In this photography lesson, we’re catching up with Nancy Da Campo for her best tips and tricks for shooting architecture photography. After all, she uses geometry every day. But instead of calculating exact angles or distances, she utilizes a greater sense of perspective and looks for lines, patterns, and shapes.
Although she originally studied architecture at university, she moved to London after graduation and discovered her passion for photography. Since she couldn’t leave her love of architecture behind, she decided to combine the two, and has been capturing buildings and structures across Europe ever since.
CHOOSE A SETTING
When looking to capture architectural features, you first have to determine whether you’re shooting an interior or exterior space.
Since Nancy loves photographing beautifully designed homes as well as intricate facades, reflective windows, and anything with a pattern or complicated shape, this is always a tough call.
If you choose to go indoors, remember that your biggest challenge will be lighting. If the space is not well lit, add artificial lighting or use a flash in order to obtain a good-quality image.
Nancy adds that when using artificial light of any kind, it’s best to plan your shot ahead of time: “Walk the room, take your time, and visualize the shots you want to take.” Once you’re ready to shoot, she also recommends taking multiple photos at different exposures and combining them together in post-process to obtain a single, dynamic image.
Although you won’t have to worry about artificial lighting when outdoors, patience is still key. Photographing architecture, or anything that doesn’t move, takes time. When you’re outside, you’ll often have to wait for the elements affecting your shot to pass: clouds, people, animals, or cars. Although you can’t exactly wait for trash cans, lampposts, or street signs to move out of your frame, Nancy does recommend cleaning up your photography space as much as you can ahead of time and clearing out leaves, trash, and other objects on the ground — that way you’ll avoid Photoshopping them out later.
In most cases, Nancy looks at photos of the places she wants to shoot ahead of time so she can get a better idea of the space and which areas she’d like to focus on. She also does this to see how other photographers have approached particular buildings, and analyzes the “classic” points of view that photographers take at specific locations. She then gathers what she’s learned, decides which of those shots are worth taking, and creates a strategy of how to make her shots unique.
But she never plans out her exact shots. Instead, she starts with the areas she’s already researched, finds her own angle, and trusts her eye in the moment.
“I think the best shots are always the unplanned — like the one I took in Düsseldorf. I was at the right place at the right time, and I saw that facade turning into something incredible,” she says. “It’s one of my absolute favorite shots to this day. In photography, there are always variables you can’t predict, and when they show themselves, you just have to be ready to capture them — they’re what make your photos unique.”
SHOOT AT THE RIGHT TIME OF DAY
Nancy always tries to make the most of every light condition she can find. That said, it is much more difficult to shoot in full daylight (between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.), because the light directly overhead can be particularly harsh. This type of lighting tends to create hard shadows that overexpose your photos (also called “blowout”), leading to a loss in the detail of architectural exteriors.
Sunrise and sunset are always ideal times of the day to photograph architecture, but if you can’t get out at those times, Nancy suggests experimenting with and learning from all types of lighting.
HIGHLIGHT WHAT STANDS OUT TO YOU
Instead of photographing a building in its entirety, Nancy prefers to focus on the intricate and unique details of a structure — staircases, shapes, lines, shadows, or other geometric elements created by light, reflections, or angles.
While editing her images, she even desaturates them slightly and enhances their sharpness, so that the focus of any particular image is on the strong lines and contrasting shapes that she’s captured.
So, last but not least, always photograph the architectural details that are interesting to you. Your images will be better because of it.