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Architectural photography: How to photograph beautiful architecture 

 May 14, 2015

By  Pascal Depuhl

Last week we looked at what goes into planning an architectural photo shoot – next week we’re going to dive into the post production workflow, but today it’s about actually photographing architecture. Looking for lines and light that you will record on the day of the shoot. Today we get down to brass tacks: we’re gonna catch the light in motion!

Our house – in the middle of our street

On the day of the shoot, I’m on location 3 hours before sunset. I’d rather wait than hurry. Since I already know where the camera will be set up for my shot, no time is wasted. In this specific instance, since we’re able to look through the house into the yard – the elevation of the camera is crucial as well – I need to see the water feature over the pool.

Architectural photograph of the Dilido house

First of all you need a rock solid tripod, because we’re gonna layer a bunch of different photos together into one file (check out tomorrow’s post about the post production, that goes into photographing architecture.) Then I set up my computer, because I am shooting my camera tethered. My MacBookPro runs Capture One and since we’ll be out here for a few hours, is plugged into a GoalZero battery for some extra juice.

Why do I shoot tethered? It allows me to see more details during the shoot and I can trigger the camera via Capture One’s app called ‘capture pilot’ remotely, allowing me to stand in front of the house – away from the camera – to trigger a flash and avoid any vibration, since my exposure is often 8-15 seconds.

Setting my car up as my work station, while photographing architecture
Photographing architecture out of my car.

How do you protect your camera and tripod from moving even a fraction of an inch, when you set up in the middle of the street? You park your car, which also give you a nice desk to set up your computer work station in the middle of a (fortunately quiet, residential) street.  Then it’s really just waitingto catch the perfect light. One exposure right after dusk for a beautiful dark blue rich sky. One more for the interior and exterior lights, another for my tungsten lighs in the yard behind the house and so on.

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Lighting for architecture

Photographing architecture with a very cool 17mm tilt shift lens.The lighting for this shot is done while it’s still light out – four 1K Mole Richardson par lights light up the back foliage, one 1K fresnel hits the water feature, two 750 W soft lights hit the interior kitchen and staircase to bring light into places, where there are not interior house lights.

Still love to light with tungsten lights – it’s the prettiest light out there – I don’t care what you say. It also gives me a nice warm glow, when mixed with the blue skylight, I’m getting at dusk and the daylight balanced flash I’m using to keep the walls nice and white.

Finally the hero of this shoot is the 17mm tilt shift lens, which allows me to keep my vertical lines parallel. This lens is a beauty – I rented it for this shoot from BorrowLenses – so much fun to shoot, makes me miss me 4×5 camera …

So for the next hours it’s photographing a bunch of different exposures. Checking them on the computer, shooting them again, if they aren’t perfect. This is not like the studio, where you can reset a set. You want to do it again, you have to come back tomorrow. Actually there’s about a 10 minute window, where everything is perfect. That’s when you grab your hero shot. Everything else is shot to get put together in post.

(Just a quick note on the video quality – this is a recording of a live periscope stream I was recording during the shoot, please excuse the audio dropping off.)

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Let’s see what happens to the architecture images we’ve created today, once they go into the final stage of my workflow: post production. Check that post out next Thursday. (And if you missed the one about planning the shoot – here’s a link to last weeks’s post about planning an architectural photo shoot.

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Pascal Depuhl


Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.

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