Photographing the architectural landscape — tips and advice

Photographing the architectural landscape - tips and advice

The architectural landscape in photography can be called one of the most accessible genres for the modern photographer. Any city resident will easily be able to find a lot of attractive objects for shooting near his home. Beautiful city architectural landscape can be done even in your yard, the key is to find something original and expressive. In this article you will learn how to photograph architectural sites and where to draw inspiration to city photographer.


Architectural photography is the direct heir of the painting Italian landscape painters who worked in the genre of Veduta (Italian. veduta), which can be translated as urban and architectural landscape. The first photographer who began shooting urban landscapes became Fox Talbot, who in 1843 was engaged in shooting architectural structures. Among the most famous landscape photographers can highlight Stiglitz, Alexander Rodchenko and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Photos and architectural guidelines

Now there are several basic directions of development of the urban landscape. The first step is interpretation of the city as an industrial environment, and prevailed pictures of buildings, factories, machines and other similar objects. Another direction in the urban landscape considering the town as a major sphere of human life and devoted to its analysis with this point of view. The city and man, one among the crowd – that’s what matters investigated by many photographers of this genre. As another direction of the urban landscape, you can select pictures of historical and cultural side of the city, because, of course, almost any city in the world is a monument of architecture, and is a great object for photography.

Abstraction can also be defined in one of the dimensions of the urban landscape, as buildings are a wonderful object to create abstract compositions. The intersection of glass and concrete that is popular with many of today’s photographers. But perhaps the most interesting direction in the urban landscape is life, and here in the frame, on the background of monumental buildings there is a citizen, and this combination can give a very interesting picture. Also to the city skyline include the Park photography, after all, the Park is an integral part of the city. And of course the urban landscape belongs to architectural photography, which is its Foundation. Among the photos of the cities can be identified and specialized areas, such as shooting axle, lights or other objects in the city.

Content the theme of the city are developed by photographers in several ways, first and foremost, this is a classic, one might even say plein air trip to the urban landscape. At the same time, many urban photographers play with color crossings and the resulting conflicts, which are so often found in the midst of the urban environment. Analyzing urban landscapes, it is possible to identify the tendency of poetizatsii of the city and is therefore leading into the urban landscape now is the lyrical theme. In my opinion, truth in an urban landscape is at the intersection of all these above mentioned areas and all these areas together make up the urban landscape.

Principles of frame on photos of architectural structures

If we talk about the necessary skills, we can say that a photographer specializing in urban landscape, must be able to combine landscape, genre, architectural photography, and only then the result will be worthy.

When shooting urban landscape wide angle lens required, too, because when you build the frame you need to collect a lot of large objects close to the survey point. At the same time and without a long lens not do, because it will allow you to take pictures of architectural details, for example, or to combine in one frame the roofs of several city buildings.

One of the common mistakes in the landscape is the lack of foreground, therefore, when taking pictures try to tilt the camera down or to sit down to take the larger pavement – paving looks good as a foreground. For a natural framing frame on top of the cityscape can be used branches of trees, various arches, bridges and crossings.

The sharpness of all plans in the frame is one of the necessary techniques when shooting in the city, but if you were able to catch the fog in the city, it is possible to identify the main objects in the frame, and then the composition would be much more interesting. Such serious demands on the sharpness of the pictures forced the city photographer to use a tripod, but if not, then come to the aid of parapets, embankments, railings, and other handy tools.

When you construct the frame carefully, look at different reflection, because reflection is one of the classic themes of the urban landscape. A little excitement on the river can coat the reflection of the building and give the frame a completely different meaning, not only water has reflective properties, a building with a mirror facade may be the main object in the urban landscape. However, when shooting reflections, it is necessary to consider that the reflection of the need to «fit» quite close, so no long lens here is not enough.

Often the complexity of the urban landscape is the presence of a large number of people on the streets, so we try to go «on photography» in the early morning while the townspeople went to work, then the chances of making a desolate landscape increased many times. At the same time the inclusion of people in the urban landscape can add romance to the frame than need to use. The same problem with the machines, on the one hand, they can be the basis of the frame, especially if the cars and rare vintage, but in most cases they are a serious hindrance for the photographer.

In practice photographers often present a city skyline in black and white, this is due to the fact that it is very difficult composite to combine in a single frame different colors that are present in the city. Red Billboard, orange sign, the green stretching – all of these will break the frame to pieces, so feel free to translate the urban landscape into a black and white version – it will become much more interesting. The same recommendation is valid, and if the frame is a monument of architecture, processing in black and white will only benefit him.

Don’t forget that long exposures in the city, may lead to interesting results. There is an interesting series of works, where the long exposure was used in the afternoon, and then the result was quite original.

