architectural photography basics

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Composition

Architectural PhotographyMr. Sumantra Misra (M.Arch) PhD Research Scholar, Asst. Professor,Program of Architecture, School of Civil Engineering and Architeture, Adama Science and Technology University

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CompositionComposition is the plan, placement or arrangement of the elements of art in a work. The general goal is to select and place appropriate elements within the work in order to communicate ideas and feelings with the viewer. It is the primary element in photography and an important concern in many forms of art.Technology student will benefit from a better understanding of composition. The students will learn to select and place appropriate elements within their work in order to communicate ideas and feelings with the viewer.

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The Rule of ThirdsThe application of the rule of thirds to photographs is considered by many to make them more aesthetically pleasing and professional-looking

Many photographers recommend treating any "rule" of composition as more of a guideline, since pleasing photographs can often be made while ignoring one or more such rules.

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The Rule of ThirdsThe rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The four points formed by the intersections of these lines can be used to align features in the photograph. Proponents of this technique claim that aligning a photograph with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the photo than simply centering the feature would.

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Rule of ThirdsThe objective is to keep the subject(s) and areas of interest out of the center of the image, by placing them near one of the lines that would divide the image into three equal columns and rows, ideally near the intersection of those lines.

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Rule of ThirdsThe objective is to keep the subject(s) and areas of interest out of the center of the image, by placing them near one of the lines that would divide the image into three equal columns and rows, ideally near the intersection of those lines.

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Rule of ThirdsThe objective is to keep the subject(s) and areas of interest out of the center of the image, by placing them near one of the lines that would divide the image into three equal columns and rows, ideally near the intersection of those lines.

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Rule of ThirdsThe objective is to keep the subject(s) and areas of interest out of the center of the image, by placing them near one of the lines that would divide the image into three equal columns and rows, ideally near the intersection of those lines.

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Rule of ThirdsThe objective is to keep the subject(s) and areas of interest out of the center of the image, by placing them near one of the lines that would divide the image into three equal columns and rows, ideally near the intersection of those lines.

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Golden RatioThe first calculation of the golden ratio, was described by Euclid in his Elements (greek: ). A line segment sectioned into two, to illustrate the golden ratio. The total length a+b is to the longer segment a as a is to the shorter segment b.

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Golden RatioSince the fifteen century, shapes proportioned according to the golden ratio have been considered aesthetically pleasing in Western cultures; the golden ratio is still frequently used in art and design. The golden ratio has attracted a large following for its supposed aesthetic, psychological, historical, mystical, natural, and metaphysical properties, in addition to its mathematical properties.

The most common other names used for the golden ratio are golden section (Latin: sectio aurea), golden mean, golden number, and phi (referring to the Greek letter ). Other names include medial section, divine proportion, divine section, golden proportion, golden cut, extreme and mean ratio, and mean of Phidias.

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SimplificationImages with a clutter can distract from the main focus of the picture and make it difficult to identify the subject. By decreasing the extraneous content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the primary message.

Clutter can also be reduced through the use of lighting, as the brighter areas of the image tend to draw the eye, as do lines and linear features.

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SimplificationDecrease the extraneous content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the primary message.

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SimplificationDecrease the extraneous content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the primary message.

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SimplificationDecrease the extraneous content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the primary message.

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SimplificationDecrease the extraneous content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the primary message.

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SimplificationDecrease the extraneous content, the viewer is more likely to focus on the primary message.

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SimplificationFrame your subject.

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SimplificationFrame your subject.

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SimplificationFrame your subject.

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SimplificationFrame your subject.

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Limiting focusOne approach to achieving simplification within a photograph is to use a wide aperture when shooting to limit the depth of field. When used properly in the right setting, this technique can place everything that is not the subject of the photograph to be out of focus.

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Limiting focusPlace everything that is not the subject of the photograph to be out of focus.

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Limiting focusPlace everything that is not the subject of the photograph to be out of focus.

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Limiting focusPlace everything that is not the subject of the photograph to be out of focus.

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SymmetryThe "rule of odds" suggests that an odd number of subjects in an image is more interesting than an even number. Thus if you have more than one subject in your picture, the suggestion is to choose an arrangement with at least three subjects. An even number of subjects produces symmetries in the image, which can appear less natural.

Related to the rule of odds is the observation that triangles are an aesthetically pleasing implied shape within an image.

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SymmetryThe "rule of odds" suggests that an odd number of subjects in an image is more interesting than an even number.

