Tips For Architectural Photography



Architectural photography, the art of conveying the appeal and significance of buildings and structures, holds a pivotal role in the broad sphere of photography. While photographs of sunrise vistas and candid moments undeniably captivate, the instances of capturing a centuries-old cathedral or a sleek skyscraper catches a different facet of human experience—the construction of our world, captured one static frame at a time.

Architectural photography requires an innate understanding of various elements: the play of lines, composition, the subtlety of lighting, and the interplay of angles for the perfect shot. Meanwhile, the unpredictability of weather, the need for proper equipment, and the skills to digitally enhance these captured moments pose their own challenges. Oops, don’t be daunted! It’s not like juggling hedgehogs while balancing on a tightrope.

In the forthcoming sections, we’ll guide you through the minefield of these nuances. We’ll discuss everything from the importance of composition, the varying impacts of natural and artificial lighting, to the vital understanding of perspective. And remember that weather that had you packing up your gear? Fear no more, we’ll even chat about leveraging those supposed hurdles to your advantage.

By the way, have you ever observed how a slightly different perspective can breathe new life into a seemingly ordinary building? Stick around, as we’re about to dive deep into the fascinating arena of architectural photography. Don’t worry, no hard hats required.

Understanding the Basics of Composition

The composition is fundamentally the arrangement of visual elements in a photo. It’s an essential aspect of architectural photography, a bedrock that holds the whole image together. Simply put, composition is the difference between a dull snapshot and a captivating photograph.

Architectural photography has one unique characteristic: it’s bursting with lines and shapes. Buildings, bridges, and monuments are innately geometric, filled to the brim with squares, triangles, circles, and an endless array of lines. Think of them as a playground for your camera’s lens, a chance to coax beauty out of solid concrete, steel, and glass.

When looking at a structure, you might notice vertical lines that reach for the heavens, horizontal lines that stretch towards the horizon, and diagonal lines that create dynamism and movement. These individual lines might seem mundane, but properly employed, they can lead your viewer’s eye throughout the image, creating a rhythmic visual narrative that is impossible to ignore.

Symmetry is another vital component, which buildings readily offer. Perfectly aligned windows, a series of arches, or even the reflection of a skyscraper in a puddle make for intriguing symmetry, giving a pleasing balance to your photographs.

As an illustrative example, consider capturing a towering skyscraper. If you position your camera looking up, the converging vertical lines can create a sense of awe and majesty. On the other hand, if you frame the same building from far away while keeping your camera level, you can capture a more stable presence, emphasizing the horizontal lines.

Of course, these are just the primary guides, not stringent rules. As you progress, you’ll experiment and develop your distinct style that often transcends established norms. Remember, the goal is to use composition to tell a visual story about the architectural marvel you’re photographing.

Importance of Lighting in Architectural Photography

In photography, it’s often said that lighting is like the spice to a dish. In architectural photography, lighting can dramatically impact the mood, depth, and texture of a structure. Without effective lighting, even the most splendid architectural marvel can appear dull, flat, and uninspiring.

Natural lighting generally refers to sunlight, which can vary significantly throughout the day. Noontime sunlight tends to be harsh and direct, casting strong shadows and potentially giving a dramatic look to architecture. However, it might also wash out finer details in your image. On the other hand, the soft, golden light during the early morning or late afternoon, often referred to as the ‘golden hour’, enhances colors, produces long, elegant shadows, and brings an enchanting glow to buildings.

Now let’s talk about artificial lighting. This typically includes street lights, spotlights, or any interior lighting in the building. Artificial lighting can give your architectural photos a distinct appeal, particularly when photographing buildings at night. This light can highlight certain architectural facets, create fascinating shadows, and add a palette of vibrant colors.

Experimenting with different types of lighting scenarios can yield a diverse range of results. It’s like cooking a meal: add a dash of morning light here, a sprinkle of artificial light there, and voila, you’ve created a well-seasoned, visually interesting photograph. After all, in the context of architectural photography, no one lighting condition is the ‘holy grail’. It’s all about how you use what you’ve got to tell your architectural story.

Now, if you’re thinking “I can just fix the lighting later in Photoshop,” hold that thought. While post-processing certainly has its merits, relying on it excessively can lead to consequences as grave as overcooked pasta! Aim to capture the best possible lighting conditions in-camera first and use editing software to enhance, not to rescue your photos.

Remember, your understanding and control of lighting can turn an ordinary image into a brilliant showcase of your architectural subject. So embrace the light, and watch how it breathes life into your architectural photography.

