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Architectural photography: Capturing angles for 3D renderings

A lesser-known facet of architectural photography is creating images for 3D renderings. When an architectural firm designs a building, the client often needs 3D renderings of the building to market it, whether it is condos, rentals, offices or even public buildings. To make those renderings more realistic and to provide context, they’re often inserted in real photographs.

The past few years, I’ve worked with a few clients to photograph specific views so they could insert their renderings and create the final image. It’s a little different compared to my usual work, as the client often wants very specific angles, and they will modify your image to suit their needs. It’s not about documenting a completed building, it’s about selling it. And the difference matters! Another specificity is that I’m not able to share images until the final renderings are made public. And sometimes it can take several months!

Let’s talk about a few examples, where I’m showing my original image on the left and the final rendering on the right.

This image is the classic skyline image to give context and provide a dreamy view of the building. In this case, I had to get access to a rooftop restaurant to be able to shoot the skyline from this specific angle that shows the CN Tower in the background. As you can see, they made some color/contrast edits and replaced the sky.

This second example is the same building but viewed from the ground. As you can see the edits are much more dramatic, and quite impressive actually! The original shot is a day shot and they turned it into a dusk shot. They also heavily modified the buildings on the right so you could see the base of the tower and how it meets with the street. They also added some car streaks to make it more dynamic.

Finally, I’ve also shot a couple of projects from a helicopter. For this shot, the rendering company actually gave me some precise instructions regarding focal length and altitude. I had many shots and they pick very specific angles so the buildings would line up exactly how they wanted. In terms of edits, they seem minor but they aren’t. First, it was shot in winter, so they added some green to all the trees to simulate leaves. They also inserted additional buildings that are planned or under construction.

Shooting for 3D renderings is quite an interesting process and it can be a nice stream of income on top of shooting regular architectural photography. However, it’s also taught me not to trust renderings, as they often distort reality!

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