Great architectural photography requires planning for light, finding your angles, and a few more tricks. Read on to discover what they are.
Let’s face it — stock images of buildings and landmarks can be boring. There are restrictions that limit photographers who want to capture images of architecture and unique buildings for stock marketplaces. More often than not, you’ll need to get a property release to photograph any recognizable building. But, with a bit of creativity, you can capture and share rare stock images of landmarks and buildings that are guaranteed to impress customers searching for marketable images.
In this article, we’ll share tips on how to capture (and upload) unique stock images of architectural features, buildings, and unique landmarks for stock. Great architectural photography requires planning, so let’s take a look.
Tip #1: Get a Property Release
We understand you may not be able to procure a property release of every building you shoot. However, without a property release, you seriously limit your ability to earn money from your images.
Property releases are signed by the owner (or in some cases, the manager), of the building or landmark to provide approval for the images to be used for stock. Without a property release, you’ll only be able to upload as an Editorial image, which holds a significantly different earnings structure and ability for customers to use and purchase your image.
The stunning Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa area of Japan. Image by Lifestyle Travel Photo.
With a property release in hand, your image of a unique architectural landmark or home becomes much more valuable to stock marketplaces. Shutterstock created a short guide to help you better understand the property releases required for submitting to stock.
Here are some common locations that would require a property release, if architectural images of these locations are to be licensed commercially:
Amusement parksConcert venuesFamous landmarks and historical locations (the Known Image Restrictions offer more info on this)Modern architectureMuseum interiorsStadiumsUnique, identifiable building interiors (buildings with visible street names or numbers)Zoos
Tip #2: Look for Unique Angles and Perspectives
As with any type of photography, discovering unique angles and perspectives is key. However, in stock architecture photography, this is even more important. Finding unique ways to photograph a building can be a way to potentially not need a property release. For example, you might find a really stunning roof with strong architectural lines that no one else would be able to recognize as a building and has no real identifiable features.
A modern office building reimagined in good light. Image by Grand Warszawski.
In addition to the stock photography benefits, this also makes your work more usable for customers. While a customer may not want a wide shot of a really specific building, a good image of architectural details could be a perfect fit for Zoom backgrounds, or templates that the customer is using for their business.
Tip #3: Plan Your Shoot Around the Most Optimal Light
Light is essential to every great photograph, but perhaps pivotal with building and landmark imagery. Light can add drama to shadows, creating flattering lines out of shadows and contrast to unique building features. Similarly, soft light can be perfect to capture wide, beautiful images of rare architectural landscapes.
Six cube houses interact with each other in Rotterdam. Image by Brian S.
Often, the time of day will dictate when the light will hit the building the best. Understand where the sun is, and base your shoot around the type of imagery you want to create. For dramatic shadows, you may want to shoot at harsher times of the day (such as midday). For light and airy architecture images, you may want to shoot when the light is the softest, in the morning and in the early evening just before the sun sets.
For more tips on lighting your images, try our Ultimate Guide to Natural, Artificial, and Mixed Light.
Tip #4: Use a Polarizer for Exterior Images of Buildings
This tip is an absolute must for the budding architectural photographer. A polarizing filter is a relatively inexpensive accessory that can make or break your natural light images.
Polarizers control light reflecting on a subject, such as a building, and can help you control mixed light in your images. Polarizers can help you adjust your settings to compensate for harsh, bright light in the sky, and darker shadows on the building, and vice-versa. The filter essentially reduces the amount of natural light that enters certain parts of your images.
A polarizer can be a great help in mixed lighting situations. Image by Sharon Photo.
For more tips on using a polarizer, check out our Production Tip: Capturing Good Video in Snow and Ice.
Tip #5: Images of Buildings Should Be Tack Sharp
In architecture photography, detail is a must which means your shot needs to be as sharp as possible. To do this, consider bringing a tripod with you.
A tripod will allow you to better manipulate your camera settings to maximize your flexibility in capturing a truly remarkable image. Once your camera is on your tripod, you want to have a nice, narrow aperture of f/8 or higher (as high as you can go, ideally) to keep the details of the building in focus. After that, adjust the rest of your settings — such as shutter speed and ISO — accordingly to create the ultimate architecture image.
The stunning Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Image by Wanchana Phuangwan.
Learn how ISO, shutter speed, and aperture work together to create the perfect image.
Tip #6: Use the Widest Lens You Have
A wide lens will allow you to capture the most detail and architectural elements in your image. It’s also an excellent tool for shooting stock images of landmarks and buildings. Anything such as 14mm to 24mm is a perfect range for architecture photography. This will allow you to create really exclusive and dramatic angles and shots, allowing for a truly unique stock image.
Traditional facade on a building in Portugal. Image by dimbar76.
On the flip side, get creative! A telephoto lens with a massive zoom is another excellent tool to have in your roster to create unique images that are unlike any other. Most importantly, create a tool kit that suits your particular style, and plan your shoots according to the type of image you’re inspired to create.
Tip #7: Bring a Model
While architecture photography is truly all about the building, a model can be an excellent way to show the scale of the building or landmark. Bringing a model allows you the most flexibility to not only capture startling images of architecture, but also stunning lifestyle imagery. Clients are constantly searching for images with people on stock, so don’t miss an opportunity to tap into that market and create some exceptional images with diverse models in those images. Just remember to grab a model release as well.
A model can be a great addition on an architecture-focused shoot. Image by Dragon Images.
Top image by Brian S.
Looking for more tips on photographing buildings? Check out these articles:
Making Money in Stock Photography: 20 Tips from the Pros How to Take Architectural Photos Like a Pro 8 Photographers on Capturing Captivating Images of Architecture5 Tips for Clean, Sophisticated Interior Photos from a Top Architectural Photographer15 Tips on Shooting Lifestyle Stock Images That Sell
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