Which look best from modern or classic buildings

Architecture photography: the best tips and ideas for motifs

Architecture photography offers beautiful subjects all year round. Especially in the holiday season, it is not only sand, beach or mountains that attract, but the exciting cities of the world. You can find out which ones in our practical guide to architectural photography Photo equipment is suitable which Camera settings are optimal which cities offer the most interesting architecture which Architecture motifs suit yourself well and like yours City trip as a photo trip can plan. Impress with photos that not everyone has!


Tip 1: Use the right equipment for architectural photography

© Unsplash

Camera equipment for a professional photography trip

If you're interested in professional photos then you need one completeequipment. Clarify in advance whether you can take enough time to change lenses, set up your tripod or take long exposures. High quality pictures take time! Then book one right away Photo trip or travel with like-minded people.
When traveling with a lot of luggage something can easily get lost. Expensive equipment is also prone to theft. If you have a valuable device, consider buying one insurancecomplete. Add up the value of your equipment and see if the policy is worth it.

Our packing list for experienced architecture photographers:

  • SLR or system camera
  • several wide-angle lenses or zoom lenses - inexpensive models are e.g. Sigma 10-20mm and the Tamron 10-24mm
  • a tilt-shift lens like the Canon T-S 17mm if you have a big budget
  • Tripod, e.g. a Manfrotto Compact Light, are available from € 50
  • a remote release to avoid camera shake with longer exposure times
  • different neutral density filters
  • Lens hood
  • wind and weatherproof pockets
  • Rain cover for the camera
  • Lens cloth
  • enough batteries
  • Extra memory cards
  • depending on the country of travel: socket adapter

For successful architectural recordings there is a Wide angle lens compulsory. With this type of lens with its short fixed focal lengths (10 - 35mm) your image section will be larger and you can keep enough distance to get everything in focus indoors. It is particularly important to create a sense of depth when taking large shots or panoramas. A Tilt-shift lens like the Canon T-S 17mm has been specially developed for architectural photography, but it costs around 2000 €.

© Unsplash

Camera equipment for light luggage

The extent of your equipment depends on the planned trip and your intended motives. You certainly don't want to carry heavy equipment with you all the time. Beginners or casual photographers don't need expensive tilt-shift lenses. However, several lenses for different tasks with different fixed focal lengths or a zoom lens are recommended.

Our packing list for occasional architecture photographers:

  • SLR or compact camera
  • Gorillapod
  • A bean sack is a good alternative for setting down a camera without shaking if you don't want to take a tripod with you
  • different fixed focal lengths or a zoom lens
  • enough batteries
  • Extra memory cards
  • depending on the country of travel: socket adapter

Architecture photos with your smartphone or compact camera

No desire or no space in your luggage for a large amount of photo equipment? But you still want to take beautiful architecture photos? Then read our tips if you are only traveling with your smartphone or compact camera. Photographing without professional equipment is a good one Exercise for image composition and observation. Successful photos are a result of your eyes and not necessarily your equipment.

Extra tip for stable results: Hold your smartphone firmly with both hands while taking pictures. Either you bend your arms at your body or you stretch them straight ahead. So your recordings don't shake. Take a small tripod like a gorillapod (there are even hybrid solutions for smartphones and cameras).

We recommend apps such as:
Slow Shutter Cam for iOS, long exposure effects with Camera FV-5 Lite for Android and Snapseed for iOS and Snapseed for Android as an all-round app.

© Jan-Ole Schmidt


Tip 2: the right camera settings for architectural photography

The right camera settings for architectural photography with the system camera:

  • always shoot in RAW format
  • high aperture values ​​= large focus area (good for large image sections), e.g. f / 8, f / 11
  • small ISO values ​​(50-100)
  • Deactivate image stabilization when using a tripod

Settings for architecture photography with the smartphone:

  • photograph in RAW format if possible
  • Choose the largest picture setting for the best quality
  • Activate grid lines to avoid collapsing lines
  • Use HDR mode for difficult lighting conditions

Tip 3: Plan your architectural photography moments in advance

Schedule photo moments efficiently by Mark various stations and sights on the map before starting your journey. Accordingly, you can also book your accommodation nearby. Then download your city map as an offline map for the holiday destination.
Browse ahead on Flickr, Pinterest or Instagram for motifs that inspire you. What is important here is directed towards Hashtags search, for example #nycphotography or #berlinarchitecture. Some photographers also offer photo safaris or city guides as apps for download. Seen in this way with Mrs. Elbville, a photographer from Hamburg.

If it's at your vacation spot Photo walks There are city tours with topics especially for photographers, this is a great opportunity to polish up your photography skills. The great thing is that you are then in a group of like-minded people and are given a topic or get to know a city in a completely different way.
Alternatively, you can at the resort talk to locals to get valuable insider tips. So you will get one or the other undiscovered jewel in front of your lens!
The Locationscout online service lists many locations for photo motifs, as well as the perspectives and times of day for taking pictures!