Choosing the right equipment

Imagining an architect without the essential tools of the trade—such as blueprints, rulers, and pencils—would be like imagining an ocean without water. Similarly, architectural photography calls for more than just a camera. Here’s a wholesome list of equipment that will have you primed for the action.


Most photographers swear by DSLR or mirrorless cameras, largely owing to their versatility and expansive range of features. But remember, the best camera for architectural photography is the one that feels most comfortable in your hands. It’s a relationship that should feel more like an afternoon tea with an old friend rather than a nerve-wracking first date.


A wide-angle lens is your go-to toolbox essentials for architectural photography. It allows you to fit large structure into your frame effortlessly—consider it as providing your photos with front row seats to the spectacle.

A tilt-shift lens, although more of a luxury than a necessity, can be extremely handy. It helps control perspective and straightens the lines that tend to converge in traditional lenses, taking your photos from being on-par to being a par excellence!


A tripod in architecture photography is akin to that faithful sidekick who’s always got your back. In a photography environment where precision is vital and each millimeter could alter the composition drastically, a tripod is non-negotiable.

Filters and accessories

Polarizing filters can come in handy when shooting in outdoor daylight. They reduce glare and enhance colors, ensuring your images bring out the best in the architectural marvels.

A spirit level, although might sound like some sort of a ghost-hunting device, is actually a nifty tool to ensure your camera is perfectly level and thus ensures straight lines in your compositions.

Finally, it’s essential to remember that equipment merely supplements your vision as a photographer – think of them as your trusty paintbrushes. The creativity, understanding, and interpretation of the architectural entity you’re photographing remain firmly in the realm of human skill. Pair them with your innate artistic understanding, and you’re setting the stage for photographs that resonate with aesthetic balance and compelling composition.

The role of perspective in architectural photography

Perspective undeniably plays a crucial role in shaping effective architectural photography. To put it simply, perspective refers to the vantage point or angle from which you capture the architecture. It doesn’t just offer a favorable viewpoint; it shapes the viewers’ experiences as they engage with your photograph.

Firstly, it’s important to realize that the eye-level perspective isn’t your only option. Yes, it has a certain sense of familiarity because it parallels how we generally see the world. But as photographers, transmuting that familiar experience into something visually captivating is a part of our job description, isn’t it?

Consider shooting from a low angle or a high angle. Here’s a hint to remember: low angle shots tend to make buildings appear grander and more imposing, while high angle perspectives can offer an encompassing view and reveal interesting details like rooftop gardens or intricate patterns of roof tiles that aren’t visible from the ground.

Further, don’t be shy to experiment with tilted or diagonal perspectives. Such angles often introduce an element of dynamism to the photograph and break the monotony of straight lines. However, remember to strike a balance to ensure that the distorted perspective doesn’t take away from the architectural integrity of the structure.

Lastly, the use of a wide-angle lens can help adjust perspective by capturing more of the scene at a time. It can create a dramatic sense of depth and scale, making the viewer feel as though they’re right there, standing before the building or structure. However, always remember to rectify any lens distortion in post-processing.

Just like with everything else in photography, there’s no one-size-fits-all in selecting the right perspective. It’ll depend on various factors, including the building’s design, the surrounding environment, and your creative instincts. So be ready to explore, experiment, and above all, enjoy the process. After all, isn’t that what photography is all about?

Utilizing editing software

Architectural photography and image editing can be considered two sides of the same coin. The photograph you take is the raw material, the blueprint, and the editing software is your toolset to refine and emphasize its salient features.

Think of it like being a sculptor. You start with a block of raw material – that’s your photograph. Next, you use your tools and skills to carve out a masterwork. Editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop are those essential tools in your digital darkroom.

We’re not suggesting you should use editing software to radically alter the original image’s authenticity, but rather to enhance its best qualities and correct minor flaws. You might adjust the exposure, straighten a skewed horizon or modify the contrast. Believe it or not, these small changes can make a world of difference to your photograph.

Adobe Lightroom, for instance, is a great tool when it comes to adjusting exposure, highlights, shadows, and white balance. Photoshop, on the other hand, is a powerful tool for precise edits like removing unwanted elements, or perhaps even the unlucky pigeon who decided to photobomb your shot of a pristine cathedral.

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the extensive features these software offer. Start with the basics and gradually learn more complex techniques. Websites provide plenty of tutorials and the photography community can be a rich source of tips and advice.

It’s also crucial you shoot in RAW format. This gives you much more creative freedom in post-production as RAW files hold significantly more information than JPEGs, making them more flexible when editing without losing quality.

Remember, a steady hand during the shoot and a discerning eye in the editing are the hallmarks of a skillful architectural photographer. And like any other skill, mastering this balance becomes easier and more intuitive with practice.