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SymmetryThe "rule of odds" suggests that an odd number of subjects in an image is more interesting than an even number.

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SymmetryRelated to the rule of odds is the observation that triangles are an aesthetically pleasing implied shape within an image.

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ViewpointThe position of the camera can strongly influence the aesthetics of an image. Not only does it influence the background as described above, but it also influences the viewer's interpretation of the subject.For example, if a boy is photographed from above, for example from the eye level of an adult, he is diminished in stature. A photograph taken at the child's level would treat him as an equal, and one taken from below could result in an impression of dominance.An image can be rendered more dramatic when it fills the frame. People can have a tendency to perceive things as larger than they actually are, and filling the frame fulfills this psychological mechanism. This can be used to eliminate distractions from the background.

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View PointThe position of the camera can strongly influence the aesthetics of an image.

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View PointThe position of the camera can strongly influence the aesthetics of an image.

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View PointThe position of the camera can strongly influence the aesthetics of an image.

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View PointThe position of the camera can strongly influence the aesthetics of an image.

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View PointThe camera angle influences the viewer's interpretation of the subject.

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View PointThe camera angle influences the viewer's interpretation of the subject.

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Curved LinesCurved lines are generally used to create a sense of flow within a photograph. The eye generally scans these lines with ease and enjoyment as it follows it throughout the image. Compared to straight lines, curves provide a greater dynamic influence in a photograph. When paired with soft-directional lighting curved lines can give gradated shadows which usually results in a very harmonious line structure within the image. Perspective is also important with curved lines, generally speaking the higher the viewpoint the more open the lines tend to be.

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LinesS Curves : Curved lines are generally used to create a sense of flow within a photograph.

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LinesS Curves : Curved lines are generally used to create a sense of flow within a photograph.

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LinesS Curves : Curved lines are generally used to create a sense of flow within a photograph.

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Straight LinesHorizontal, Vertical, and Angled lines all contribute to creating different moods of a photograph. The angle and the relationship to the size of the frame both work to determine the influence the line has on the image. They are also strongly influenced by tone, color, and repetition in relation to the rest of the photograph. Straight, horizontal lines, commonly found in landscape photography, gives the impression of calm, tranquility, and space. An image filled with strong vertical lines tends to have the impression of height, and grandeur. Tightly angled convergent lines give a dynamic, lively, and active effect to the image. Viewpoint is very important when dealing with lines in photography, because every different perspective elicits a different response to the photograph. Too many lines without a clear subject point suggest chaos in the image and may conflict with the mood the photographer is trying to evoke.

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LinesOblique and angular lines give us the sense of dynamic balance and a sense of action.

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LinesOblique and angular lines give us the sense of dynamic balance and a sense of action.

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LinesOblique and angular lines give us the sense of dynamic balance and a sense of action.

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LinesBoth physical lines and continuous, less obvious lines exist.

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LinesBoth physical lines and continuous, less obvious lines exist.

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LinesEvery photograph contains lines. Both physical lines and continuous, less obvious lines exist. The brain often unconsciously reads near continuous lines between different elements and subjects at varying distances. Strong flowing lines can be created without a photographer even realizing it. Movement is also a source of line, blur can also create a reaction. Subject lines which create an illusion, contribute to both mood and by means of linear perspective give the illusion of depth of field. Oblique and angular lines give us the sense of dynamic balance and a sense of action. Lines can also direct attention towards the main subject of the photograph, or contribute to the photographs organization by dividing it into compartments.

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Interiors

People and InteriorsThe most commercially profitable images of interiors are those devoid of people. Nonetheless, many of the pictures of interiors that are the most successful as photographs are those that show people relating to what the architects have built. Here, for example are a few snapshots from the photo.net Japan guide:

The photo below, of the Great Hall at Ellis Island, wouldn't work nearly as well without the two teenagers waiting where so many immigrants waited for so many hours and days

Similarly, as part of a page describing Hearst Castle, these two people-filled images give a better record of the experience of touring the castle than do the detail images

San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art opened as a beautiful building with hardly any art. Pictures of the stark atrium without people might give a viewer the impression that the museum hadn't opened yet when the photos were taken. With the people, though, the idea of a building filled with human beings fruitlessly searching for art is conveyed

Careful with the LightMost camera equipment is designed for handheld use outdoors. As soon as you take them indoors you discover that, on average, it is much darker indoors than outdoors. You won't be able to create a sharp image handholding your camera indoors.A flash is a lot easier to carry than a tripod. Many cameras have built-in flashes. So use the flash for an interior architecture photo, because you won't capture the architecture.