If we talk about composition, the cityscape is still there are standard rules of the landscape, the more plans and more complicated composition, more interesting photos of architectural structures, so the basic rules of composition still need to know. At the same time try to find his view of the city, for example, try to «drop» the point of shooting or find the highest point. Most importantly, try a little different to look at everyday reality, and maybe you will see and capture your best shot. The opinion of the audience concerning your creativity, you can learn by posting their pictures on various websites with discussions and reviews. For example, see the reviews here about the work of other photographers. Here you can find opinions of professionals about the different equipment and shooting techniques.

Weather conditions, custodial time, and other tricks of the landscape

The only thing not controlled by the photographer – it’s the weather conditions, and they seriously affect the results of the work of urban photographer. If the sky on the day of shooting without a cloud, the chances of getting a good urban landscape are reduced. Here again, there is a standard rule – «landscape without the sky is not the landscape». The changing weather is a great time for the urban landscape, because at this time there is a change in the sky, allowing you to get the most interesting lighting, and also «fill the sky». Another basic principle of the landscape suggests that without the sun for a good shot will not. In this case, as in the normal landscape, morning or evening light is better than a sharp light in the middle of the day. Side lighting in the «operation time» gives the frame the volume, and with the right photo shows the texture of the buildings, therefore, without the use of special technology to remove the urban landscape in the middle of the day is useless – a beautiful shot, not likely to succeed.

When shooting urban landscape every photographer has special tricks that help make the frame more interesting. Note the reflection in the puddle after the rain, watch the water in the river, look in the reflection of the glass – you can make a good frame. When you build the scenes look at the promotional stand, at first it seems that he is a nuisance, but try to make it the basis of composition and can make an interesting effect. Such tricks accumulate with practice shooting and increase the likelihood of obtaining good photos.

But not so smooth in the urban landscape. A serious problem when shooting city wide angle lens are the distortion of vertical lines. The result of this phenomenon, the building would lean to you. There is no doubt that the development of the means of processing photos allows you to correct these flaws, but on the other hand, true artists of the landscape can accept these distortions and use them to realize their creative vision.

Another trick that I actively use, is the early arrival in a new city, try to arrive before sunrise, because if you go at six in the morning, the city will be empty and you will have time for taking pictures and a walk around town.

Often the most disturbing element in the urban landscape are the ubiquitous electrical wires, which turn into an artistic element of the image is managed a few, so cleaning the frame for the urban photographer is the usual occupation.

And of course the main difficulty of the urban landscape is a large number of photographers, walking with cameras around the city, which makes finding a new frame difficult. Very often colleagues have visited this lovely place that you found and made the perfect frame in your viewfinder. Therefore, experiment with angles, techniques, time – all this will make a unique frame that belongs only to you.

If we consider the aspect ratio in the urban landscape, in practice it can be anything. Vertical and horizontal organization of the frame can be applied equally, but I like the square frame in the urban landscape. Although, at the same time, often there are beautiful panoramas made in the city that deserve serious interest.

For most photographers, serious works in the genre of urban landscape, one frame is the only part of a series of photos. It is well known that combining photos in a series must meet certain principles, and the simplest of them is the same processing and cropping of all pictures of one series. Using the same principles of processing, such as transfer to h would be possible to combine a series of urban photographs. An additional principle of Association in a series can be a single aspect, such as square, but it’s better if several techniques are applied simultaneously. It is a big success, if for one day could take the entire series in full, as a rule, you have to collect a series of many days of shooting.

In practice often there are cases when as part of a series of urban landscapes combine pictures of one of the objects in the urban landscape – lights, cars, etc. very often this is formed from the series of photos of one city. The greatest challenge is the selection and fixing of the photos of community of several cities, which allows the series to show their similarity and differences.

The use of specialized technologies, may give interesting results on photos of architectural structures, because very often in the city there is a significant brightness difference, which is why the use of technology image with a wide dynamic range (high dynamic range – HDR) allows you to make an interesting shot in backlighting. However, any technology is good in moderation, so to get involved in HDR you need to carefully. In practice, most photographers are seriously ill HDR first, but then gradually change their attitude towards this technology.

Another technology that allows you to look at the city differently, is infrared photography. I believe that it was invented solely in order to «take» photographer «not sensitive» time. With the infrared filter can be photographed when the sun is at the Zenith, it is possible to obtain a variety of unpredictable effects. The only difficulty is the need for long exposures and therefore a tripod. The analysis of urban landscapes photo-sharing sites shows that there are very few photographers that work with infrared urban landscape, so this topic might give a new perspective on the city.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you to seek his vision of the city. Your slogan should be the phrase – «never without frame», and then after some time, your files will be masterpieces of world level.

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