June 22, 2016

PHOTOGRAPHING ARCHITECTURE THE MINIMALIST WAY

Words + Photos : Minh T

On the surface, photographing architecture can be intimidating. I mean, how can you make buildings look interesting while capturing both the overall aesthetic of a structure and its details?

I’ve learned that minimalist design principles can help you achieve this. Going beyond white walls and simple shapes, here are some simple tips to help you master the style:

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Learn Composition

Composition is key when photographing architecture.  I find that it’s helpful to take a second to compose the shot instead of quickly snapping an image. Typically, the photo subject is centered, but try shifting focus to the edge of the frame to create a more interesting composition. The negative space can be an interesting element of the structure itself.

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Play With Light and Shadow

Architecture is not just about tangible form. It’s also about the light and shadows, and these ephemeral conditions vary throughout the day to create a totally different image and feel. Usually, to minimize high contrast and washed out areas, it’s ideal to shoot in soft morning or evening light. However, with structures that are very simple in shape, midday sun can create some cool, high contrast shadows and graphic effects. Some of my favorite images are taken during this time of day, as the buildings cast dramatic slashes of diagonal shadows.

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Don’t Forget About The Tele

It might seem like a natural choice to reach for the wide angle lens when shooting architecture. Most people try to capture the whole building in one photo. However, a telephoto lens is sometimes a more interesting choice for minimal design. It allows the viewfinder to distill the architecture into angles and corners, and it shows how the various materials connect and interact with each other. By focusing on smaller details, you allow your audience to absorb the architecture as they would in real life — through smaller vignettes that collectively explain the whole experience.

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Add People

In my work, I often use a human figure within the architectural image. Not only does it give a sense of scale, it adds more emotion, which makes the story more complex. One of my favorite architectural photographers is Julius Shulman who often uses a human element in his iconic images. It gives a sense of life and feeling to an otherwise technical image.

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Default To Simplicity

Lastly, the most important part about shooting minimalistically is that the image is clean and simple. To achieve this, I use an app called Skew to straighten vertical lines and make sure the horizon is horizontal. Another app, Facetune, helps remove distracting details such as dirt, blemishes, lighting fixture and air vents.

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