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The State of the Art in Architectural Photography: Bringing virtual reality to architectural photography

May 18th, 2016 by Jesse Gerard

In the 4th installment of our series leading up to the “State of the Art in Architectural photography” presentation at the 2016 AIA convention, we’ll push the boundaries of what we normally think of as “Photography.” The ever-expanding purview of the photographer can now include video, and the topic that’s attracting a huge amount of attention, virtual reality!

Virtual reality (VR)

VR is poised to change the way that we experience media. Architecture has many innate qualities that make it of huge interest to VR developers. VR allows the viewer to see spaces and volumes from a human perspective; sounds perfect for architecture, right? The type of virtual reality we’re going to discuss is often known by other names including spherical photography, and 360 panoramas. These are still photographs of real spaces that can be used with a stereoscopic viewer ,such as Google Cardboard, or the more powerful Oculus Rift.

You can make spherical photography VR images right now with your smartphone using the Google Street View app,which stitches together images from your phone’s camera into a sphere. To go one step up, you can purchase an affordable spherical camera, like the Ricoh Theta. For a full professional presentation things get a bit more complicated: it’s best to stitch together images from a mainstream high-end dSLR.

Here’s an example of a tour of an office interior that we’ve made using spherical photography.

 

Moveable elements

Things like doors and drawers are classic subjects for architectural video, as their character is only completely conveyed when they are in motion. Other more grand examples of motion in architecture that are prime video subjects would be kinetic art (think Calder Mobiles), or convertible spaces or tiny houses. This kind of video is something that can be done by non-professionals using a stationary camera on a tripod. Even a mobile phone would work in this case, as long as it’s stable.

Here’s an example of a video we’ve made of architecture in motion with a stationary camera in professional quality that has perspective and color correction, as well as titles and branding that make it perfect for social media.


 

If you’ve found or made an architectural video, we’d love to see it: tweet us @photospaces and @studioHDP

 

The State of the Art in Architectural Photography: The Power of Mirrorless Cameras

May 17th, 2016 by Allen

I have a confession. I am a tech nerd. In particular, I love geeking out over the latest photography toys.  Excuse me, “tools”.  I’m a firm believer that technology makes our lives better, and that has certainly been true for me as a photographer.  One of the latest and arguably greatest technologies that has matured in the digital era is the mirrorless camera.  In this post I’ll briefly cover a few reasons why I enjoy using a mirrorless camera over a DSLR.  But first, let me give you a little background.

As a Canon owner and frequent user of Nikons, I have always been conflicted about which system was the best.  Canon has a great, and I mean AMAZING, 17mm Tilt Shift lens but Nikon has an amazing sensor in the D800/810.  There was never a best of both worlds until now.  After much fence-sitting, I finally replaced my aging Canon with a Sony A7R2.  Why?  Because it’s incredible!!!  Okay, I’m gushing a bit and that’s not really a practical answer so here are my top 3 reasons why I love, and you will love, the new Sony cameras.  (Including the A72, without the “R”)

Sensor Quality and Dynamic Range:  The Sony mirrorless cameras have incredible sensors.  With these sensors you can create a photograph from a single underexposed capture that has very minimal shadow noise.   This can be especially helpful to you if you’re photographing a scene where there is a huge range of contrast and you don’t want to get into a lot of Photoshop layering or HDR work.

The dynamic range of the sensor allows me to create a great image from a single underexposed capture that has very minimal shadow noise.  The photos below illustrate this point.  The before is significantly underexposed on purpose in order to maintain highlight detail.  Because of the dynamic range of the camera sensor, I was able to take that one shot and brighten it with Adobe Camera Raw, without losing the details in the highlights of the sky and while gaining details in the fountain and the trees in the foreground.  The result is a photograph that is rich throughout a range of tones from black to white.

Allen Russ Photography RAW Format Before Fountain Landscape

Before: This is the image straight out of the camera.  I intentionally underexposed to maintain detail in the sky and background.

