Quick tips: Photographing tall buildings and great skies

September 28, 2016

There is much more to architectural photography than standard façade shots without any converging verticals (edges that lean in). These kind of ‘clean’ shots are fine, and are necessary for corporate literature and architect websites. But there is room for more creative and experimental building shots, where you capture buildings by shooting straight up at them. At the same time, you can get cool effects by deliberately blurring passing clouds in the sky.

So this is a great technique to try with interesting-looking modern architecture, on a day with moving clouds – a solid expanse of grey sky will look dull regardless of what you do.

  1. Find a suitable tall building, put your camera on a tripod (since you will use very slow shutter speeds to blur out clouds) and point it up at the edge of the building. Include some sky in the composition.
  2. Change to manual mode and pick a small aperture, of, say, f/16. This will give you maximum depth of field without too much diffraction. Change to manual focus and check the focus on the live view screen (zoom 100%).
  3. Depending on the light, you might need an ND filter. Once attached, reduce the shutter speed as necessary on the exposure scale and check the histogram. Try to include clouds moving away or towards the building.
  4. Shutter speed depends on the light conditions, but try 30 seconds and see how the clouds blur. Keep the ISO down to around 100. Finally, convert the image to mono and add vignettes for a moody effect.
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