Which Lenses Should I Use For Architectural Photography?
We often get some questions around what gear to use for architectural photography. You can refer to our gear guide for architectural abstracts, but today, why the lenses you use matters and how it affects your images.
We mostly use 3 lenses: a wide-angle lens (16-35mm or equivalent), a mid-range zoom (24-70mm or equivalent) and a telephoto (70-200mm or equivalent). f/4 lenses are totally fine, as we mostly shoot around f/8 and you don’t need the expense or the weight of f/2.8 lenses.
Below, you’ll see two series of images: on the left, the Lincoln Park Pavilion, and on the right, the Palmer House staircase (both in Chicago). For both series, you will see an example with each type of lens and you can compare how different the images look. You’ll see some parallels to our post about isolation.
First off, wide-angle lenses: they’re great to capture dramatic, wide shots of a building. They tend to have strong distortion that exaggerates the building’s features, especially in the corners. The wide shot of the pavilion is a great way to capture the whole structure, and it is closer to a documentary shot. The staircase image is more artistic, and you can see how the lens exaggerates the lines in the wallpaper and the underside of the staircase.
Next, the mid-range zoom: perfect to focus on architectural details without going too abstract. As you can see below, images from a mid-range lens showcase portions of the pavilion and the staircase, but you can mostly tell what you’re looking at.
Finally, the telephoto: the best lens to create abstract images! It’s great to focus on and isolate small details. These lenses also compress the perspective, giving a different look than mid-range lenses. The pavilion image is a good example of compression, with the pattern being more tightly knit together. For the staircase, the telephoto was great to isolate a small detail of the railing.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how to use lenses for architectural images. Let us know in the comments which lenses are your favorites and why!