When to photograph a building a project

Photography is often commissioned in the week of completion when the project is about to be handed over. Unfortunately this has the tendency to produce rather sterile images of empty buildings with immature soft landscaping. However, leave it too late and additional work is required in cleaning-up a weathered facade and opportunities to use images may pass-by.

It is important to remember that strong images become the articles of record for that project. They are often the basis upon which future work will be won so they need to be the best they can be. Rushing in may not pay off in the long term.

– The work of some sub-contractors (like structural steel work), can be covered up in later stages so Later may just be too late though a photograph of the finished exterior is always import in a case study or editorial feature
– Access can be easier to arrange before a building is handed over. A future tenant has no relationship with architects or contractors who worked on the project and may not be so willing to accommodate a shoot
– Some parts of buildings look their best at an early stage before the effects of weather and daily use start to become visible
– Occupants can disrupt design intent with posters on window interiors and woodwork
– Images are often needed early for awards submissions and PR opportunities
– Timber cladding looks better when it goes up than it does after a season or so when it can go through a period of looking pretty ropy until it has weathered evenly and consistently

– Shooting early may mean that planting is not well established. Don’t forget this doesn’t just apply to exterior shots. The outside is often visible in interior shots as well.
– Shooting once a building is in use adds soul to an image
– Shooting later allows you to show how spaces are used – which is, after all, the whole point of the building in the first place.

There is no right answer but I can give a strong guide. For new build, plan to shoot three months after the planting is complete (if planting in the autumn leave it until the following spring). This gives the best images at the earliest stage and usually in time for awards entries, editorial features and annual reports.

I would always advise beginning the conversation about photography in plenty of time. An experienced architectural photographer can help you weigh the factors that inform timing. Although I have sometimes been able to complete an architectural shoot as soon as the following day it is also true to say that it has often been worth waiting many months for the right combination of season, weather and access.

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