View Full Version : Need to understand architecture to photograph it?

05-02-2009, 12:14 AM
Do you need to understand Architecture to photograph it well?

I love the design of buildings, but I don't know how they are engineered or put together. I know that buildings are designed with material stresses in mind, how the environment affects it and how people or materials are moved within the building.

But I just like the design, the "look", the lighting and shapes of buildings. That is what I would like to capture on film.

That is what I appreciate in good architectural photographs.

mike c
05-02-2009, 12:54 AM
I agree with you Jeephoto,as I have lived in the city all my life. There are many shapes, sizes, tones to record through out the mornings, days,and evenings. Its a challenge and a experience photographing them.

mike c.

05-02-2009, 01:01 AM
Good architecture, in the design aspect rather than the engineering aspect, is architecture that effects it inhabitants in some way, like you mention. Because of this, if you pick what you love about a building, be it a detail or an overall perspective, and take your photographers creative license with it, it's really not wrong. A lot of architecture is very different things to very different people.

I guess it depends on what level you want your photographs to relate to the building/s.

05-02-2009, 01:01 AM
An introduction to architecture:
Architecture is more about space than walls. Architecture is more about functionality than structure. Architecture is more about people’s life than pure aesthetics. Louis Isadore Kahn (my far-preferred architect) said that architecture is about light and silence, that architecture is timeless, that beauty in itself doesn’t exist, as it is the result of a social and historical selection.

I would say that if you shot architecture, shot exactly what moves you: details or compositions; forms, spaces, shadows, lights and reflections, rhythms and textures; life in these spaces (all kind of life); born, transformation, aging and death of buildings and built spaces, traces left either by time, nature or human, etc. You don’t need to understand architecture unless you intend to build something. To photograph it, you only need to feel it.

By analogy with a novel, photographing architecture is a question of “reading”, not of “writing”. You won’t need the skills of a writer, but those of a reader.

I’m an architect (used to be one, years ago).

05-02-2009, 01:38 AM
Good idea summing this up with the Kahn quote. Some architects really have the knack to sum up the whole idea of architecture with just a simple snippet. My favourite quote by any architect is one by Yoshio Tanaguchi - 'Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea.'

05-02-2009, 07:35 AM
You need to understand space and how it is defined.

05-02-2009, 07:58 AM
As a photographer you don't need to understand the mechanics of architecture, but you will need the feel for it, have an eye for the details.
I have been into the field of professional architectural photography for more than 20 years and one thing I have learned to be most important is to understand my client, the architect, and be able to translate his view onto his design into my photograph.

There are 2 diferent views between the view of the guy who designed it, the architect, and the guy who built it, the construction firm.
I have been working for both and came out with diferent shots for each of them.

If you want to take photo's of architecture just for yourself, just go and shoot and develop yourself using whatever gear is available to you.
The best would be the TC, but for developing yourself you can use any camera from 35mm upwards.


mike c
05-03-2009, 04:30 AM
Hello Peter,their are some very good and varying descriptions photographing architecture posted here,good food for thought. Could you tell me what kind of camera is a TC? Is it sort for Technical View Camera?

mike c.

05-03-2009, 07:34 AM
Need to understand vertical lines and perspective!;)

Steve Smith
05-03-2009, 08:25 AM
I wouldn't worry about the technicalities of construction and stress calculations. Good architectural design should hide all of this - with the possible exception of the Lloyds building in London!


Sirius Glass
05-03-2009, 10:24 AM
A general understanding of the different styles of architecture and what the desired effect of each style is useful. If you are somewhat familiar with each style, the you will know what to look for [ceilings, flying buttresses, types of arches, ...] Find a book on the history of architecture.


01-25-2011, 12:13 AM
Do you need to understand Architecture to photograph it well?...

Is this like saying, "Do you have to understand women to photograph them"?

In that case, there wouldn't be many such photos. :p

01-25-2011, 11:44 PM
naivety rules
don't worry if you have no formal training
or "understanding" or architecture ...
you know what it does for you and that is the most important thing.
once you get a formal education in anything you have all that excess baggage to
carry around + think about.
photograph things from the "gut" instead of the book

( and have fun ! )