Landscape Architecture Photograph by Allen Russ - Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia

After: The final image after brightening the exposure of the image in Adobe Camera Raw.

Versatility and Lens Options:  The second selling point for me is it’s versatility.  I can use my Canon lenses on it!  Yay!  Through the use of a Metabones adapter, I can use virtually any lens I want.  Including my Canon 17mm Tilt Shift.  What this means for you as an architect is that if you have a special project that you want to photograph properly, you can rent a tilt shift lens and an adapter.  What does this get you?  Look here.  (A note on buying camera lenses: Figuring out the best lens is a personalized decision and should be based on a number of factors, typically the most important being the kind of architecture you are photographing the most. If you have questions on what lens is the best fit for your work, feel free to shoot me an email at allen@photographingspaces.com.  I’m happy to help you figure it out.)

 

Affordability: The third point for me is the price.  Sort of.  While the Sony A7R2 costs as much as a Nikon D810, the versatility of the system is invaluable to me.  Additionally, the “lesser” Sony cameras like the A72 are equally as powerful and feature rich.  With a camera like the A72 you sacrifice some megapixels but at 24mp, you will have more than enough resolution for publication quality images.  One other alternative is to look at used versions of the earlier Sony A7R series camera.  They are not as feature rich but the sensors rival the quality found in the Nikon D800.  In fact, Sony manufactured the sensors for the D800 so you’re essentially getting a D800 in a cheaper smaller body.  Sites like KEH.com and BHphoto.com have extensive testing and rating systems for buying used equipment so there’s less risk these days in buying used. 

I, along with the team of Hoachlander Davis Photography, am excited to share more with you more about how you can use mirrorless cameras in photographing your own work at the upcoming AIA convention in Philadelphia on May 19th.

More information about our workshop can be viewed here.  

– Allen

 

 

The State of the Art of Architectural Photography: Using Social Media to Market Your Work

May 16th, 2016 by Judy Davis

In the last post, we discussed a growing number of smartphone camera apps that give you more creative control over the photos you take with your smartphone.  Now that you have great photos of your work, it’s time to share them with the world!  Today’s social media platforms can go far beyond informing everyone what you ate for lunch or where you went on vacation. Marketing your content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms can help you gain exposure with the architecture community and reach potential clients.  

Here are three ways you can integrate your photos into your marketing strategy via social media:

1. Pick the best social media platforms that work for your brand

Your kids are talking about Snapchat. Your mother, your grandmother, and your whole extended family are on Facebook.  Your colleagues are raving about Instagram.  Everyone has some insight into the latest and greatest social media app these days, so how do you choose the best social media for you?  A good place to start is to consider your content.  If you take a lot of images of your work (which we hope you do), using a photo heavy platform like Instagram might be the best marketing outlet to start with. Many creative camera apps like Photoshop Express, VSCO, and SKRWT are designed to post directly to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, making it easier to work social media marketing into your daily to-do list.   There are many resources out there that can help you determine which social media platforms are best for your work.  Here’s a resource we found on Hubspot, an online marketing company that focuses on marketing trends.

 

2. Use Hashtags

Hashtags make it easy for people to find your work and thus using them will help you gain more followers and more exposure.  Studies have shown that using just 2 to 3 hashtags can increase engagement up to 40%.  I find hashtags especially helpful on Instagram.  Whenever I’m looking for inspiration I simply search a few hashtags (e.g. #DCarchitecture, #archilovers, #interiors) on Instagram or Twitter.  A hashtag can also be a great way to catalog your own work.  Create a hashtag for your company and make sure it accompanies every image you post.  If your business specializes in something, create a hashtag for it.  Below is an example of how architecture firm Wingate Hughes uses hashtags to show their projects.  

 

 

 

3. Make your professional community your social media community

Think of your social media account as a modern day rolodex.  You should be connected with every existing client and every potential client on social media.   The more regularly you are posting content, the more likely that potential clients (and a larger audience) will be exposed to your work.  Some best practices include placing your Instagram and Twitter handles on your business card and your website.  

