Tutorial: Architecture Photography

Different lenses for different photos

The easy way to photograph a building is to stand well back so that the entire structure is included in the frame.

This works well if there is plenty of space. If possible, use the telephoto end of a zoom lens so that you have to move even further back for the camera to see the complete building. Why? Because the greater the distance, the less the chance of converging verticals.

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Philadephia, You Connect member Florence Le Squer, Canon Digital IXUS 500

Converging verticals occur when you tilt the camera up at a subject with parallel sides. In the photograph, the sides appear closer together at the top than at the bottom. Stay further back from your subject so that your camera is tilted less or not at all.

Standing back is not usually a problem when photographing a stately home surrounded by its grounds. It is more difficult in cities where buildings are surrounded by other, distracting buildings. Here, the wide-angle setting of your zoom lens may well help. Keeping the camera level with the ground might mean the building occupies just the upper area of the frame, with a large expanse of foreground. However, if you can find a viewpoint that includes an interesting object in the foreground, this will help to lead the eye into the picture. 

An ideal lens for architecture is the tilt and shift type. Best used with a tripod, the shift function of the lens gives a similar effect to using a higher viewpoint. In some situations it lets you include the top of a building while keeping the camera level with the ground. The TS-E 17mm f/4L and TS-E 24 mm f/3.5L II have been designed specifically for architectural photography.

But converging verticals can be a feature of your photo. Move closer to the building and tilt your camera to create a deliberately distorted view of the building. The trick here is to tilt the camera enough for a strong convergence of the lines. This makes it clear that the effect is intentional.

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