One of the best things about photographing architecture is that your subject doesn’t move around all that much but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be moving around to find the best possible camera angle. In fact, there are only two real considerations when photographing a building: The time of day and camera placement. I think it was Ansel Adams who once said “the difference between a good picture and a bad one is knowing where to place the camera.”
Tip #1: Pick the right ISO for the job. To produce the minimum amount of noise, I prefer to use relatively low ISO settings. To me that means using the lowest “standard” setting your digital SLR is capable of producing for the given lighting conditions. That does not include any “expanded” or “extended” settings that are possible by using the camera’s custom function, which can in many instances cause increased noise. But it also means using higher ISO setting for night shooting than daytime because long exposures create noise too, so you need to strike a balance.
Tip #2: Keep you building’s lines as straight as possible. I divide my time shooting architecture between hand holding and tripod mounted exposures but when tripod-mounted I find a double level bubble accessory, one for horizontal alignment and another for vertical, slipped onto the camera’s hot shoe make its easy to keep my lines straight.
Tip #3. Try to avoid “keystoning.” If you’re photographing a tall (more than three stories high) building, don’t shoot too near its base. This will make the base of the building look too large compared to the top. Find a higher advantage point and if possible bring a ladder to make your picture.
Tip #4. Apply standard compositional rules. The ubiquitous Rule of Thirds states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Aligning elements in a photograph with these four points creates more interest than simply centering that element. Some people call placing the subject of your photograph in dead center the “bull’s eye” syndrome and in many cases applying the rule of thirds to your photograph will produce a better looking photograph than might otherwise be the case but I don’t think that rule is cast in concrete and other rules that govern how the human eye looks at elements within a photograph bear equal weight.
Tip #5. Ignore some rules. The human eye sees a photograph in the following order: sharpness, brightness, and warmth. The first thing the eye notices is the sharpest part of the photograph, next it gravitates to the brightest part of the image, then finally to the warmest. By placing your subject in accordance with these rules you get to control how people look at your photographs.
Joe is the author of “Creative Digital Monochrome Effects (http://amzn.to/echu3G) published by Lark Books.
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