 

A final note on sharing your images on social media: all apps and social media websites have different photo sizing requirements so be sure to format them accordingly. Different pixel sizes will help your images load quickly on their servers and be shown at the best resolution and quality.  We’ll go over more helpful sizing guidelines for social media in our seminar at the upcoming AIA convention in Philadelphia.  More information about our workshop can be viewed here.

The State of the Art of Architectural Photography: Photo Editing Apps For Your Smartphone

May 5th, 2016 by Anice

Recently while on a shoot, my client and I were discussing the camera he uses when taking snapshots of his projects. He said he’d tried using a DSLR but those images usually required further editing on expensive editing software that he didn’t have access to.  Also, the photos didn’t look as good straight out of the camera as they did on his camera phone.  This story inspired me to look for apps that would help our clients make their smartphone and tablet images look more like corrected architectural photographs. Smartphone cameras are constantly improving and more and more applications are being developed that refine and perfect the images. One of the best perspective control apps I have found is SKRWT.

SKRWT is a perspective correction tool designed with architecture in mind. When I am photographing for a client, I control perspective by using specialty tilt-shift lenses that cost over $1,500 each. Now, with your phone, you can have a similar amount of control with the SKRWT app for a few dollars.

 

If you’re looking for ways to to get started photographing your own projects, you can start today with your phone and the SKRWT app. At our seminar at the upcoming AIA convention in Philadelphia, we’ll be doing a live demo of this app and a few more photo-editing tools. I’d also love to hear more about how this, and other apps have worked for you in documenting your work. We’ll also be presenting other new technologies for architectural photography. This is our third year presenting a seminar and we’re looking forward to sharing our photographic knowledge with the AIA community.

More information about our seminar can be viewed here.

Hoachlander Davis Photography presents “State of the Art in Architectural Photography” at the 2016 AIA Convention

May 4th, 2016 by Anice

The team at Hoachlander Davis Photography is excited to be presenting “State of the Art in Architectural Photography”, a seminar at the 2016 annual American Institute of Architects Convention in Philadelphia, PA. In anticipation, we’ll be writing a series of blog posts over the next few weeks that will give you a little sneak peek into our presentation.aia-convention-2016_0

Many of you may have heard rave reviews of the latest iPhone apps, digital cameras, and other tech devices but haven’t had the time or energy to research which tools are best for you. We’ll dive in and demonstrate some of the technology and tools we use. We hope the information we share will inspire you to create great images of your work and help you find new ways to market them as well.

The session is scheduled for Thursday, May 19th at 2 PM. More details can be found on the AIA convention site.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Architectural Photography: Insights from our Intern

November 24th, 2014 by Anice

This year, we are fortunate to have Ethan Taswell  interning with us for his entire senior year of high school.  Ethan attends Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD and started taking photography classes in his freshman year.  He has an incredible eye and understanding of this visual discipline.  While his interest in architectural photography may not lead him into a life-long career, I have no doubt that he’ll be able to apply what he’s learning in our studio toward whatever endeavor he chooses.

WindowDetail_CharlestonNorthCarolinaI’ve been walking around downtown DC for high school photo class assignments, looking for an interesting pattern of windows, like this photograph,  to catch my eye, or maybe a new modern building.  In my mind, taking these shots was what solely comprised the field of architectural photography: find a cool building, find a dramatic angle on that building, and voila.  Done.

Not so fast, I’ve learned in my first few months interning here at Hoachlander Davis Photography.  Granted, this wasn’t necessarily a terrible strategy for a 17-year-old like me given that I wasn’t making any money out of it.  But in the business of professional architectural photography, this is the wrong way to go. In fact, my idea of architectural photography has proven to be far from the majority of actual architectural photography work.

