different architectural details without constantly repositioning the tripod.

Portability is another important factor; opt for a lightweight and compact tripod for easy transport, particularly if you plan to shoot in multiple locations. A portable tripod ensures you can move around freely and set up quickly. Additionally, a quick-release plate is highly beneficial as it allows you to attach and detach your camera swiftly, saving time and effort when changing positions or angles frequently.

Material choice also matters; tripods made of carbon fiber are durable and lightweight, making them ideal for frequent travel. While aluminum tripods are more affordable, they are heavier and might be less convenient for on-the-go shooting.

How to Capture Architecture Photography

Next, we'll tell you what you need to pay attention to in order to make a real masterpiece.

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Follow Composition RulesArchitectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(4)

Avoid converging lines in architecture photography: first and foremost, you’re the biggest concern when shooting architecture is composition and the avoidance of something called “converging lines”. When your vertical lines are not spot on, converging lines occur, distorting the final image of the design you are shooting. Instead of perfectly vertical walls in building photography, you may end up with walls that appear to fall inward on top of the viewer. Clearly, this isn’t the reality of the building you are shooting. If you’re shooting for a client, you don’t want to show off a building that looks as if it’s falling down!

Use a Tripod!Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(5)

Enough said… As we mentioned before, a tripod will help you take long exposure photos in any weather conditions. So, find the best tripod for architectural photography using the tips from our previous section and go for it!

Wait for it…Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(6)

As with all photography, lighting is key, but you need to wait for a perfect time of day. If you aren’t able to bring lights or don’t have the time to wait around, try taking multiple exposures of the space and then blending them together in programs such as Skylum’s Luminar Neo. This allows you to show detail in both the extreme shadow and highlight areas in a relatively even exposure. This also applies to interior lighting.

Pay Attention to DetailsArchitectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(7)

How to photograph buildings? Architects and designers spend countless hours planning every detail of a space. Likewise, you should invest some time to soak up the space before you even take the first shot. Walk around and check out different angles, look for small details that might get overlooked, and try to incorporate these into your final image. 

One of the best architecture photography tips: if you are able, stage your scene; add props like fruit or a newspaper to make the space feel more alive. Designers and architects love seeing the space being used as intended. 

Don't Underestimate the PreparationArchitectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(8)

This is perhaps your best asset in getting the right shot using tips for architectural photography. If you plan ahead, scout the location, note the best times of day for the right light, and spend even 10 minutes thinking ahead and pre-visualizing how the shoot will unfold, you will notice a dramatic difference in the polished final look of your images.

While architectural photography can be an extremely technical endeavor requiring specialized lenses and tools, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. You can still create amazing architectural images when keeping the above tips in mind, especially when using post processing software like Skylum’s Lumanar Neo to correct distortions, add effects, and otherwise polish your final image.

Learn How to Play Light and ShadowArchitectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(9)

When shooting pictures of architecture, you may also be faced with the problem of high contrast, which can cause the camera's exposure metering to malfunction. This is especially important if you want to captivate detail in both shadowy and brightly lit areas. The way out in such cases is to use exposure bracketing and then merge the captured frames into a high dynamic range with a photo editor.

Choose the Right LocationArchitectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(10)

Research online to find lists of famous or unique architectural sites in your area. Websites, social media, and photography forums can be valuable resources. Another option is to walk or drive around your city to discover interesting architecture. Historical structures often have unique details that make for great photos.

If you are a tourist, look for architectural tours, open houses, and cultural events that offer exclusive access to places not typically available to the public. Also, talking to locals can provide recommendations for interesting buildings or locations that aren’t well-known to visitors. By carefully choosing your locations and planning your shoots, you can capture stunning architectural photographs that stand out.

How to Edit Architecture Photos with Luminar Neo

When photographing architecture, the strength of this post-processing software is the ease of use of the editing tools, with a very user-friendly interface and the availability of professional AI-based editing tools.

For example, there's the HDR Merge Extension, which is capable of merging up to ten architecture photos into one, which should convey the full intensity of the scene and view of your subject as you perceive it with your eyes. Thanks to the powerful engine of the Luminar Neo, you will get incredible results very quickly in just a couple of clicks. Check it out for yourself.

For more tools, available in Luminar Neo, we recommend you follow the link.

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Practical Tips for Architecture Photography

    Experiment with Weather and Time: Different lighting and weather can dramatically change the look and feel of a building. Experiment with various conditions to see how they affect your shots.

Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(11)
Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(12)

    Prioritize Natural Light: Good light enhances architectural details, so aim for golden hour or blue hour for the best results. This soft, warm light can make your photos stand out.

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    Find Unique Angles: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different perspectives. Finding the most interesting and dynamic views of a structure can make your photos more compelling.


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    Include People for Scale: Adding people to your shots can give context and scale, showing how the architecture interacts with its environment. It also makes your photos more relatable.


Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(17)
Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(18)

    Focus on Details: Capture both the grand design and the intricate details of the building. This helps tell a complete story and highlights the craftsmanship.


Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(19)
Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(20)

    Capture the Building's Essence: Aim to capture the essence and purpose of the architecture rather than just its physical form. Show what makes it special and how it fits into its surroundings.


Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(21)
Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(22)

    Learn from the Masters: As a young photographer, you can learn a lot by replicating the techniques of renowned photographers like Julius Shulman, Iwan Baan, and Ezra Stoller. This practice provides a great foundation for developing your own unique style.

ConclusionArchitectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(23)

Now you know how to photograph architecture. Practice will allow you to adjust your eyes to take pictures of architecture. This will let you shoot subjects in a more interesting way, avoiding trite compositional techniques and putting more personality into each shot. Try to use these architectural photography tips for perfect shots.

Architectural Photography Guide: Techniques and Composition | Skylum Blog(24)

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