We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. This week, Patryk Wikalinski (@patryk_wikalinski) teaches us a few tricks for making our architecture photos come to life.

Presenting my own image of the reality that surrounds me is one of the greatest pleasures that I encounter as a creative. Each of us looks at the world in a different way, and photography allows us to share our perspective in a captivating, accessible medium. From the beginning of my photographic journey, I wanted to capture my own experiences and pay attention to what I felt at a given moment. Over time, thanks to my love of simplicity, I found myself gravitating toward a minimalist style, which allows me to express a lot while showing much less. Minimalism is an art form that prompts reflection through illusion. And that — the ability to challenge people to think as I share my own worldview — is the motivation for my continuous journey as a mobile photographer.

An octagonal focal point in Berlin, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski.
Balconies and railings surrounding a focal point in Berlin, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski

Focal point

Several elements go into creating a composition, but I usually start with the focal point. Imagine superimposing a three-by-three grid on your shot, and then pay close attention to whatever appears at the four intersections in the middle of the picture. These are the points the viewer naturally looks at first. In these locations, the photographer should place elements that draw attention and interest. Utilizing a focal point also means that the viewer will look at the photograph for a longer time than you would normally expect. In light of all of this, I’ve realized that I have to take advantage of that extra time and give the viewer something more — an idea to think about, inspired by the composition and subject matter of the photo.

The first and second images here come from Berlin, Germany. The buildings you see urge passersby to look up, attracting attention with their color, but also with an unusual focal point. Meanwhile, the architectural lines seem to extend beyond the focal point toward the blue void of the sky. In these photos, I wanted to encourage viewers to pay attention to the world and the metaphors that exist within it, and to see that each photograph is made up of interlocking, synergistic parts. Architecture can be as abstract as it is real, and in my mind, roofs can look like umbrellas (like in the second photo) or landing zones for parachutists (like in the first photo). To produce a similar effect in your own photos, my advice is to find symmetrical elements and perfectly straight lines. Just keep in mind that the metaphor you perpetuate should not be too obvious.

The third picture shows a spiral staircase in Poznań, Poland. Here, I wanted to pay attention to the geometry of the stairs. A curved handrail, which “jumps out” from the screen, guides the viewer’s vision further and further down. Did you follow the handrail all the way to the bottom? Yes! So did I. This use of oval geometry extending into the unknown covers the entire range of sight. Are you curious about what’s down there? Me too! This is the beauty of photography. In all of my images, I aim to direct the viewer’s eye toward points that are not obvious at first glance. Selecting a focal point and framing the image around it does require careful composition, but it makes the resulting shot much more dynamic and engaging.

Color

Color is a very important element of photography. I see it as a release of emotions and a reflection of a specific meaning. It’s a visual value that makes objects more attractive to the eye. Thoughtful color allows me to emphasize the subject matter, especially in minimalistic photos. In fact, I like to think of the use of color in photography as a way to combine a cartoon with reality.

The first and second photos you see here were taken in my hometown in Radom, Poland. Luckily for me, Radom is full of brightly colored buildings. The city government works with housing cooperatives to commission public art, which breathes life into less-vibrant residential areas. It’s beautiful, and I’ve never seen anything like it outside of Poland. This helps me continually change my perspective and show something unique.

A building with bright swaths of color, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski
Balconies on a peach, orange, and green wall, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski

The third photo is of a beautiful rainbow mural in Berlin. As I took the shot, I already knew exactly how I wanted to edit it — making the sky a subtle, frosty blue to emphasize the vivid colors extending from one building to the next. The rainbow, in effect, becomes infinite. A word of caution to anyone who wants to edit the coloring of their photos, though: do not oversaturate your images to try to get deeper colors. Think about the colors that match best and use light-contrast settings and reduce the amount of light. Your pictures will be toned down and colored in a “soft” and more natural way.

Two buildings showing a rainbow, as captured by Patryk WikalinskiWhat’s more, try to find differently colored structures while you’re shooting, and check all visible windows before you press the shutter. If they look blue and the facade lines are clearly visible, you’re one step closer to having a nicely colored photo. When in doubt, just start playing with color and edit your photos the way you want!

To sum up: color opens new doors for photographers, so imagine how you want your image to turn out in post before you take the photo, and you will see progress in your work over time.

