Do you know you can take stunning architecture shots even using your phone? It’s absolutely true that the best camera is the one that you always have with you. I don’t take my Sony everywhere I go on a daily basis but my iPhone is ALWAYS in my hand.
I met people who told me they struggle with composing an architectural shot. They don’t really know how to convey the scale and the unique features that particular building they’re shooting has. I understand, architecture photography is not easy. Buildings and infrastructures have many features that can be captured making the difference between an average and a great architecture photo. I’m talking about symmetry, repetitive patterns, leading lines, perspective and many others.
In this article I’ll show you some tricks on how to use all those elements to start taking incredible photos of architecture even just using your phone.
Of course you can simply use your built-in phone camera but I’m sure you’ll find yourself struggling to get different kind of shots as you won’t be able to change your focal length. True, you can zoom in but you will lose lots of image quality.
I’m currently trying Olloclip lenses for my iPhone 7. They’re practical lenses that slide on top of your phone giving you the chance of having a wide-angle, fish-eye, macro or tele lens always in your pocket.
CHOOSE YOUR SUBJECT
You don’t need Zaha Hadid’s futuristic shapes to take great architecture shots. Architecture is always interesting, there’s always a feature you can focus on, that something that will make your shot worthy and different from all the others already out there.
Mastering this first step is only a matter of practice, you need to train your eye to see details, patterns, repetitions, leading lines so that you can isolate one or more of these features you want to highlight in your photo and let other people be able to see them as well. Once you start paying attention you’ll notice them everywhere with no effort.
Take photos of different types of architecture, not just buildings’ facades. Play around with subway stations, tunnels, bridges, parking garages. You’ll be surprised by the beauty of these structures.
LOOK FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
Capture your subject shooting it straight on but not only. Play around with your phone camera and find a different angle.
To help you composing your shot turn the camera grid on so that you can easily see if your lines are straight or not.
Depending where you are don’t forget to look up or look down, whether you are outdoor or indoor always take a look. Sometimes it’s really surprising what you can see simply looking everywhere around you. Train your eye to notice shapes in buildings wherever you go.
MASTER THE USE OF LEADING LINES
This aspect is really important, often a game changer for your photo.
The best tip I can give you is to look at your building or scene in a simplified way. Look at it as a basic drawing made of just the most important or strongest lines that make up the architecture you want to take photos of.
At this point move your camera around trying to find these lines that lead the viewer’s eye from one part of the frame to another or towards a striking element within the frame.
Symmetry is a strong compositional element with a really high visual impact. It makes ANY photo harmonic, more pleasant and intriguing. It gives balance to anything you capture so it provides a highly aesthetic value.
Obviously always make sure you position the line of symmetry perfectly central. Sometimes this can be tricky while you’re taking the photo but it’s something that if you don’t get exactly right at first you can always correct using a photo editing app to crop your image.
TAKE THE WHOLE IN…
Talking of architecture photography we usually want to see the entire building, its whole facade or interior. In this case the built-in phone camera may not be enough for the kind of shot you’re imagining. Try to use a wide-angle lens that you can mount on your phone.
For these shots down here I used my iPhone 7 in combination with the wide-angle Olloclip lens.
OR FOCUS ON DETAILS
Or head in the opposite direction and shoot the details of a building. In this case look for patterns and textures that can fill your frame. Sometimes they give a sort of graphic look sometimes a very minimalistic or abstract result. Even in this case you may want to use a tele lens to attach to your phone. For these shots I used the tele photo lens by Olloclip.
INCLUDE A HUMAN IN YOUR SHOT
Sometimes an architecture shot can look very empty without any human presence. Try to incorporate a human subject to give scale of the built environment you’re capturing. Personal tip: try to incorporate only one person in the frame – possibly in the middle. It can be a staged pose or not but this trick drives lots of attention on this figure that becomes a focal point allowing you to tell a story through your photo and making it way more interesting.
I hope this guide will be helpful for you. We are surrounded by architecture and we often look at buildings distractedly which I think it’s such a shame.
When you start thinking about architecture as a photographic subject then you’ll start noticing details and angles that you couldn’t see and appreciate before.
Let me know how it goes taking photos of architecture using your phone and if you use any additional lens or other gear to improve your phone photography.
If you don’t know OLLOCLIP check their phone lenses out!