Preparing an architectural photoshoot is a lot of work. While scouting the location in person is always a good idea, sometimes it’s not possible and there’s more you need to know. There are many factors that come into play when shooting architecture: The direction of light at different times of the day, sunrise/sunset times, weather and more.
Fortunately, we have many websites and apps to help with this. I honestly can’t imagine the work required to plan photoshoots 20, 30, 40 years ago. Technology has made everything so much easier!
Let’s talk about a few apps that will save you time and headaches.
One of the most important things is figuring out the direction of light. You don’t want to be shooting a side of the building in the shade, so you need to know at what time it will have sunlight. For that, I use the app PhotoPills ($10, mobile-only). It allows me to figure out where the sun will be at a specific time and date. It’s also helpful for sunrise/sunset times and it has a lot more features (augmented reality for day and night, depth of field tools, star photography, etc.). It’s definitely worth the investment.
Weather forecast is key for architectural photography and can be a huge headache (we all know how accurate weather apps can be!). Ventusky helps you visualize cloud cover, precipitation, wind speed (and more) on a map. The desktop version is free. The free mobile version is limited to temperature and precipitation, and the premium mobile version is $3.99/year.
Most of the time, I’m specifically interested in cloud cover. If it’s raining, I know I’m not shooting. But it gets tough when your apps are saying “partly cloudy,” as you don’t know if you’re gonna get any sun in there. Clear Outside (free) is specifically forecasting cloud cover, so it’s a very helpful tool.
Google Street View
Google Maps and Google Street View (free) are definitely high on my list of tools. It helps me figure out in advance angles and point of views. While it doesn’t replace scouting in person, it’s a great way to get an idea of a location when you’re preparing a shoot or a quote for your client.
Another great tool is Google Earth. I use it especially when I need to plan angles from a helicopter or a rooftop, as it allows me to position the view from anywhere. It’s a great tool to show potential views to clients and they can pick what they like ahead of the photoshoot. The largest downside is that the maps aren’t updated often and recent buildings often aren’t pictured.