ADAPT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT – No one photographic approach suits all building styles. Adjust your shooting style to exploit architectural variety

When you arrive on location in any major urban area, it is possible to feel overwhelmed by the vast array of engaging subjects for our attention and study. Knowing where to start and how best to capture the atmosphere and tone of a city can seem like an impossible task.

A common strategy adopted by beginners is to try and capture everything, all at once, often employing very wide-angle lenses and creating extensive compositions. This is likely a mistake, as the dense levels of detail can quickly swamp an image, and reduce the overall dramatic effect. One style does not fit every building type and design.

The age of the structure has a great influence on how the photographer should approach the subject. Old buildings frequently feature a large amount of coloured, textured stone, with an often angular profile. These “The age of the structure influences how to approach the subject” building materials reflect very little light back towards the camera, resulting in the subject appearing dull when lit from the front and easily underexposed with backlighting. Warm-coloured stone can also introduce white balance problems, by confusing auto-WB systems into making unsightly cyan or green colour casts. To combat exposure issues, take a meter reading from a neutral midtone (such as grey), and use +2/3EV exposure compensation to lift the shadows, while simultaneously neutralising unexpected colour shifts. Using a preset WB or manual colour temperature also offers more predictable colour control.

When shooting modern structures that use large amounts of glass in their construction, be prepared to adjust camera settings to compensate for the highly reflective properties. Bright ‘hotspots’ are common, especially under midday sun, so use -1EV approximately to avoid loss of highlight detail. Compose so that the sun is not directly visible in a reflection, to make exposure calculation manageable. Contemporary designs use more curves and sinuous lines than pre-20th Century architecture, so try wider framing to emphasise the ‘direction’ of the design philosophy – the leading lines.

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