How to Photograph Architecture such as Steeples, Sugar Shacks, and Skyscrapers
A building is a box. It could be tall, or it might be wide. But it’s just a box until you see the details. Doors, windows, gables, roofs, ornaments, and trim give architecture its personality. Zoom in on the details to capture that uniqueness. On the other hand, offices and condominiums have repetition of patterns that is also interesting.
Age: Historical buildings often have a presence far beyond their original design. They may have beautiful details or be sturdy and utilitarian. They may show the footsteps of hundreds of factory workers or the tarnish of a timeworn farm. Think of the spacious rooms of a turn-of-the-century mansion. Can you envision it when it was young? Can you show the fine dining room, the maid’s quarters, the state of the art kitchen? This is where you use your imagination.
Style: Contemporary buildings are usually shot in a soaring, contemporary style. Highlight any unusual angles or textures or reflections, since they are part of the design. If you’re shooting a Georgian colonial, show its symmetry and solidness. A Victorian cottage has Gothic details and bright color. Each style of architecture has features which can be emphasized.
Environment: Show enough of the surroundings to inform, but not enough to distract. If an old stone wall is integral to a property, include it. A garden might say more about a home that its shape. If there’s a gorgeous view, show it.
Here, the focus of the log cabin is its spectacular view of Rangeley Lake. The owner of the house on the right is such an avid gardener that showing the house without its flowers would be shame.
Emotion: How does the building affect you? Stately? Grand? Celestial? Cozy? There are often many ways to depict a subject. Try to find a way to express the way it feels to you. Honor those who built and used it.
This church in Jaffrey Center, NH, is one of my favorite buildings. It has beautiful form and symmetry, and I love the care with which it was created. The exquisite steeple reflects the worship that took place within. I try to find new ways to portray it whenever I’m in the area.
I’m looking forward to my next trip to Boston. There’s a long list of landmarks I should shoot. But for now, my bags are packed, and there’s fresh snow in Vermont. See you later!
All photos © Susan Cole Kelly.
Susan Cole Kelly is a compulsive shutterbug based in Boston and downeast Maine. You can see more of her work at http://susancolekelly.photoshelter.com/