Rooms and houses are designed around light. Architects who've read A Pattern Language will tell you that you need light from two sides of a room in order to be comfortable in that room. If there is a window on only one wall, the light inside the room will be too contrasty. Architects are very careful with windows and artificial lights. Photo below, of medieval Skansen village in Stockholm. We don't mind the contrast and the fact that we can't see detail in a lot of the furniture or the door. The photo gives us an idea of what it is like to use a desk hundreds of years ago in Sweden.

The Drama of the StaircaseYou won't have to work hard to get a dramatic staircase image. Stand at the top with a moderately wide-angle lens and point the camera down. The second image below is from the Vatican museum in Rome.

Don't Forget to Look UpEspecially in Europe, spend a lot of time looking up towards the ceiling for interesting photos.The straight "record of what was painted on the ceiling" photo can be made with almost any camera, even where tripods are prohibited. Set the camera to "no flash" and "self-timer" modes. Place the camera on the floor in the middle of the room, lens pointing up. Press the shutter release and back out of the way. Ten seconds later you've got your ceiling.

Go WideFact 1: very few commercial clients are going to thank you for making their rooms look small. Fact 2: very few architects are going to accomodate your desire to knock down a wall so that you can get the entire room into a photo with a normal lens (50mm on a full-frame camera; 30mm on a small sensor digital SLR). Fact 3: Pincushion and barrel distortion, more prevalent with zoom lenses, are much more apparent in architectural work than in general photography. Conclusion: you want some very prime (single focal length, non-zoom) wide angle lenses for architectural interiors.

Go Tight (or at least normal)Wide, wide, wide all the time makes for dull photography. Sometimes you can highlight details or reveal patterns better with a normal (50mm) or longer lens.

Have FunLook for humor in and around building interiors. Below are visitors at the Getty Center being entertained by a huge puppet, the whole scene further distorted by the use of a 17mm lens. At right is a hopskotch grid that breaks up a monotonous corridor in the Stockholm aiport

Outdoors IndoorsLook at the windows per se and the view just beyond the windows...

Also look at interior gardens and courtyards

Indoors OutdoorsEventually the indoors will become outdoors and it is always interesting to see nature reclaiming her territory:

Exteriors

Old ArchitectureWhen photographing old architecture, a straightforward and simple composition usually works best, showing the natural beauty and elegance of the building. It usually helps to include some of the surrounding scenery to give context to the architecture and make it feel less cramped.

A simple composition gives a stately feel to older buildings. Image by Stephen Murphy

Modern ArchitectureWhen photographing modern architecture you can get away with using a much more modern, abstract style. Experiment with wide angle lenses to produce extreme perspective, or photograph the building from unusual angles. Also, because modern buildings are often squeezed in very close to one another, you can crop in tightly on the building without making the photo feel unnatural.

A more abstract style works well when photographing modern architecture. Image by Rohit Mattoo.

Put Your Architecture in Context... or Don'tThe question of whether to show your building's surroundings depends on the situation and the message you want to convey. Ask yourself whether putting your building in context would add to or detract from the photo. If the scenery compliments your building then shoot a wider photo, but if the surroundings don't fit with the message you want to convey, cut them out.

Including some scenery in your photograph can help put your subject in context. Image by Rob Overcash.

As an example consider an old building in the middle of a modern city. If you wanted to capture this sense of not belonging then it would be important to include some of the surrounding modern buildings. But if you just want to emphasise the beautiful old architecture then the newer buildings would only detract from the photo, so you should crop them out.

LightingLighting is a crucial part of architectural photography. Of course we have no say over the position and orientation of a building, and lighting the building ourselves is usually out of the question (not to mention expensive!). Instead we have to make do with what nature provides.Side-front lighting usually produces the best architecture photos. It provides plenty of illumination and also casts long, interesting shadows across the face of the building, making its surface details stand out and giving the building a more three-dimensional look.

You can bring out the texture and detail of the architecture using front-size lighting. Image by Gianni Domenici.

Back lighting is the worst kind for architectural photography because it creates very uniform, dark surfaces. The best way to deal with a backlit building is to either crop out the sky and use a longer exposure to rescue some of the detail, or photograph the building as a silhouette. Alternatively you could wait until it gets dark...

Shoot at NightEven the most boring architecture can come alive at night - in fact many modern buildings and city centres are designed specifically with night time in mind. After dark these buildings are lit by dozens of lights which bring colour and vibrancy, and cast fantastic shadows across the face of the building.

