How to… plan an architectural photography shoot

Having spent over ten years now working for a very wide range of clients photographing architecture all over the UK, and occasionally overseas, the process has become so refined for me that it is absolutely prefect every time. (Well, that’s the plan….).¬†Here are my top tips if you’re heading out to photograph a specific piece of architecture.

1 – Work out where the sun will be. Light is key to all photography, and assuming you want the sun shining on your subject matter, don’t chance it. Check on Google maps (or something simlar) for the building’s orientation, and use an app like The Photographer’s Ephemeris (see below) for seeing where the sun will be at a given time of day and given time of year. There’s nothing worse than turning up on a nice sunny day and finding you’re shooting directly into the sun. Work it out in advance!

epheremis

2 – Expect to make a few visits. Because of the sun’s position and movement, to get different angles you may need to return at different times of the day, so be prepared for a lot of waiting around, or repeat visits.

3 – Be patient, if you have the time. If the killer shot requires a certain time of the year, make a note in your diary and go back. It’ll be worth it. For example, the sun sets far enough to the south in the winter to catch the front of the Angel of the North as it’s setting, giving a beautiful colour to it. But the window is short as you can see from the image – the dark orange line shows the angle the sun sets at today…

4 – Research vantage points. Plan to have a good walk around not just the building but nearby streets. Sometimes great angles aren’t obvious until you stumble across them. Investigate elevated vantage points too.¬†Especially in a city or town centre where street ‘clutter’ (bins, signposts, people…) can really draw the eye away from the subject matter. Doesn’t have to be a roof top – a balcony just a floor or two up on a nearby building might do. And it’s amazing how often you can get access if you just smile and explain what you want to do.

5 – Prepare the subject? Buildings, like people, don’t always looking their best without a bit of effort. If you’re on a commission for a client it’s worth checking things like whether any to-let or for sale signs are stuck in windows, whether you’ll be able to raise or lower blinds, or turn lights on of off as required. Applies for internal and external shots. Dusk architectural shots can be particularly striking, but not if all the lights are off. Consider again the time of year. An office block at dusk in June may be very dark because of how late dusk is at that time of year.