What is the Architectural Photographer trying to achieve?
When I first ask an Architect what they want me to achieve in the photographs I make of their design they often start by saying they want me ‘to show the building at its best‘. That statement certainly doesn’t say it all, but it does say a lot.
‘. . show the building . .’
The building is what it is all about so the building needs to be the main focus in the image. The aim is to get the viewer’s eye to spend as much time as possible viewing the building, not distracted by additional issues such as what is happening in the foreground or background, light drawing the eye away or clutter away from the main focus.
‘. . .at its best . . .’
This is a potentially subjective topic. How light plays within the image is vital to showing how a design works. Getting great light means careful timing and a great deal of patience. Everybody knows that for a building to look it’s best, verticals must be vertical and horizontals, horizontal. Obviously exceptions are allowed but only rarely.
‘At its best . .’ also means that the building need to be in good condition and the environment clean and tidy. This can be tricky to achieve on an older building where weather streaks and modifications can disrupt the once pristine vision but a great deal is possible in post-production. It is all about attention to detail.
Beyond showing the building at its best I always try to understand and express the intent of the design. How the building makes me feel and what makes this building distinctive. This is why it is legitimate to spend time in post-production, removing the clutter that serves to confuse the design such as CCTV cameras, waste bins, fire exit signs, etc that disrupt the originally clean lines of the design.
Someone once gave me a great piece of advice – to photograph a building or designed environment as it were a sculpture using light to emphasise form and texture. I try to remind myself of this every time I begin a shoot.
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