Tip 4: visit the most interesting cities for architectural photography

© Unsplash ⎸The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam

There are cities that are particularly characteristic of certain architectural epochs. In the following 10 cities you will be able to capture a lot of high-quality image material for a photo book - beyond the classics of New York, Paris or Florence.

Athens, Greece: Classical Antiquity
The temples on the Acropolis date back to the 5th century BC. Chr and further back. From the world-famous Temple Mount you have a panoramic view of ancient and modern Athens.

Istanbul, Turkey: Byzantine / Ottoman
The influences of the Byzantines and Ottomans come together in the Hagia Sophia mosque, which testifies to the eventful history of the Bosporus metropolis. But lovers of modern architecture will also get their money's worth in Istanbul's unique balancing act between past and present.

St. Petersburg, Russia: Rococo
Rococo buildings stand for pastel colors, gold, playful elements and tsarist palaces. St Petersburg has a lot to offer. Discover the fascinating colorful architecture of the 18th century of the Hermitage and the Catherine Palace.

Hanoi, Vietnam: French colonial style
In the Southeast Asian region you can still discover intact buildings and remains of the French colonial style of the late 19th century. Many of the buildings of the former occupiers have now fallen into disrepair and provide morbid photo opportunities.

Budapest, Hungary: Art Nouveau / Jugendstil
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the playful floral architecture of Art Nouveau emerged. It can be admired particularly well at the Gresham Palace, the Budapest Zoo and the Botanical Garden.

Miami, Florida: Art Deco
Art Deco followed Art Nouveau. Built in the 1920s to 30s, the Miami Beach District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world. Pay attention to the geometric rounded shapes and the pastel colors.

Tel Aviv, Israel: Bauhaus
The linear design language of the Bauhaus can not only be discovered in Germany. Tel Aviv’s “White City” contains more than 4000 buildings from the 1930s and 40s.

Brasília, Brazil: Futurism
Architect Oscar Niemeyer redesigned almost the entire Brazilian capital in the 1950s. Within a few months, a planned city with the famous futuristic glass and concrete architecture was created on the drawing board.

Las Vegas, Nevada: Postmodern
When you think of beautiful architecture, you probably don't think of glaring Las Vegas. But with its “non-architecture” of parking lots, neon signs and casinos based on historical models, Las Vegas is central to the emergence of playful post-modern architecture, which turns against the strict formalism of the so-called international style.

Rotterdam, Netherlands: Contemporary Modernism
Since Rotterdam was largely destroyed after World War II, the city had to be raised from the ashes. What is striking is the courage of the Dutch metropolis to undertake daring and iconic construction projects. The Erasmus Bridge, the Kubus apartments and the new market hall are just a few examples.


Tip 5: Use weather and light for architectural photography

© Jan-Ole Schmidt

Also a gray, cloudy day or pouring rain and thunderstorms have their appeal for architecture photography. A bright sky with a bright sun creates strong color contrasts, but there is a risk of overexposure. Many architectural photos are taken under a cloudy sky. If your camera equipment is weatherproofed, you can take unique photos in any weather condition!

Architecture motifs for nice weather and lots of sun:

  • Parks and gardens
  • strong contrasts like dark buildings and light skies
  • You can stage hard shadows and a lot of light dramatically with black and white recordings (for example analog with a black and white film or in post-processing)
  • work with grazing lights or light reflections

Architecture motifs and ideas for bad weather:

  • Puddles and reflections
  • Drops on panes or glass facades
  • rising steam, for example from gullies
  • Interiors (for example a library, a market hall, a train station, a subway station or a stairwell - take a look at ours Tips for taking pictures indoorsat!)
  • Photographing thunderstorms
  • Photographs of splashes of color (graffiti, murals or colorfully dressed passers-by, against a gray sky)
  • In a pinch: simply cut off the gray sky

© Jan-Ole Schmidt

The right light for architectural photography

As with beach photos or landscape shots, this is the case best light at the golden hour or the blue hour. In the golden hour (i.e. at sunrise or sunset) the world is bathed in a particularly warm light. In the blue hour (approx. One hour after sunset), the contrasts between the dark sky and artificial lighting are particularly strong. Illuminated architecture in particular comes into its own. Experiment with side lights and wide falling shadows Depth effect to create! Look at your Motif at different times of the day and then decide on a shooting situation or take a whole series of photos at different times of the day, moods or weather conditions. Buildings benefit from direct, low-lying light in the evening or in the morning. The light emphasizes structures, colors and surfaces!
Download the appropriate apps to calculate the best lighting situation at your holiday destination. You can find various blue hour calculators in our blue hour article.