Repetition

Through repeated shapes, I like to devote my attention to one all-important and, at the same time, prosaic element in my images. I love capturing this kind of photo because it stimulates my creativity. I always tell myself to look up, and I advise you do the same. In this way, I can capture elements that remind me of something, but they’re not immediately that obvious. For example, in the first photo, the rows of green windows in Oslo make me think of garages opening and closing. When I photographed the huge red building that you see in the second photo, I couldn’t help imagining it as a giant jigsaw puzzle. And the third photo you see here shows a building in Warsaw — but to me, it also looks like an airplane. Let your photos be an illusion.

Windows and green awnings, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski
A red building, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski

If you want to use this technique, try to show objects in a metaphorical way. The human imagination is limitless. As someone who pays attention to details that are often overlooked in everyday life, I derive great satisfaction from remembering this because it forces me to pay attention. Try to find something that someone has never seen or thought about.

A skyscraper with many small windows, as captured by Patryk WikalinskiTake pride in your work, and give each and every photo the time it deserves. Make sure that the lines are straight, play with the perspective, bend the structure. Capture interesting architectural elements. Try new compositions. Maybe the vertical view of the facade will be better. Maybe you will discover something new by completely inverting the object. You must be precise. Photographing and editing are labor-intensive processes, but the end result is definitely worth it.

Texture

Each building has its own unique texture. Personally, I love protruding windows with irregular shapes, perpendicular elements that reflect light, and unusual staircases. Once you recognize the elements that you like best, you’ll begin looking for them everywhere, and you’ll realize that the hunt can be challenging.

A building with a rolling facade, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski
A fire escape and windows jutting from a wall, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski

Lately, I’ve been especially interested in windows and the way they reflect the sky. From the proper perspective, windows can resemble waves, just like those in Berlin (which you see in the first photo here). They can be entwined with emergency stairs like those in Oslo (shown in the second image), or they can be as stretched as those in Vienna (which I photographed — and edited a bit — in the third picture).

Many tall, narrow windows, as captured by Patry Wikalinski
I always try to choose the right scale. Look at the first picture. Blue windows “swim down” the frame. A wave is created which disappears on the right side of the image. Choosing the right scale is very difficult and demanding. In minimalist photography, however, it is also very important. Create a movement and avoid monotony. Let your photos be dynamic. Keep the hollows, and do not miss any doors. Keep looking and constantly comparing. Use the texture of the buildings to build your own imaginary world. I’m fascinated by this. It’s such a fun way to express yourself.

Portraiture

Although I am a photographer who loves architecture and colorful facades, sometimes I like to include silhouettes or portraits in my pictures. In a proper configuration, they fill the void and give character to the photo. If the face is visible, pay attention to its expression, and remember that the figure must harmonize with the scale. A human that looks too big will divert attention from architecture, but someone who appears too small will be overlooked.

A man standing on a roof with a city in the background, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski
A woman sitting alone in an auditorium, as captured by Patryk Wikalinski

Usually, I prefer people in my photographs to be dressed in darker colors. In this way, I can show the contrast between a person, his or her movement, and the architecture, which is usually in the background. I also make sure that the photos are taken in a relaxed atmosphere. Pictures with people are always dynamic, and they direct our attention to an element that the photographer wants to emphasize. Try to capture the people moving, or even ask your model for a jump! In the Polish Instagram community, this is my hallmark.

Pigeons flying above a woman, as captured by Patryk WikalinskiAdditionally, remember to create an illusion, give meaning to things that seem to be obvious, change your perspective, extend the elements, and make lines more attractive with their simplicity. Take care of the detail — it is extremely important in minimalism, whether you’re photographing a person, a building, or anything else that catches your eye.

Good luck!

Interested to hear the stories and insights behind other photographers’ best images? Check out the other posts in our Instagram Spotlight series!

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Patryk Wikalinski
Patryk Wikaliński is a Polish photographer whose aim is to photograph only with an iPhone. On Instagram, he has gained recognition as a pastel minimalist photographer. Inspired by architecture, he captures shapes that sometimes become an colorful illusion. He uses structural point of view in his storytelling to create perspectives of a different world. You can follow his colorful minimalism on Instagram.