Change Your Viewpoint to Get Better Architectural Images
Sometimes, we get stuck shooting in the same ways. It happens with every genre of photography, it’s easy to find something that works and to keep shooting similar compositions and from the same viewpoint. That’s why during our workshops, we have a presentation a few days before. It allows you to get some ideas on how to improve your compositions, but to learn how to see differently. And once on location, we point out things to look for each location to help you build on what you learned.
Sometimes, it doesn’t take a lot to change your viewpoint. Spiral staircases are a classic subject for architectural photographers. But something as simple as shooting from above vs shooting from underneath can change dramatically your image. Take the staircase below: the image on the left is filled with patterns and lines, whereas the image on the right is more minimalistic, simple. Yet, it’s the same staircase!
Something we see often is students who keep their camera straight for all their shots. Sometimes, angling your camera can truly change an image. Below, just rotating the camera to the right gives a very different take on this building. Of course, the crop is also different, but both contribute to the composition.
We often crop and rotate our images in post-processing to improve our compositions. It can be a controversial topic in the photography community, but our opinion is: if you see a better composition by cropping, why wouldn’t you crop? You might want to crop in a square or panoramic format to make your composition stronger.
In this example, the image on the left is the original shot. Michael first rotated the image, as the lines and patterns work better horizontally. Then, he filled the frame of the image by cropping to only keep the interesting patterns. The 2:1 crop ratio helps bring out the pattern of the fins.
When you’re photographing architectural abstracts especially, where you shoot from is key. Play with how close or far you are from the building. Below, the image on the left is what Emerson College looks like when shot from further away, straight at the building. It’s interesting, but if you get close and shoot up, it’s completely different!
Finally, don’t forget to look up! Inside, there are many beautiful ceilings that are worth shooting, in both historic and modern buildings. Of course, the centered, symmetrical shot is always tempting but try other compositions too!
Chicago Cultural Center
Don’t forget to look up outside as well!
Trump Tower Chicago, IBM Building
We hope this gave you some ideas on how to change your viewpoint. Moving around, looking up or down and moving your camera can all make huge differences in your composition. And don’t forget, it doesn’t stop in-camera, you can play with your images in post-processing too!