Ultimately, of course, the goal of architectural photography is to create an entire accurate record of the architecture, detailing the space, scale, and geometry of what was built, along with communicating other important details like the materials used or the building’s purpose.

This isn’t to suggest a sacrifice of artistry or creativity on behalf of the photographer—actually the opposite.  The best architectural photographs are the ones that meet these requirements but also are unique and aesthetic.  In other words, both the photographer and the client should be happy with how they look.

Because buildings aren’t exactly portable, and the architect can’t always be handing out plastic mini printed models all the time, it’s the photographers job to share the building with the world, through magazines, the internet, etc.  This is inherently tricky, especially so in architectural photography, because the three-dimensional region must be captured on the two-dimensional plane of a camera sensor and made into a flat image (hence the “Spaces” of Photographing Spaces).

NationalMuseumoftheAmericanIndian_Smithsonian_01This is a shot I took in September of the National Museum of the American Indian.  It’s a fascinating building, and in shooting it I was looking to communicate a few specific points like the curvature of the building, the materials, and of course the influence of Native American architecture, among others.  To achieve these goals, the biggest factor I had to take into account was the lighting.  I shot this when I did (around 3:30 PM) because the side lighting gave my picture a much greater sense of depth.  Had the sun been directly behind me instead, the image would have appeared “flat.”

What I mean by this is that there would have been no shadows created from glancing light, the richly textured limestone surface we see now would have looked like a monotone tan stucco wall, and it would’ve been tough to tell that the walls were curved. Not only would this have made the photo exceedingly boring, but it actually would’ve been more difficult for us to interpret.  Details like the shadows in an image or where the light catches on textured surfaces act as hints, telling us how to analyze the depth of the photo.

SmithsonianCastleThis image of the Smithsonian Castle was shot the same day, but it turned out to be about an hour too early.  In this shot, because the sun is starting to get lower and I’m looking north-east, both the southern and western facades have the same amount of light directly on them, which you can see makes the building look a bit flat.  Had I waited a bit longer, the south facade would have had less light on it—resulting in a more defined image.

 

So the takeaway for next time is to plan in advance, thinking about the building’s orientation ahead of time so that I can get the right sun angle at the right time.

 

The Best Time of Year for Architectural Photography – Tip of the Month

October 17th, 2014 by Allen

Besides being timely, as in at the last minute, the origin of this tip is also the reason we changed our “Tip of the Week” to our “Tip of the Month”.  The tip is… September and October are the PERFECT time of year to be out taking pictures.  In fact, the only reason this Tip of the Month is getting accomplished on time is because it happens to be cloudy today.

There are several reasons why this time of year is the best time for architectural photography, but the two main reasons are that the weather has cooled slightly which leads to clearer, bluer skies and generally poofier clouds.  (Yes, within our studio “poofier” is a technical term.)  The other main benefit to photographing at this time of year is that the angle of the sun has changed from being less overhead and flat, to more angled and gorgeous.  Anice talked about this in her post: “Searching for Mr. Right… Sun Angle”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one major aesthetic benefit to photographing at this time of year.  Autumn Color!!!  There is really nothing like photographing a house surrounded by brightly colored fall foliage.  Unfortunately, predicting the timing for optimal leaf color can be kind of difficult and often requires everybody being VERY flexible with their schedules.  If the summer is too dry and the onset of Autumn is not cool enough, the color of the leaves can be a bit drab.  Alternatively, if it stays too warm for too long, peak leaf color sometimes doesn’t occur until 2 weeks later than “normal”.

Autumn Fall Foliage Architectural Photography How to

Garner Cottage by Thoughtful Development, LLC.
www.thoughtful-development.com

And finally the last (and perhaps most important) benefit to photographing at this time of year is that the days are shorter.  When the days are shorter, everybody generally gets home in time to say goodnight to their children.

Happy leaf peeping!

~ Allen

P.S. – Don’t forget about Spring!

