Tip No.1 - Be in it to win it!
It’s stating the obvious, but if you don’t enter the competition there’s no chance of winning. It’s easy to talk yourself out of entering, but your photos might be just what we’re looking for and what’s the worst that can happen? You don’t get shortlisted. On the other hand? You could just win a prize. What have you got to lose?
Tip No.2 - A common theme
Take a look at previous winners to see the kind of images that have been successful before. That might give you a clue as to what the judges are looking for. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t submit something different. Indeed – competition judges are always looking for something original and that’s certainly true for YORhub. Try to think about how you can produce something truly impactful.
Tip No.3 - Aspect
What is the aspect of the building? If you have a building project to shoot, which way is it facing: North, South, East or West? Once you know this, you have a good idea what time of day you may get some good light on it. Have a look on Google Earth. Will other buildings near to it, overshadow it? A little planning can save a wasted journey, or a long wait until the light is right. Take a good walk around and choose your angle carefully.
Tip No.4 - The golden hours
Pick your day – cloudy dramatic skies can be great but always think about the quality of light on the subject. ‘Flat’ grey days produce flat, grey images. You need sunlight for colour saturation.
The ‘golden hours’. Early morning and late evenings are great times to capture your scene in warm, golden sunlight.
Tip No.5 - Know your equipment
Check the camera manual to get the most potential from your gear. You might find there are features that help you achieve the shot you’re after. These days there are videos online explaining how to use most popular cameras too. So take a look and know your equipment inside out.
Tip No.6 - Composition & framing
Think carefully how you place the subject within the frame. Central composition – where the photographed object is placed in the centre of the frame, is the most common way. But moving it off-centre can increase the dynamic element. Look at the elements within the frame and only include those which improve the image.
Tip No.7 - The rule of thirds
Continuing the compositional theme, imagine four lines, two lying horizontally across the image and two vertical, creating nine even squares – like noughts and crosses.
Some images will look best with the main subject in the centre square, but placing the subject off-centre at one of the intersecting points of the imaginary lines often creates a more aesthetically composed photograph. This is the ‘rule of thirds’.
Tip No.8 - Look inside
Exteriors are often the first thing that comes to mind when considering a structure, but the interior can be just as inspirational. The light, however, is different with interior shots because of a mix of window light and artificial light which may have different colour temperatures, so check your exposures carefully.
Tip No.9 - A fresh perspective
The perspective you select to shoot from can be the vital element to make your picture compelling. It’s your view of the subject and showing a project from an unusual perspective can produce a unique viewpoint. A fresh perspective can be achieved by use of different focal length lenses (wide or telephoto) or just by moving backwards, forwards or a few paces sideways. Experiment – point the camera up or down and see what effect it has.
Tip No.10 - Know your lines
Know your lines: Keep a look out for horizontal, diagonal or vertical lines to help draw the eye through the image. Leading lines can draw attention to the subject. Lines also affect us psychologically too — diagonal lines create the feeling of movement, vertical relate to power and horizontal a sense of calm. Look for sweeping curves too.
Tip No.11 - Night shots
Night shots. If you have a tripod, how about a night shot? Dusk is often a great time, when there’s still some blue in the sky. It looks great against the warmth of building and street lighting.
Tip No.12 - Going wide!
Wide-angle lenses are great for a panoramic view and capturing wide, sweeping landscapes, but they can also capture lots of empty foreground. So.. look for foreground interest. Look out for rocks, trees, gates or other objects you can include to add foreground interest. A small aperture of f/16 or smaller will keep the foreground and background sharp and it helps to create a sense of depth to your image. You can also get inexpensive wide-angle adaptors for your smartphone too.
Tip No.13 - Return to the scene...
Return to the scene… Go back to your scene at a different time of day, another week, or even months later and the quality of light will have changed – so you’ll be literally viewing it in a different light.
Tip No.14 - Look out for symmetry!
Look out for Symmetry! Several buildings, or parts of a building or scene make great images, as each mirrors the other and is visually striking. There are several types of symmetry that work well in images which include horizontal symmetry, vertical symmetry and radial symmetry.
Tip No. 15 - Contrast and dimension
Not surprisingly, light and shadow are very important elements in photography. Carefully controlling the intensity of light and depth of shadow, gives contrast and dimension to your image. Using morning and evening light will give you warm images with that three-dimensional element.
Tip No. 16 - Three legs better!
Tripods are the architectural photographer’s best friend. A stable base to shoot from is essential for photographing buildings, helping you deal with the photographer’s worst enemy – lack of light. Lugging one around might be a bit of a pain, but longer exposures, greater depth-of-field and sharper images, are your reward.
Tip No. 17 - The human element
Put somebody in the picture! Most of the time the accepted norm in architectural photography is to concentrate on the subject: the building – excluding all else. But it’s good to include a shot or two with people in it. It gives a sense of scale and adds the human touch. After all, human use is what most buildings are all about. Make sure that individuals are unrecognisable in the shot though – or you’ll have to get a signed permission for use or fall foul of the competition rules.
Tip No. 18 - Size isn't everything
Size isn’t everything. Size is often an impressive factor in architecture, but architectural photography doesn’t always have to be about the scale of a structure. Don’t be afraid of zooming in on an isolated element too. Isolating a section of a building in the frame and concentrating on smaller details – can produce a very striking image.
Tip No. 19 - By the manual
Getting the exposure correct is key to having a full range of tones in your image. If you use a DSLR camera, you have the option of putting your camera on ‘Manual’ and you can ensure you have full control and experiment with exposure by ‘bracketing’. This means taking several frames at different exposures and even combining them on a computer. Whatever you do – don’t overexpose the highlights.
Tip No. 20 - A polarising issue
Investing in a polarising filter can transform a flat, lifeless image – into one with deep vibrancy and contrast. Polarisers control the way light enters your camera and can suppress reflections off windows and water. They also help make the sky appear bluer and saturate colour and are great for architectural photography. You can even get clip-on ones for your camera phone.
Tip No. 21 - Look for geometry
Look for geometric shapes. Not surprisingly, geometry is an important element in construction. There are more than a few mathematical calculations in architecture and buildings are full of geometric shapes, which can be isolated in the frame adding a great dynamic and becoming the focal point of interest within the image.
Tip No. 22 - Get up high
Much of the time we tend to photograph at ground level looking up, but one of the most useful tools an architectural photographer can use on a shoot is a set of step ladders. Even a little extra height gives a better vantage point. For exteriors, if you can’t get a clear shot because of surrounding structures, try an adjacent building to get up high and get the best angle.
Tip No. 23 - Photo editing
Getting it all right ‘in camera’ means you can keep your post processing efforts to a minimum, but even the best image can usually benefit from a few tweaks with an app, or on a PC. There are many software applications you can use but the basic procedure is the same: pick the best image, adjust the white balance levels and colour saturation. Then crop and submit your potential prize winner!