From minimalist compositions to blurred human figures to ‘blue hour’ photoshoots, the last few years have brought new trends in the time-honoured genre of architectural photography.
As ‘Insta-famous’ structures—like the Choi Hung Estate in Hong Kong, La Muralla Roja in Calpe, or the Cloud Gate in Chicago—continue to pop up on our social media feeds, interest in the field has only grown.
Whether they’re publishing in leading magazines, shooting for top firms, or attracting hundreds of thousands of followers, today’s architectural photographers are finding ways to reinvent the genre popularised by pioneers like Ezra Stoller and Julius Shulman, while also staying true to its roots. We asked five experts to tell us their tips for creating modern yet enduring photos.
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, designed by Frank Gehry, photographed by Rubén P. Bescós 1. Practice at home
You don’t have to travel to famous sites or faraway landmarks to make great architectural photos. “I would like to see more photographers photographing simpler and more modest projects,” the Spanish architectural photographer Rubén P. Bescós tells us. “When you photograph a great architectural work, it is easy to get good pictures. The challenge is to do it with more modest, day-to-day spaces.”
If you’re just getting started, practice shooting close to home, around your neighbourhood, workplace, or city. Browse Instagram or other social media sites for intriguing spots, and then check them out on Google Earth. If you can make ordinary spaces look extraordinary, you’re well on your way.
2. Make several trips to the same building
“I never feel comfortable photographing a project in a single day,” Rubén admits. “I usually make an initial visit to take a few pictures, and I need at least three days to familiarise myself with the project.”
Making multiple trips helps you to understand how the space looks in different lighting conditions and at different times of day; while some buildings might look best at the golden hour, others might light up beautifully in the evening. Watch how the shadows fall throughout the day. Even the weather and quality of light during different seasons can significantly alter the appearance of a space. These are all elements to consider.
“While some buildings might look best at the golden hour, others might light up beautifully in the evening. Watch how the shadows fall throughout the day. Even the weather and quality of light during different seasons can significantly alter the appearance of a space. These are all elements to consider.”
Photo by Rubén P. Bescós, captured in China 3. Do your research
“Something else I find very useful is to meet with the architect to discuss the project,” Rubén says. “Even if you can’t reach or connect with the architect, it’s important to know the context in which the work was created and how it functions. Just as important is understanding the social and cultural environment of the space, and then reflecting that in the photographs.”
Reading up on the history and heritage of your location will help you to develop a shot-list of important details and elements within the structure.
4. Move around
On your visits, move around the space and look for unusual angles and perspectives. Look up, and then look down. Get close, then back away. Climb to a nearby roof, orContinue reading