Architecture is a varied, plentiful and fascinating subject. It can be quite daunting to get a good, unique photograph. Our temptation is to look at the something as a whole, but with this tutorial I’d like to get you to look closer at the object you’re photographing and its surroundings, to help you compose something that’s visually interesting and, hopefully, branch out a bit from the ‘norm’.
Leading lines direct your audiences’ gaze in a particular direction. You can use this to guide them to a particular place, like in this picture of a stairway leading to a door:
Or take your viewer off in completely different directions:
lines, grids and patterns are found in abundance in urban environments. If you
live in a large town or city, you won’t have to look far.
Whilst looking for that perfect shot, we can often forget to look up. Sometimes there are great shapes and pockets of sky above you.
Or sometimes you can expect to see rooftops and windows, only to find something special and unexpected:
Architecture makes great use of symmetry to define its space. There is something really satisfying about symmetry, which some say has is rooted in the shape of our bodies and the symmetry of the human form.
Grand symmetrical walkways leading to an impressive symmetrical building are really effective from a distance. Go against convention and plonk the building slap bang in the middle if that’s what feels right, your leading lines either side will drag your viewers' eye right to your centrepiece.
Curves and Spirals
Spiral staircases are a delight, and so easy to photograph. Just look up or down!
Think about where your curve is leading. For example above, the spiral leads to our imaginary rule of thirds intersection and so is more pleasing to the eye. The muted colours with a splash of red help here too.
Where Lines Meet Curves
Modern architecture is full of wonderful clashes. Often, modern architects will move away from symmetry and tradition and
try a mix of odd shapes and contours that shouldn’t work, but do. Despite the obvious differences, you’ll notice
that the picture above also leads your eye to a rule of thirds intersection
(top left) just like the spiral staircase did. Adjust your field of view until you
see these opportunities or cheat and crop it in later in post-processing!
The concept of negative space is something that is usually considered when the building is designed, so be sure to look for those ‘empty’ spaces that highlight something special:
Or make your own negative space by zooming into a particular
feature surrounded by featureless wall.
And then break it…
While I was taking shots like the first image, a woman walked into my field of view. Rather than wait until she’d gone, I photographed her between two of the doorways. I actually prefer this picture. Don’t be afraid to break the rules; if something unexpected happens, snap it. You can always discard it later if it doesn’t work, but once the moment has gone you can’t get it back.
Architecture is abundant, timeless and full of character.
The things we’ve covered in this tutorial are just the tip of the iceberg, you
can also consider silhouettes, scale, and reflections amongst many other things. Try to ‘see’ the
building from all sides, look closely at detail and don’t forget to look up (and
down) to find new perspectives.