Keeping Your Verticals Vertical: More Architectural Photography

It’s a snow day here in Boston and school is canceled while we wait out this blizzard, so I have the opportunity to tell you more about last week’s Architectural Photography module!

A lot of the Architectural class was like our Photographic Seeing sessions: look around, find shapes and vantage points and details, shoot! But there are more technical aspects to it, as well: perspective control (are your vertical lines vertical?), color temperature control (too warm? too cool?), and dynamic range (is everything, from the shadows to the highlights, visible and well-rendered?) are all musts. So, sometimes we have to do some trickery to get all these factors in line, and sometimes we allow failures in these areas to work in our favor.

Perspective control is arguably the most important one. Who wants a building to look like it’s falling over? Dynamic range is up there, too, because you want everything to be easily seen in architectural photographs; HDR comes in handy for extending dynamic range. Color temp is perhaps the least important; color can be used artistically, if not accurately, and enhance a photograph.

Here I kept my verticals vertical, but played around with dynamic range and color. Isn’t it an adorable little church-like shed? Who knows what it’s for, but it’s sitting on the Waltham Common, being cute all by itself:

Here, I revisited St. Mary’s Church and took some photos of its exterior this time, using HDR to get a wider dynamic range, and perspective control to make sure the building edges were straight:

The sky was actually that blue that day – it was incredible! HDR was more for the shadowy foreground and the details in the brick facade of the church; the sky was fabulously dense already!

The way you keep your verticals vertical is to try to keep the plane of your camera’s sensor parallel to the vertical line of the building, which is not always possible, of course. There are very expensive view cameras where your front lens element can move independently from the plane of the body and sensor, and there are equally expensive lenses for dSLRs that do the same thing, with less of a range of movement. But for the rest of us, there are post-processing tricks to do the necessary tweaks!

Waltham seems to have a lot of churches around: there are four within a few blocks of the school. Lots of opportunities to practice straightening out steeples that would otherwise look like bulbous ice cream cones when shot from a low camera angle!

In addition to exteriors, we did some interior architectural work, other than the day at the Commonwealth Museum.

My group worked in an art gallery adjacent to the school. There was an amazing neon sign that emitted a wonderful purplish light, so we decided to use it as our primary light source and add additional lights to complement and balance it. We were in love with this weird, graphic staircase, too, so our challenge was incorporating it into our photo, but still showcasing that we were in a gallery space. Our final photograph was something like this (well, it was this, actually):

We were satisfied with the way we made a moody, colorful photograph of the space, but still managed to convey that it is a gallery, through the reflection of the art in the mirror beneath the sign. We ended up with lights in so many strategic places: up the stairwell (with a purple gel on the light to match the purple neon below), in the curve of the stairs outside of the frame on the right, pointing up to highlight and silhouette the stairs, in front of the low wall, and illuminating the art work to make its reflection light up.

I’ll say it again: lighting is hard!

But it’s so worth it when you end up with photos that make you proud.

If you’re in the snowstorm today, be safe and enjoy! I’ll be here, reading, drinking hot chocolate, and researching new photo equipment I’ll soon be requiring …

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2 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Boston, HDR, Photo Assignment, School

2 responses to “Keeping Your Verticals Vertical: More Architectural Photography

  1. Mom

    I can’t say enough good things! I love the pictures and especially love learning how you got the image I’m looking at. Sooooo interesting!

  2. Pingback: Location Portraiture #2 | Julie Sterling

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