 

 

Architectural Photography and our Nemesis…. The Weather

September 18th, 2014 by Judy Davis

Our Online Weather Resources –

Last week was yet another challenge in forecasting the weather for what we do, or any week when clouds that seem to hang overhead, for the entire week.  And mostly because just 4 days before, that’s not what the weatherman said was coming… Right?! But when we get that ideal blue hue in the sky and perfect 75º F, you cannot help but be thankful for being outside in the elements, photographing on such gorgeous days!

Cumulus Clouds- one of the favorites   ©Judy Davis

Cumulus Clouds- one of the favorites ©Judy Davis

While our goal is to create evocative and dramatic images to highlight the client’s design intent typically under ideal weather conditions, I would say 90% of our exterior photo shoots would have to be photographed with that beautiful blue sky and the ideal puffy white clouds!  (A few exceptions would be residential gardens photographed under a more soft, cirrus clouds–filled sky or as seen below, a very dramatic sunrise or sunset)  Our clients depend on us to know the right time of day to document their work in “it’s best light”, literally.  So when the project is scheduled for a particular day and time, with the subsequent rain date backup, we’re already checking the weather pattern for you, at least 3 to 4 days ahead of your shoot date.

 

Early morning dramatic sky   ©Anice Hoachlander

Early morning dramatic sky ©Anice Hoachlander

Personally, I have found about 4 websites that, while on their own, they are never perfect, you can average them together, and hope that the odds are in your favor.

 

Weather.com –  Save your city location as a default, and this is actually my homepage in my browser.  I average this with our local ABC Affiliate News Channel 7 WJLA Washington DC and their radio weather reports.

 

Accuweather.com – while not always accurate in the weekly forecast, they have a great online tool, the Cloud Cover estimate.  It’s available on the phone app, too.  Link to the day you’re aiming to predict, and click the Hourly Tab.  Scroll down below Wind and UV Index to find the Cloud Cover percentage forecasted by the hour.    Super helpful!

Accuweather.com Cloud Coverage

Accuweather.com Cloud Coverage

 

Weather Underground – Claiming they are the internet’s 1st weather service, we have found that while they are the most pessimistic of the bunch, they tend to be pretty accurate…  This site is actually pretty innovative.  While photographers aren’t the only industry needing weather predictions, over the years they have launched a hurricane tracker with global sea surface temperatures, interactive maps, and multiple smartphone/mobile apps.

 

Lastly, a very cool resource that Anice found online many years ago, satellite images for cloud coverage and real-time weather data, NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  We use it for visible satellite images of clouds moving through the region.  Click “Visible” button and the loop duration you want to view, say 5 hours, then on the US map, click your region of the US.  It will put cloud cover in motion (i.e. the 5 hours I clicked) from satellite imagery.

©NCAR satellite imagery

©NCAR satellite imagery

 

I will say, we’ve been doing this for so long, it feels like it’s easier to predict every season, ahem, without that meteorology degree I haven’t skillfully achieved!   We do see weather patterns and I know that we rely on that “cold front” coming through to minimize that hazy Summer white sky; & when the perfect blue sky hasn’t arrived, there’s always Photoshop to enhance it!  The Hue/Saturation adjustment layer is your friend, enhance your blues!

Cirrus Clouds in a Residential Setting  ©Allen Russ

Cirrus Clouds in a Residential Setting ©Allen Russ

 

 

Back to Basics – f/stops and shutter speeds – “I know what they are but I’m not sure what they do”…

August 15th, 2014 by Anice

I have been told by many people who are using DSLR’s that they know what shutter speeds and f/stops do, but they aren’t sure how to use them to manually control their camera.

