Are you into architecture photography? Here are some key pieces of equipment that you’ll need to capture those architectural gems at their best. Read on to find out what architecture photography accessories you should have in your camera bag!
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This is the essential piece of equipment for any form of photography. It’s especially useful when it comes to architecture photography accessories.
We can even say that you should use a tripod for every architecture photo you take.
So what exactly makes a tripod so awesome?
- Sharpness – In architecture photography you’re going to want your photo to be tack sharp. Placing your camera on a tripod removes any chance that it will move during the exposure. Make sure your camera is in a steady location. Watch out for wood flooring, as people moving on this can move your tripod during an exposure. Having your camera on a tripod will also allow you to manually focus through live view. This is a better way to achieve sharp results.
- Bracketing – Using bracketing in architecture photography is a must in many scenarios. A tripod will ensure the photos are lined up throughout your multiple exposures.
- Creativity – A tripod allows you to use long exposure in your photography. This gives you more creative license over your photo. If clouds are moving across the sky, you can capture that motion using a tripod.
- Low light – There will be times without enough light to use your camera handheld. This could be an evening photo, or when you’re photographing indoors. In this instance a tripod is a very useful thing to have.
The use of a tripod in this photo allowed the use of long exposure. This created a more dramatic look as clouds move through the sky.
Which Tripod Should You Use?
So which tripod is best for architecture photography?
There are many on the market, so the two suggested here are not the only ones available.
- TXL Series T-2004XL Tripod – The Sirui brand represents great value for money when it comes to tripods. This tripod is ideal for travelling. It will suit a travel photographer who does some architecture photography.
- Befree GT Tripod – An alternative is this tripod by Manfrotto, which has similar features. It’s well designed, as you’d expect from any Manfrotto product.
2. Wide Angle Lens
This is pretty much as important as a tripod. Capturing as much of the scene as possible means you’ll need a good wide angle lens.
Capturing the interior of a building, where the room is small means using a wide angle is a must.
And you’re also going to need a wide angle lens when you’re photographing cityscapes.
There will be times when you’ll also want to capture the details. A wide angle lens won’t serve you well for those, but for everything else? It’s a good bet.
Which Wide Angle Lens Should You Use?
The lens you choose for your photography will likely depend on your camera brand.
Here is a selection of lenses suitable for architecture photography.
- Canon 17-40mm f/4L – A great lens from Canon that provides good value for money. And 17mm is wide enough for most architecture photos.
- Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED – A great quality lens for Nikon camera users. That extra wideness at 14mm can help your architecture photos. You can always crop them, so shooting as wide as you can is better.
- Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens – A very popular lens for any camera body. A prime lens, and although you’ll not likely use f1.8, the size of the glass means better quality images.
A wide angle lens is needed for scenes like this.
3. Angle Finder
An angle finder is a simple piece of equipment. It allows you to get down to an extreme angle, usually for a worm’s eye view of architecture.
Why might this be useful? There are times when the photo looks better with an even wider angle feel. But you’re already at the widest focal length your camera lens can reach.
The only option in this case, other than changing your lens, is to get lower down to the ground.
Using an angle finder, which works like a periscope, will allow you to do that.
An angle finder makes it easier to get down to more interesting angles.
4. Cable Release or Remote Trigger System
It’s no good having your camera on a tripod if you’re not using a cable release or remote shutter system.
When you touch the camera you’ll cause it to move. This matters for any long exposure photo.
The solution is not touching the camera or tripod. Use either a remote trigger or a cable release.
- Cable release – This is a wire that attaches to your camera. It allows you to hit the shutter without touching the camera itself. Some also have a shutter lock feature. This allows you to expose for as long as you like using the bulb function. This option is also less expensive that a remote trigger.
- Remote trigger system – This also allows you to trigger the shutter. It works either by radio or infra-red signal. This system gives you more versatility. For example, it will allow you to walk into the frame yourself and become a subject.
A cable release for your shutter is a great piece of architecture photography accessories kit.
5. Tilt Shift Lens
Sooner or later you’ll run into wide angle distortion. This barrel distortion will cause objects to bow into the centre of your photo.
You can use this creatively. But most of the time you’ll want to avoid it.
It’s possible to correct this problem in post processing. But there are good reasons for getting the photo right in camera.
This is where a tilt shift lens comes in, as it will correct this bowing effect. You can adjust the tilt of the lens to correct parallax and keystone distortion too.
The widest angle lens for this is the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L.
Although symmetrical, there is bowing occurring in this photo. A tilt shift lens could be used to correct this issue.
6. Full Frame dSLR
There are many reasons why getting a full frame dSLR is a good investment, price is not one of them! When it comes to architecture photography, a full frame camera means better quality. And reduced noise.
The lenses available for full frame cameras are also better. Most manufacturers have better quality wide angle and tilt shift lenses. And these will perform better on a full frame camera.
The 17-40mm f4L on an APS crop sensor camera body won’t be as wide.
Manufacturers are putting out new full frame camera bodies all the time. Some current ones are the Canon 5D Mark IV, Nikon D5 and the Sony Alpha A7 II.
Using long exposure allows for more creative approaches. This photo uses camera rotation.
The circular polarizing filter is great for any landscape photographer. The same is true if you’re photographing architecture.
This is a filter with some real creative potential. Let’s look at how you can use a cpl filter in architecture photography.
- Reflections – Use this filter to increase or decrease the effect of a reflection in your photo. Do you want the glass on that skyscraper to show reflections of buildings from across the street? Then this is the filter you need. You can also minimise reflections with this filter.
- The sky – When your photo includes the sky, use this filter to make it more interesting. Especially on cloudy days. Your clouds will pop out of the frame with this filter.
- Colours – Polarizing filter are great for intensifying the colours in your photo. All you have to do is twist the filter until you get the desired result.
There are many filters on the market. The circular polarizing filter is one of the best.
While there are other forms of external lighting you could use, strobes are often the best. This light source is compact, and easy to carry.
It’s certainly worth getting radio triggers and receivers to go with your strobe. Being able to get the light source off your camera will help a lot.
Using strobes gives you the chance to light up your scene creatively. But the objects you’re lighting up need to be nearby. You’re not going to light up a cityscape!
Balancing the light is the aim in most cases, so you can get an equal exposure for a window and the rest of your scene.
A window will often overpower your photo, so adding light to the rest of the room to balance this out is a good option.
Off camera light was used to light up the roofing in this photo.
9. Post Processing Software
Once you have your photo correctly exposed you’ll need to do further work on it to make it even better.
The best architecture photographers use HDR or, even better, digital blending.
You’re not going to get the best results if you don’t fully embrace the post processing side of things.
So which packages are the best in this area?
- Adobe Photoshop – The industry standard, everyone knows about this software program. Adobe also produces the excellent Lightroom. For digital blending though, Photoshop is the more useful option.
- Nik EFEX – This is a suite of programs with a number of really good filters. You can use these to make your photos look even more impressive. There are packages for colour, black and white, and noise reduction within this set of programs.
This photo was taken in the Vatican museum in Rome. Getting a clean image with no people required the use of photoshop.
This is the most useful post processing technique you can learn as an architecture photographer. It’s similar to HDR.
With digital blending, you control how the different parts of the photo are affected manually. This makes it much more powerful than HDR.
You’ll need to take a set of bracketed images to begin with. Then create luminosity masks using Photoshop to use these bracketed layers.
If you want to learn about digital blending, check out this website.
10. Bubble Level
It’s important to keep your camera correctly aligned against the horizon. This can be tricky when you’re using a wide angle lens that has some distortion at it’s widest focal length.
It’s not always possible to trust your eye, so the solution is using a bubble head. These are the kind of things used by bricklayers to ensure their line of bricks is flat.
In photography you can get bubble levels that attach to either your camera or your tripod.
One of the most practical and budget friendly solutions is one that fits onto your hot shoe.
11. Graduated Neutral Density Filters
Another filter that’s often associated with landscape photography is the graduated neutral density filter, or GND filter for short.
These are great for balancing the light across your scene. And they provide a useful alternative to using a strobe.
Should you find a scene that has strong window lighting on one side of the picture, using a GND filter can help balance light across the frame.
Getting the photo mostly right in camera by using filters will make post-processing work that much easier.
GND filters come in varying strengths. They will lower the light by 1, 2 or 3 stops, depending on the strength of the filter.
The filters come in strengths of 2, 4 and 8.
What’s the Best Filter System to Get?
The industry leader for filter systems is Lee, though they don’t come cheap.
Why pay the extra money? The simple reason is colour cast. The cheaper filter systems introduce this into your image.
Colour cast means extra work in post processing to remove it, and it’s better to get a truly neutral GND filter.
There are several types of graduated filters. The bottom half of this shows graduated neutral density filters.
12. Bracket or Clamp
There will be times when using a tripod isn’t an option, yet you need to use long exposure and want your camera to be secure.
There are plenty of places that won’t allow you to take a tripod onto the premise, but you might get away with a clamp or bracket.
You’ll obviously need to find a railing that will allow you to attach the clamp, but it at least gives you this option.
There are a couple of other reasons a clamp can be better than a tripod for some photos.
- Onto the edge – Using a wide angle lens means some unwanted foreground elements can creep into the frame. Especially if you’re photographing downwards. A tripod is difficult to position over the edge of a wall. In this instance a clamp works better.
- Solid – It can be hard to get your camera and tripod steady on a windy day. You’ll need a sturdy tripod, weighted down with a bag attached to the tripod’s central pole. There is a solution though, and that’s a clamp. Attach this to a fence or railing, and the chances of it moving are much lower.
To get this photo you need to be at or over the edge of the scene.
Which architecture photography accessories do you use? Is there anything in the list provided here that you’d look to add to your kit?
We’d love to hear your feedback and opinions. Those of you who have some amazing architecture photos are welcome to share them in the comments section!
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