A checklist for photographing architectural exteriors...
Imagine. You're standing right in front of an iconic building. It's beautiful. You've seen pictures of it on the telly and in books and travel brochures. You've waited a long time and travelled a long way to get here. Now you want to photograph it for yourself. So you do. Click. Job done! Job done? No!
Of course, you can take this approach. Roll up. Point your camera in vaguely the right direction. Press the button. But there are other ways to approach architectural travel photography. Below I've listed some simple ideas that are worth considering when you're standing in front of that building. It is not a definitive list. It is not a list of rules (there are no rules!).
Striking Travel Photos
Buildings can make for some really striking travel photos - check out almost any travel brochure and you'll see landmark buildings like the Taj Mahal and Buckingham Palace, the Petronas Towers and Sydney Opera House. These famous locations feature strongly in travel brochures because they are places that we know about even if we haven't seen them with our own eyes.
The ideas listed below are about what to photograph, what to look for and what you might include in your composition. There's nothing here about photographic technique or equipment. Not all of the ideas will apply to every situation! Feel free to ignore, adapt and improve!
Look for patterns - rooftop tiles, brickwork, windows and other repetitive elements often make good photographs.
Look for bold shapes - look for symmetry.
Crop in close to only include a small part of the architecture in your photo - concentrate on shape and form rather than the entire building.
Look for colours - bold colours or contrasting colours.
Look for reflections - it's no accident that reflecting pools are sometimes placed close to beautiful architecture.
Put your subject architecture in the context of its location - can you show how the building you're photographing fits in to its surroundings?
Put your architectural subject in the context of the people who use it.
Look for little details like door knockers, tiles, small pieces of decoration that not everybody notices.
Classic views are classic for a reason - the Taj Mahal and reflection, for example
Use your feet to move around and find views of the building that you don't often see - is there a reason why you don't often see them?
Watch out for anything that intrudes into your picture - telegraph poles, wires, advertising hoardings, dark shadows.
Can you picture the building as a backdrop to something (or someone?) in the foreground.
Keep an eye on the horizon - it should be horizontal! (And if you deliberately compose with an off-kilter horizon, make sure it's obvious that you meant it to be that way).
Time of day - morning photos have a very different light to midday and night photography.
Doors and windows are important to architecture and they can be important in photographs too.
Can you find a way to show the scale of your subject architecture?
Keep your composition simple! Avoid clutter (unless you want to show how cluttered something is!)
Ask yourself 'what is important about this building?', 'Why is it special?', 'What makes it different from other buildings?'. Can you capture the answers in your photos?
Are there other things you consider when photographing buildings on your travels? What else would you add to this checklist?
Rob has visited more than 50 countries. He's travelled with organised groups and independently. His travel photos have appeared in many publications and on many websites. He likes apricot jam. And apricots. And jam.