Insider tip: The winter is also very suitable for photographing architecture. Bare trees do not obscure the view of the building and the low winter sun emphasizes the peculiarities of the architecture.

© WhiteWall


Tip 6: Pay attention to perspective and composition in architectural photography

© Unsplash ⎸Almost identical view of a cathedral, with and without converging lines.

Correct or consciously use falling lines

A big problem when photographing tall buildings like churches or skyscrapers is that yourself perspective deformations surrender. These so-called falling lines disturb the harmony the recording and seem unprofessionalif you do not use them consciously. Buildings seem to tilt backwards as the perspective becomes shorter. The reason for this is the central perspective. In the central perspective, lines converge in one or more vanishing points. This phenomenon corresponds to our natural viewing habits. Our brain and balance organ equalize this effect for us, but the camera does not do this automatically.

For architecture photography it is nicer parallel lines to strive for. For that you need your Raise your point of view or yourself from your property and a Use a telephoto lensto avoid panning the camera. It's about you Sensor as parallel as possible to the image plane hold. Most cameras have digital or analog ones Spirit levels built-in, which show you a position that is as horizontal as possible. Other cameras offer integrated lens corrections. In RAW mode, you determine your lens profile and then make a lens correction.
Tilt-shift lenses do this perspective correction when shooting, which is why they are so suitable for architectural photography.

Otherwise, image processing programs will help you with corrections. For example with the Transform tool or the lens correction in Photoshop. Allow room for perspective corrections and choose yours Image section larger from the start

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But you can also consciously play with the falling lines. The result is an impressive one Low angle viewwhen photographing a skyscraper from below. This illustrates the gigantic dimensions of such a building, after which you have to turn your head.

Our tips against falling lines at a glance:

  • aim for parallel lines
  • Raise your point of view
  • go further away or zoom out
  • pay attention to spirit levels on the camera
  • Carry out lens corrections (RAW mode of the camera or later in an image editing program)
  • Use a tilt-shift lens
  • Transform the image afterwards (select a large section when taking photos)
  • Consciously use falling lines for effects

Discover compositions for exciting pictures

Keep your eyes open! In seemingly unimportant details and structures such as banisters, ornaments, windows, paving stones, bridges or signs, there are hidden worlds and there are unusual compositions to discover. Photos of architecture do not have to show the entire building. Gates, cutouts and details often give a recognition value as well. Think of the iconic rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral or New York's metal fire escapes on the facades of the brick houses. Fill in your image section with a “close-up” and make the composition abstract.

© Unsplash

Stick to classic rules of image composition such as the golden ratio or simplify it Rule of thirds. The motif is then, roughly speaking, in the upper, lower or one of the side thirds of the picture. This way you always achieve a harmonious picture result. Only image compositions in the middle are very static in the long run. But the same applies here: Try things out. There is no one rule for composing a picture. For Instagram, photos that are in the middle and symmetrically work because of the (square) grid structure of the platform.

© WhiteWall

Orientate yourself to the existing ones dominant lines the architecture, follow it or consciously break it. Zoom in until the image shows an abstract composition. Discover Symmetries and patterns!

© WhiteWall

It helps if you familiarize yourself with the History of the buildingyou want to photograph. What was the architect's idea? What was the purpose of the building? Which historical traces can you discover? And how do you bring this “storytelling” into the picture?

Our suggestions for successful compositions:

  • Pay attention to cuts, cutouts and details
  • sometimes fill out the frame completely (close-up)
  • Observe the rule of thirds
  • Compose with the golden ratio
  • Use existing dominant lines that lead into the picture
  • Find symmetries and patterns
  • arrange abstract compositions
  • Pay attention to the history of the building and highlight it

Tip 7: Find motifs and use tricks for architectural photography

© Unsplash

Staging landmarks in a completely new way

Well-known landmarks of famous cities are iconic, but do not offer any particularly original motifs. Or does it? Think about how you can completely recreate the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids of Giza, for example! Do not photograph the object itself, just one reflection in a bus window or a puddle! Or you can make a portrait of your companion with the Landmarks discreetly in the background with blurring bokeh. Change your perspective! Get out of town and shoot one Panorama from a distance, climb a church tower or just take photos of what is happening on the steps of the Sagrada Familia. There are no limits to your imagination, break with overused viewing habits!

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Long exposure against distracting crowds

Another problem with tourist attractions: Many people can block their view of the architecture.

Our tip: Make a Long exposureuntil people are less recognizable as individuals and do not divert the focus from the architecture. In addition, you do not infringe any rights of those depicted. Use a tripod whenever possible. Or you take photos early in the morningwhen no tourist is awake yet.

