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Checkout Mike Kelly’s Architectural Photography Articles at Fstoppers.com

July 9th, 2012

Mike Kelly has a good series of articles over at fstoppers.com  with several original articles on architectural photography.

I believe it’s important for real estate photographers to understand the difference between real estate photography and architectural photography. The difference is who you work for which in turn drives the level of quality and attention to detail that’s required. I reserve the term architectural photography for the work photographers do for architects and designers who have been trained extensively in the visual arts and demand high quality. There’s a natural progression from real estate photography (where you are working for agents that have no training in the visual arts) to architectural photography and as you become more accomplished and you shoot more upper-end homes you are more likely to get opportunities to shoot for architects and designers. From what I’ve seen many photographers shoot both upper-end real estate and for architects and designers and get more and more architectural work as they gain a reputation in that market.

Mike’s most recent post, Eleven Beautiful Architectural Photographs And How They Were Made, features a eight photographers that long time members in the PFRE flickr group will all recognize. Over the last 5 years many of the photographers featured in this article have been major contributors to the PFRE flickr group and several are on the PFRE photographer of the month jury. This article illustrates the variety of approaches different photographers take to producing high quality work. It’s all about keeping at raising the level of your work and gaining a reputation in the upper-end markets.

There are a couple more of Mike’s posts that real estate shooters will want to check out:

  1. The Anatomy of a Luxury Interior Shot which walks  you through the setup and behind the scenes thinking that goes into a great interior photo.
  2. Taking Your Interior and Architectural Photography to the Next Level which Mike shows you how to create dramatic, interesting, and dynamic images of spaces.

Thanks Mike for all the great articles!

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32 Responses to “Checkout Mike Kelly’s Architectural Photography Articles at Fstoppers.com”

  • This post is not to put down a very relevant, profitable and legitimate profession – real estate photography, but rather to clearly show some of the differences in the disciplines between real estate photography and architectural photography. You can be an architectural photographer who does real estate photography, but I don’t think you can be a real estate photographer that does architectural photography. I believe you can evolve from real estate to architectural photography – but once you become an architectural photographer everything you do is centered around form, design and the equipment/software/personnel to create the image required by the client. As an architectural photographer you may need to do real estate photography, but the look and feel of your work is quite different. As a real estate photographer you may have an innate ability to create a look and feel like architectural photography and may be able to secure some architectural photography work.

    A real estate photographer is about the numbers – how many houses can I shoot and process in a day. An architectural photographer is about the end product for one job at a time regardless of the time it takes to complete the job (price reflects this difference). An architectural photographer recognizes the importance of national organizations such as PPA and ASMP to help promote photography and education. A real estate photographer (and architectural photographers) participates in directories, linked in groups and vendor webinars very specific to how can I inexpensively overcome these issues and shoot more homes- not willing to accept the financial responsibility to create the end product.

    A person becomes an architectural photographer through professional channels (i.e. photography degree, paid job experience at a recognized news organization, a degree in architecture or engineering, a business degree, etc.). Most new real estate photographers in todays market (i.e. last 5 years) have become real estate photographers in todays market because it is an inexpensive buy in for someone looking to start their own business. I would love to see a study on the average age and job experience and photography experience of today’s real estate photographer. As real estate photographers, it is your responsibility to always be improving the work, equipment and professionalism of the industry. As an architectural photographer your goal is to keep standards high and promote professional practices and quality work for quality pricing.

    One should not preclude the other, but real estate photographers should realize they are not architectural photographers. If they want to become architectural photographer, then their mind sets have to change.

    Good luck to all of you in reaching your goals.

  • Susanne, I agree with you. And I like to go even a few steps further.
    Because of my background having been retired from mechanical and civil engineering and also having 25 years of real estate experience, I see architectural photography more a service to the engineering industry and not to the public in general.
    Architectural photography is also a couple of steps closer to the artistique field.
    Real Estate photography serves the publick and just want to see pictures that gives them the idea how that home shows including the flow of the interior.

  • Those are some pretty strong opinions. I guess by your measure I’m neither a real estate nor architectural photographer.

  • @Larry: I came across the Fstoppers articles recently as well and they are very good reads, with a nice tutorial in the Anatomy of a Luxury Interior Shot piece. Thanks for sharing.

    @Suzanne: I wish I could have read your entire thesis; Unfortunately, as a real estate photographer who also does architectural photography, I have a short attention span, a decreased understanding of the English language, and an IQ too low to fully understand your advanced theories.

  • @Suzanne – Your post DOES put down those of use trying to be real estate photographers and maybe hoping to go onto architectural photography. The minute you say something like ‘should realize’, you’re immediately implying that we don’t know this and probably won’t ever know this. There is a whole undercurrent of bias in your post. You are obviously someone who believes that ONLY by obtaining degrees are we good enough to work on architecture photography. The peasants should stick to real estate work and be content.