Dramatic night lighting can really bring a building to life. Image by Trey Ratcliff.

Reduce Distortion by Using a Longer LensIf you photograph a building from too close it can leave the walls looking distorted, as if the whole building is bulging outwards. Although this can be an interesting effect in itself, we usually want to reduce it so that it doesn't become distracting.By using a telephoto lens and photographing your architecture from further away you will find that your building's walls and lines appear acceptably straight.

Use a telephoto lens to flatten the perspective and eliminate distortion. Image by lvaro Vega Fuentes.

You can also use a telephoto lens to create some great abstract effects. By photographing your architecture from a long way away and using a long focal length lens, you will flatten the perspective, making the lines of the building appear parallel, giving your photo a slightly surreal feel.

Pick Out Interesting DetailsMost architecture is covered with small-scale details which make fascinating photos in their own right - from ornate windows to patterns of rivets to decorative cornices.Be on the lookout for these details and crop in tightly on them for a more intimate photograph that conveys the character of the architecture.

Find an interesting detail to focus on, rather than just photographing the entire building. Image by Paul Hocksenar.

It's Not Just About BuildingsWhen photographing architecture it is easy to get stuck in the mindset that "architecture equals buildings". Of course this couldn't be far from the truth, and in fact most man-made structures come under the architecture umbrella - bridges, towers, windmills, monuments, and even lamp posts. Think laterally and see if you can find some interesting photos that most people would miss.

Architecture covers a lot more than just buildings. Image by Lou Bueno.

Lead the Eye by Leading the PersonIf your composition includes a visible footpath into the scene, it should naturally draw the viewer.

Include the FenceA fence can be an important image element. In the left-hand photo below (from Gotland, Sweden), the fence works with the trees to frame the barn. It helps that the fence is not brightly lit and is a bit out of focus. The viewer's eye will therefore naturally be drawn to the main subject of the photo, i.e., the barn. In the right-hand photo, from Cape Cod, the fence immediately clues a viewer into the exclusive nature of the beach club.

Watch the ShadowsBefore color, Hollywood directors and cinematographers worked carefully to cast interesting shadows into scenes. Here are some examples of images where shadows set the mood.

Watch the Weatherhe sunlight adds punch to the fire hydrant and makes urban life seem more appealing. However, if you were trying to show people details in the buildings, a high overcast day would have been much better. For example, here is an image from Visby, Sweden:

Dont forget. The Narrow StreetTo get a better-than-average picture of a narrow European street, start by looking for an arch: Both of the above images could have been better. In the left-hand image, the subject (woman on moped) could be more interesting and more engaged either with the camera or another subject. In the right-hand image, some of the black shadow should be cropped out.

Dont forget. The RuinsA good perspective on a ruin is some rubble in the foreground and the standing structure in the background.

For ruins in the American Southwest, the best images almost always show quite a bit of context (these are from New Mexico)

Dont forget. The IndustrialThe world of industrial architectural is the world of the large but simultaneously extremely detailed.

Dont forget. The Doors and Windows

Dont forget. The Fountains

Dont forget. The Swimming PoolsOccasionally, a swimming pool is a work of art by itself, as in the image at left (Hearst Castle). But most of the time, a pool is best used as an abstract element in a composition from above, as at right (Israel).

Dont forget. The Sculpture

Dont forget. The PeopleInclude people in an architecture photo if they give unexpected information about how a building is being used.

Dont forget. The Public SquareThe left-hand image, from Rome, has a classical composition leading the eye into the center of the frame. But the overview image to its right conveys a truer feeling for the Spanish Steps.

Dont forget. The Private Courtyard

Dont forget. The Natural FramesIt is a contrived and hackneyed idea, but it does work to use natural frames. If you're working without a tripod, you probably won't be able to stop down the aperture enough to get everything into focus. But it is okay to have a soft frame and a sharp subject.

Further readingDowner, Marion (1965). Discovering Design. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.Graham, Peter (2004). An Introduction to Painting Still Life. Chartwell Books Inc. ISBN 0-7858-1750-6.Grill, Tom; Scanlon, Mark (1990). Photographic Composition. Watson-Guptill Publications. ISBN 0-8174-5427-6.Peterson, Bryan (1988). Learning to See Creatively. Watson-Guptill Publications. ISBN 0-8174-4177-8.Langford, Michael. (1982). The Master Guide to Photography. New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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Referenceshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_%28visual_arts%29http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratioLifehackerAbout.comPhoto.net

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