© Unsplash

Discover unusual topics as motifs

Imagine a topic. For example, a certain color that you keep discovering. Or restaurant signs, subway stations, old and new architecture or other pairs of opposites such as poor and rich areas, concrete deserts and green parks. What are the characteristics of your travel destination? Or how have you never seen your hometown? Whose footsteps can you walk in? What story can you tell with architecture? Deviate from the main roads. Look into backyards, back streets, or industrial areas. Discover the beauty in the hidden or imperfect!

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Photograph in black and white for dramatic effects

Compose your recordings in black and white! Even if you only use black and white coloring afterwards in image processing, consider how your photo will look in black and white when you take it. Contrasts, light, shadow and composition are even more important than when photographing in color. Black and white gives architectural photography a weighty, calm look.

© Anna Laudan

Let yourself be inspired by the artistic black and white architecture photographs by Anna Laudan. In post-production, she gives your recordings a surrealistic touch. You can read an exciting interview about this in WhiteWall Magazine.

Motive: people and architecture

Photograph people in the context of architecture and document life in public spaces. That also has the benefit of you Proportions can clarify. Try your hand at street photography! You will find a clear guide with lots of tips in our street photography e-book!

© Unsplash

Our motif ideas for outdoor architecture photography:

  • Infrastructure like roads
  • Facades
  • Windows and doors
  • Magnificent buildings such as banks, museums or churches
  • roofs
  • Skyscrapers
  • Skylines
  • Towers
  • abstract, modern architecture (buildings by architects such as Zaha Hadid, Frank Lloyd Wright, Renzo Piano, Lina Bo Bardi, Amanda Levet)
  • Series of stylistic epochs (e.g. midcentury bungalows, baroque castles, classicist theaters, brutalist churches, art nouveau house entrances)
  • Archways or wickets that frame your motif at the same time
  • Underpasses and tunnels

Tip 8: Skilfully photograph interiors

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It is not only worth looking at a building from the inside when the weather is bad. Interior design offers many fascinating details and exciting structures to train your eye for architectural photography.

In a building or room you have to pay close attention to the prevailing lighting conditions. Where are Light sources like windows, doors or skylights? Artificial lighting is an integral part of the architecture and helps you to illuminate the rooms. As a rule, you can set the ISO values ​​higher if the room is darker. Make sure you have enough natural light. In interiors or interiors, vary more with focal lengths. Not every room offers as much space as a train station hall. Correspondingly, there are again other aperture values. If you are with open aperture You can bring out details better by creating a bokeh and emphasizing details of the interior design.
Get even more tips on interior photography.

© Unsplash

Our motif ideas for interior shots:

  • Libraries
  • Stairwells
  • Market halls
  • Train stations
  • Museums
  • old splendor theaters or cinemas
  • abandoned buildings such as factories, bunkers, hospitals or swimming pools for eerily beautiful shots
  • Hotel lobbies
  • Take photos from the inside out, e.g. through a pane
  • Naves
  • Castle halls

© Unsplash


Tip 9: Clarify freedom of panorama and the legal situation for architectural photography

If you take photos in public space and want to publish your pictures or use them for commercial purposes, there are a few legal things to consider. It may be necessary to fill out model or property releases. Especially when you photograph strangers on the street, you have to ask for their permission. The legal situation in Germany is relatively strict. In other countries it can be more relaxed. If you speak to passers-by in a friendly manner and you know their Obtain approval, you can often arrange this in an uncomplicated manner. In any case, pay attention to the right to your own picture!

Before your trip, look at a map on which the so-called Freedom of panorama is drawn. This is an overview of the legal requirements for photos of public buildings or interiors. You can find this on Wikipedia, for example. Then you know exactly in which countries you can use your photos for which purposes.

Inquire carefully, especially if you plan to use your photos commercially. Our tips are only hints and do not replace legal advice!


Tip 10: Present successful architecture photos appropriately

Your most successful recordings do not need to hide. Show off your souvenirs in style and skill. Especially when you want to use your architecture photos for professional and commercial purposes.

For photos of modern architecture, we recommend that you frame your prints discreetly. Present your photo in a ArtBox Alu or one ArtBox wood. Architecture with clear forms comes into its own. The ArtBox Alu in silver or black complements contemporary architecture with a functional design language. The wooden ArtBox complements architectural photos that focus on natural materials. Photos of modern architecture are even more reserved and noble when laminated with acrylic in Slimline. Classic architecture, on the other hand, benefits from classic framing. use Passepartout frameto put time-honored buildings in the limelight.

Discover the photo in the frame now

For architecture with reflective or metallic surfaces, create a mural Alu Dibond. In the Butlerfinisch in particular, your architectural photos will have a distinctive character.

Create a photo on Alu Dibond