    I had hoped that this field may be one where the normal crap & biases of the world don’t exist so much. It seems I was mistaken once again as I was 30 years ago when I only took an Information Technology Diploma and not a degree and therefore was deemed not good enough to associate with the degree holders.

    I will go back to my little world where I take a few home photos for a couple of realtors and I shall once again remember to bow down before the high & mighty ones.

  • @Larry – the link to Mike Kelly’s site is very much appreciated. I also have no problem with recognizing that I’m just a very junior real estate photographer and NOT an Architectural Photographer. The stuff they do leaves me in awe of how they balance everything and with the desire to keep bettering myself to hopefully approach their level (maybe their basement level) some day.

    Thanks.

  • Yawn…another long, boring post by Suzanne talking down to the readers of this blog.

    Funny how someone who doesn’t even take the actual photos can seem to be so opinionated as to what us actual photographers should and shouldn’t do…..

    All you Architectural Photographers out there remember what Suzanne has told you…..”As an architectural photographer your goal is to keep standards high and promote professional practices and quality work for quality pricing.”

    I am NOT a architectural photographer, understanding the amount of skill and experience it takes. But I CAN say that there are many readers of this blog that could EASILY make the jump in my opinion.

    Maybe Suzanne “should realize” she is neither a real estate nor architectural photographer…or a videographer for that matter.

  • Wow – this is becoming interesting but not sure its going in a useful direction. If the egos can get out of the way, this might be a useful opportunity for all of us to learn.

    There seems to be different “types” of photographers here: real estate photographers who usually only shoot homes and are not agents; agents who also are real estate photographers; interiors photographers who also shoot exteriors; architectural photographers; and the GWACs. If there was an identifiable “skill set” for some of these categories, perhaps we could identify which group we belong in and see the specific skills we can be learning to “advance” up the skill ladder. This way, we can focus our professional development plan to our goals. The saying about the sizzle vs the steak is a good example of how an approach to a specific purpose doesn’t fit all situations yet the same vague terms are being debated here.

    Before digital arrived, it was easier to spot the masters because they had 8 x 10 view cameras; product photographers mostly used Hassleblad & Mamiya medium format cameras; and 35mm was for news, sports, photo-journalism and amateurs – all generally speaking. However, I do see in some of the professional photography groups, other than real estate, they have designations that many of them work toward and I’m sure some of the folks here even have some of these titles. So, how do we identify these specific skills and start our own designations? If Adobe can identify whats needed to be an Adobe Certified Expert in PhotoShop, then I’m sure we could identify what a person needs to know to become a Real Estate Photographer II or an Interiors Photography Specialist.

    Is this something anyone thinks is do-able on an informal blog level or would there be any interest by a group like PPA or a school like Mainsail to establish such a program? Maybe someone here is in such a group and would be willing to present the idea there?

    This group is about helping each other learn from shared discussions how to create better real estate photos. Unfortunately, all this bickering does is waste time and hurt all of us, as well as the agents and sellers we’re shooting for. Suzanne didn’t address her comments to any one person but there were some directed directly at her which didn’t sound like feedback to help her.

    So, can we get back to helping each other become better _______ (you fill in the blank) photo/video/whatever/graphers?

  • Malia – you are correct – there should be a third category for top real estate photographers who are as good as architectural photographers. You would definitely fall into that category! Like I was saying – nothing was meant as a criticism but as a definition in my opinion. We view our business as real estate photography pays the mortgage and architectural photography pays the really big bills and stature. Because we do both – we participate in forums like this one as well as architectural forums for our more commercially oriented work. You should be really proud of your accomplishments – you are an incredible photographer whose experiences in the real world have vaulted you into great new territory.

  • Joshua – LOL – have fun with it – we are both as well.

  • @Chris – thank you for your very constructive criticism. I take to heart that you don’t feel that my writing meets your expectations as I would love to be able to meet everyone’s expectations. Also, we do need to finish the website you are right about that, but as to a 15 year old – we are not directing our business to real estate photography but rather general business and it is hard to convey four different ideas on one website – please contact me at feinbergbr@mac.com for some constructive ideas for improvement – I am always open to that.

    My background is digital photography, Brad’s is architectural and engineering and photography – you don’t have to be the photographer to know what is good. I am sure that I appreciate people like Scott and Malia as much as you do and that I strive to make our business better and grow more all the time.

    We can’t please everyone all the time – and again – I am sorry you feel the way you do. But– I never talk down – only straight out!

  • @Mike Y – thanks for your support. I am always a positive person – you will never find a critical personal word on the internet to anyone from me.
    The whole point of my comment is that there is two types of photography involving structures – this is no different than being a sports photographer for a professional team and a photographer who covers sports for people – you wouldn’t expect the same equipment in the stadium as on the local park soccer field when one shot gets $2500 and the other $150? (about the average difference between architectural photography and real estate photography pricing if everyone is to be believed on their websites) Both use Canons – but one uses a 1Dx and one uses a Rebel Tsi – one uses a 500mm lens and one uses a 70-200 zoom with a 2x converter. