Some assignments can sound that boring. I’ve been told to go out and photograph a building for a story. Too many times.
Most architectural photographers will either use tilt-shift lenses on a 35mm camera or some sort of larger format of camera that can adjust the lens and film planes accordingly. This is because on a standard lens, the lines on a building appear to converge. This is known in the photographic world as keystoning or tombstoning. Proper usage of a tilt-shift can keep the lines straight.
That being said, I’m not an architectural photographer. I need a nice image that gives clear visual representation of the pictured building. I try to turn a building photograph into a building portrait.
To make an interesting photo of a building, I often rely on fundamental photography skills. Look for unique angles. Find patterns. Wait for nice light.
For me, this often leads me to look up. I have had editors say that the ground should be included in building images to provide a reference point for the viewer. I can see that justification in some circumstances. However, I shot some of my most compelling building photos (if you can truly call any building picture compelling) while looking up.
I had to shoot an under-construction apartment building for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I took one photograph that included the ground and gave a view of most of the building.
I thought it was kind of boring. However, it showed what the building looked like. This building is filled with patterns so I started to experiment with my angles until I found something I really liked.
When I looked up at the building from the sidewalk, my eyes followed the not-so-yellow brick road. The building’s inherent depth almost gives the illusion that it is laying on its side.
As much as I enjoyed the above picture, I wanted to find a better way to illustrate this particular building. I tried to work with the available patterns and incorporate the building’s awning which included its address.
I liked the idea but not the execution. The photo was bland. So again, I moved around, got close and looked up.
This photo incorporated the best parts of each photo. Angle. Patterns. Awning. Address. This was the published piece.
I recently had to shoot another building. Since this building is only a block away from my office, I was able to wait for opportune lighting.
First I looked for patterns.
Then I looked for a better angle.
Both photographs ran in the paper.
These are by no means Pulitzer winning photos. They are representative of how a photojournalist can rely on artistic knowledge to compose a printable image of the most mundane and static subjects.