Photographing Historic Buildings

Photographing Historic Buildings

Taking on the mission of photographing historic architecture is a great way for any beginner to learn the fundamentals of photography. Seeing as you won’t need to move quickly to chase around your subjects, do yourself a favor and get a tripod. Apart from stability, tripods can give you the time and space to figure out the best settings on your camera in order to capture the best images.

Another important aspect to note for this type of photography is how to maximize depth of field, an element that can sharpen the sense of space in your photographs. For up-close to medium distance shots of historic buildings, Light Stalking advises using wide angle lenses from 12mm to 35mm so you can shoot from the widest angle of view possible. This is especially useful in cramped cities where other buildings and objects in the street will get in the way of taking shots that include your entire subject.

In relation to this, you should get used to shooting at a smaller or higher aperture and lower ISO, a technique which Tech Radar correctly recommends for maximizing depth of field. Armed with a tripod in such settings, you can freely set slower shutter speeds to get the correct amount of exposure. This particular technique is all about reducing the amount of light that hits the sensor of your camera, forcing you to use as little light as possible – and as much time as you need – to get your perfect shot. Once you get used to shooting buildings from a tripod this way, it will be easier to then experiment with different settings (and angles) as you’ll have more control of the available light.

Another good way for any budding historical architecture photographer to start is by focusing on famous historical structures. This will allow you to compare your own shots with that of famous photographers, which can ultimately provide insight on your personal style and approach to the art of photography. New York City is one place that’s filled with photo opportunities, as it has plenty of places to practice your skills. Apart from NYC’s wide range of iconic buildings, James McGrath from Yoreevo states that in 2015 there were 13,500 buildings that were over six stories within the city. This gives you ample opportunity to photograph buildings that are not famous. You can then compare how well you do with a building that you have no reference for, with a building that has photographed thousands of times. As long as you have your camera and tripod, you can turn any walk or commute through Manhattan into a crash course on architectural photography throughout the different stages of the old city’s history. It’s not uncommon for both tourists and locals to go on this type of photo walk, so the next time you’re in the Big Apple, you can even look for amateur photography groups organizing either free or local teaching tours. If you’re using a DSLR, it would also be a great way to get instant feedback from fellow amateurs and veteran photographers alike.

Finally, you should also try taking pictures of the same subjects in both sunny and nighttime conditions. This can give you a much greater sense of how light dictates the mood of any shot. While shooting in the dark can be difficult, the play of light on historic architecture after dark opens up new avenues of photographic storytelling – valuable insight for anyone who considers themselves to be students of photography. Thomas B. Wilson in his guest post here on The Beginner Photographer advises that "the best way to get a feel for this is to practice and figure out how best to handle the duel between natural darkness and man-made light.”

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