If you are old enough that you have used film cameras in additional to digital, then you probably have a handle on what shutter speeds and f/stops do to control your camera – you had to, back in the day.  But, there are a lot of photographers who started out with digital only, usually a point and shoot, where all the settings were automatic.  Automatic settings generate very good images but when you want to CONTROL your camera, it takes a bit of basic knowledge.

shutterspeedA shutter speed is displayed on the digital readout as a number that can be dialed up and down.  The shutter speed controls how fast the shutter opens and closes – controlling the length of time light hits the sensor. Shutter speeds are the numbers on your camera display that look like this:

1000,500,250,125,60,30,15,8,4,2,1 and so on usually down to 30s, or 30 seconds.

Each variation in shutter speed is equivalent to one stop. The faster the shutter speed, the more able you are to stop action.  When using a slower shutter speed, objects that are moving across the sensor plane will be blurry.

Whenever you change your shutter speed – either faster or slower, you have to compensate in some other way, usually with the other set of numbers you see on your digital read-out that represent the aperture of your lens, represented by numbers called f/stops.  F/stops are numbers that describe how big the diaphragm is opening inside your lens. These numbers look like this:

f/22,f/16,f/11,f/8,f/5.6,f/4.0,f/2.8

OK. So the question now is, why should you care?  Well, you care because if you can figure out how to expose an image properly, using the settings YOU want to use to create a desired effect, the better your final image will be.

 

For instance, let’s say we are creating an image of a public space and we want to include people.  If you want to create a bit of hustle bustle, showing people a bit blurry helps convey to the viewer that there is energy and movement occurring in the space.

Union Station photographed for Studio27 Architects© Anice Hoachlander

Union Station photographed for Studio27 Architects
© Anice Hoachlander

In this particular example, I had my camera set on automatic and when I looked at the data being displayed, the camera was reading 1/125 @ f/4.0.  Unless an object is moving very fast, like a car or bicycle, your captured image will show people in “stop action”.  People walking at normal speed usually start getting blurry at 1/15th or 1/8th of a second.

The quickest thing to do is change your camera over to manual and adjust your camera settings accordingly.  In this case, I changed my exposure from 1/125 @ f/4.0 to 1/15 @ f/11. Look at the scale below to see how the shutter speeds adjust with the aperture.  I didn’t want the people to be too blurry – if you want a bit more blur, try 1/8 @ f/16.

 

Shutter Speed

1/4

1/8

1/15

1/30

1/60

1/125

1/250

1/500

f/stop

f/22

f/16

f/11

f/8

f/5.6

f/4

f/2.8

f/2

 

OK, so we have talked about controlling your shutter speed, but what if we want to use our f/stop to define what is and isn’t in focus? The f/stop controls the depth of field – or how sharp an object is from near to far.  The bigger the number, the smaller the aperture and the smaller the aperture, the more depth of field you will achieve.  But with digital lenses, especially wide angle lenses, you will give up a bit of image sharpness if you set your lens for f/22 or f/16.  So, don’t use these settings unless you are trying to achieve a specific effect.  Every lens has a “sweet spot” where the pixels are the sharpest.  The setting is usually in the middle of the lens aperture.  For instance, if you have a 24mm lens that has f/stops from 4.0 to 22, the sharpest setting will be f/8 or f/11. This is very different from film days when we always shot at f/16 or f/22, no matter what.  Try a test – set up your camera and shoot at different f/stops and then download your images and enlarge to 100%.  You’ll be able to see firsthand what I’m talking about.

 

NYU Dusk Shot

NYU photographed for Hickok Cole Architects
© Anice Hoachlander

But, let’s get back to depth of field. This image was shot with a 24-70mm zoom.  I wanted to get have the fins closest to me as sharp as the fins at the top of the building.  I focused about 2/3 of the way up the wall. I used an aperture preferred setting on my camera and set the aperture first to f/16. The shutter changed automatically to a 1 second exposure.  But, be careful!  When using aperture preferred, you have to be conscious of what the shutter speed is being set to.  Image sharpness because of camera movement drops dramatically if you are hand holding under 1/60th of a second. 90% of the time, I set up on a tripod so I that I have the stability and control I need to capture the kind of image I want to create.  It’s our mantra – tripod, tripod, tripod!

