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Copyright © Mark Baigent

A guide to Architectural Photography

An architectural photography assignment is a commitment of time, resources and money. Creating high-quality images on location presents a complex series of challenges. Thorough planning and communication between the client, photographer, location owner and representatives at the site can help ensure maximum efficiency and productivity.

Specialist Lenses for Architectural Photography

It is essential that an architectural photographer has control of the dynamics of an image ie distortion of the building being photographed caused by tipping the camera up or down.

Tipping a camera up to view a tall building causes converging verticals, which in severe cases make the building appear almost triangular. This can be corrected when using a Shift lens by raising the lens panel vertically, relative to the film plane, and not tipping the camera. Shift lense are also important to the architectural interior photographer allow the camera to be set high but still emphasising floor space when that is important.

A Tilt and Shift lens also allows the photographer to control how much of an image is in focus by the placing of the plane of focus ie if a building as at an acute angle to the camera.

Planning an Architectural Photography Assignment

The Client to Supply, (where possible).

  • Exact location of the site, description and documentation required
  • Walk through the project site with photographer if feasible
  • Provide maps and/or plans with accurate North arrow
  • Provide construction progress information
  • Clearly describe goals: areas/features to photograph, number of views
  • Detail design materials, light sources, spaces in use, etc
  • Communicate problems or flaws that photographer to downplay/avoid

Client requirements:

  • The Brief.
  • Image usage.
  • The Deadline.
  • Any Special Requirements

At the Site: Issues to Consider

Are the owners or those at the site expecting the photographer?

Do they understand the level of production and length of time involved? (Some people assume a photographer will show up with a hand-held camera, take snapshots and be finished in a few minutes).

Will client or representative be present during the shoot?

The photographer must know how to contact:

  • Client with office, home and weekend numbers for day and evening
  • Building owner
  • Security force
  • Maintenance personnel
  • Electrical service for permission to control site lighting and computer controls
  • Others involved in the project

Has full access been arranged to the site?

  • Is there parking available for the photographer?
  • Can photographer and equipment get in after hours if needed?
    And get out afterwards?
  • Does the photographer need keys or security codes for access to any areas?
  • Are the elevators working? Alarm systems turned off?
  • Are all the rooms and areas accessible?
  • Can windows and blinds be adjusted?

Consider the time of year and the weather to be expected

  • Natural light and the angle of the sun
  • Which way does the building face?
  • Sun on the main façade?

Consider the season

  • Leaves on the trees?
  • Flowering shrubs and plants?
  • Snow on the ground?
  • Seasonal decorations?

Consider the day of the week

  • Moving automobile traffic and/or parked cars?
  • Pedestrians, office workers, services or deliveries?

Consider the best time of day for the photography

  • Interiors. Exteriors.
  • Natural light. Sun. Shadows. Mixed lighting. Views.
  • Is it best to shoot at night?

Has all the construction been completed?

  • Has the client representative inspected the site recently?
  • Trailers, dumpsters, scaffolding, fences and debris removed?
  • Construction and leasing signs removed?
  • Permanent signage in place? Illuminated?
  • All spaces, including ground floor stores, occupied?
  • Landscaping complete?

Site conditions should be reviewed before the photographer arrives.

  • Windows clean? None broken?
  • Grounds well maintained?
  • Lawns green? Gardens watered?
  • Mature plants? Or just wisps?
  • Watering apparatus turned off to keep the building dry?
  • Request delay in facility maintenance during the shoot (mowing, road work, window cleaning…not today, thank you).
  • Fountains working?
  • Flags and banners in place?
  • Find out about other possible disruptions such as trash pickup, deliveries, street festivals, parades
  • Graffiti on building? Fences? Posters? Signs?

If access is required from nearby buildings, consider the following:

  • Have advance arrangements been made? permission received?
  • Fees and/or permits required?
  • Proof of insurance needed? "Additional insured" on policy?

Electrical considerations:

  • All bulbs in working order. All the same color. Spares available?.
  • Access, for window shade controls and security systems.
  • Be sure timers and light sensors can be adjusted for proper exterior lighting at dusk and at dawn.

For photography of interiors, be sure to consider the following:

  • All tenants and neighbors notified about the photography?
  • Public and private spaces clean?
  • All furniture installed?
  • Paintings hung? Sculpture and other artwork in place?
  • Flowers and plants available? Props arranged

Permission for moving (and replacing) personal objects?

Photographer may need client participation to obtain property and model releases.

Architectural photographers Extra ToolKit


  • Strimmer.
  • Secateurs.
  • Stiff Broom.


  • Broom.
  • Cloths etc
  • Soft Broom


  • Compass.
  • Sun Chart.
  • Step ladder.
  • Shoe covers.
  • Extension leads.
  • Door wedges.



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Danbury, Essex CM3 4ES
01245 222712