Shooting in Different Weather Conditions

A common misconception that pertains to architectural photography − and honestly, photography as a whole − is that bad weather days equal bad photography days. This is as far from the truth as saying that a monochrome photo is merely a picture devoid of color.

Sure, shooting under a clear blue sky makes for lovely photos, but what about a dramatic cloud formation, or a glistening sheet of rain adding another dimension to your architecture shot? Truth be told, less-than-perfect weather can often provide unique and dynamic opportunities that sunny days simply cannot match.

For instance, consider overcast days. While some might view such conditions as dull, the cloud cover actually acts like a giant diffuser, softening shadows and reducing contrast − ideal for highlighting the intricate details of a building’s façade.

It’s not always about rain or stormy skies either. Don’t underestimate a windy day. It may cause a few hairs to be out of place, but architectural photography isn’t about good hair days. The movement of clouds or trees in high winds can create a striking backdrop for static structures, especially in long exposure shots.

Winter scenes can be equally magical, casting buildings in an entirely different light. A snow-covered rooftop or icicles hanging from a century-old mansion can make for a unique composition, showcasing the structure in new seasonal context.

However, these opportunities often come with challenges. Equipment protection becomes paramount in extreme weather, so having weather-resistant gear or protective covers is vital. In colder climes, batteries may drain faster, so always carry extras.

Embrace the unpredictability of weather; view it as an accomplice, not an enemy. Mastering these conditions brings an additional layer of depth to your architectural photographs, showcasing not just the structure, but its interaction with the dynamic environment it resides within. After all, a building is not just stone and steel − it’s an entity interacting with nature’s whims.

Planning Your Shot

Few would argue that spontaneity can lead to striking and unique images, and that’s true in architectural photography too. However, the cogent progression of one’s work frequently relies on previsualization and planning. Planning your shot, considering factors such as the time of day and position of the sun, can be pivotal in creating architectural photographs worthy of professional portfolios.

Before setting out for a building photoshoot, do a little homework. Research the architectural design, architect, and how the building sits in relation to the sun. This analysis will give you insights into the optimal time of the day to shoot when the light interacts delectably with the structure. For instance, a low sunrise could bring out details and contours in ways a noonday sun could not, and vice versa.

Stake out the location beforehand, if possible. This allows you to decide which vantage points work best, helping you avoid regretful “Oh, I wish I had shot from there!” moments upon revisiting the photos at home.

Similarly, studying the building’s architecture can reveal vital points in the structure, highlighting areas that should be emphasized in your composition. For instance, noteworthy architectural elements might include large arching windows, ornate decorations, or unique structural design elements.

Moreover, consider the building’s surroundings—are there aspects that could enhance your photos, such as reflections in nearby water bodies or contrasts with adjacent buildings?

Determined planning like this not only aids in the creation of remarkable images but also maximizes your shoot time. In essence, the key to effective architectural photography is to shift some of the creative burden from the field to the computer or the drawing board. Allowing a pinch of preparation to lead the way could be the secret ingredient to capturing the perfect architectural shot.


In the process of navigating this comprehensive guide, you’ve encountered practical suggestions, insightful techniques, and discussions around several vital aspects of architectural photography. The importance of delving into these components may possibly have become monochrome-clear to you.

Let’s recall the main points in brief – we began with the foundation of architectural photography: composition. It’s all about those lines, shapes, and symmetries that frame our buildings. With lighting, we’ve learned that both the sun in the sky and the bulb in a lamp have major roles in shaping our photos. To capture the grandeur of structures, we need the right tools, whether it’s the precision of prime lenses or the steadiness of tripods.

And let’s not forget perspectives, they can undoubtedly be the game-changer in breathing life into colossal architectures. Also, it’s key to remember that post-processing is not a sinister dirt word—it’s essential for giving your photos that polished finish. Shooting in an array of weather conditions and taking time to plan your shot can also offer an additional zing to your architectural photographs.

The shared wisdom in this guide is your toolbox. But remember, tools are only as good as the hand wielding them. Practice, in essence, turns the ordinary into extraordinary. So, uncap your lenses and weave architectural tales. Architectural photography is a technically intricate, yet artistically liberating field. It is a staircase, where upon each step you take, refines your art and broadens your horizon of possibilities. Happy shooting!

Remember, as Confucius almost certainly never said, “He who chases two ducks catches neither.” Better to become a master of architectural photography than a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. Add a sprinkle of diligence, a dash of creativity, and heaping ladle of practice, and you’ll turn buildings into magic.

The Creativv
American digital marketer and founder of with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.