 

As with anything we talk about here on our site, the only way you’ll really understand is to get out and there and experiment.  Set up you camera on your tripod and photograph your building at varying shutter speeds and f/stops.  See what happens when you photograph cars driving by at 1/125 and 1/2 second. And, remember, as you dial down your shutter speed, change your f/stop using the guide above.

 

Even though this is a basic camera skill, it’s one that’s kind of confusing, so please do not hesitate to email if you don’t quite get this concept and have questions.  We are thinking that we should give a workshop specifically on camera controls – there is so much you can learn – so let us know if you’re interested!

 

~ Anice

The Fundamentals of Architectural Photography

July 16th, 2014 by Allen

You’ll have to forgive me for not delving into this topic sooner considering that it really is the basis for all good architectural photography.  Frankly, I’m shocked I haven’t discussed it before.

The basis, the starting point for every architectural photographer, the fundamental camera technique used to create great rectilinear photographs of architecture…  A Square and Level Camera creates a Rectilinear Photograph.

The fundamental camera technique for architectural photography

It sounds so simple.   Practically speaking, it is the starting point for nearly all good architectural photographs.  Basically, the camera is a dumb box that holds an imaging sensor. It’s up to you to tell it how to see the world.  Kind of like a child.

Let’s say you’re interested in creating a great elevational photograph of your project.  In practice, you put your camera on a tripod and line it up on axis with say the front door.  At this point you are going to level your camera both horizontally and front to back so that the sensor plane is perpendicular to the ground and square to the facade of your project.  Voila!  Perfect architectural photograph!  Assuming you’re in the right place at the right time of course.

Let’s look at a real world example.

lego architectural photography

I’m sure you’ve all had this problem.  (And no, I don’t mean that your children are mad at you for taking all of their legos for use in a presentation.)  I’m sure you’ve all gone to take a picture of a tall building or one of your own projects and encountered the “scary, falling over building” effect as demonstrated by the 14mm view above.  So how do you fix this?

The first thing you’ll want to try is to back away from your subject and use a more telephoto lens.  As you can see, the further away you get and the more telephoto your lens is, the more visually correct all of your vertical lines are.  Unfortunately, in the real world, you will almost never be able to get back this far due to site limitations.  So then what do you do?

Try a Tilt Shift Lens (or Perspective Control lens).  These lenses are what most professional architectural photographers use and they are amazing tools.  While expensive, they can be rented from lensrentals.com for a pretty reasonable rate.  These lenses allow you to keep your camera square and level but effectively allow the camera to look up.

Lenses for architectural photography

Top: Nikon 24mm Perspective Control (P/C)
Bottom Left: Canon 17mm Tilt Shift (T/S)
Bottom Right: Canon 24mm Tilt Shift (T/S)

Let’s look at another real world example to demonstrate how these lenses work.  What this graphic (below) shows is the standard 24mm view and the 50mm view.  Each of these has positive and negative qualities.  The 24mm is dramatic but distorted and the 50mm is clean and rectilinear but a little flat.  Since, as we discussed above, you will almost never be able to get back far enough to use your 50mm, you’ll need to go to plan B.  That’s okay because with a 24mm perspective control lens, you can stay close and wide and dramatic but correct for the scary converging vertical lines.

tilt shift lens perspective control architectural photography

So how does this work?  Basically, a perspective control lens allow you to physically move the lens relative to the sensor plane.  Effectively, this means that you can make the lens “look up” while keeping your camera square and level.  Yay!

One additional consideration is finding a good bubble level for your camera.  Many cameras now come with pretty good built in levels but if yours doesn’t, you can always get one here: Photographing Spaces Bubble Level or you can read further on levels here: “Are you square enough”

One other solution that does not involve a perspective control lens is to use one of the many tools in Photoshop and Lightroom to correct visual perspective.  The process for this involves violating the “Square and Level Rule” which is another Tip of the Month.

– Allen

 

 

 

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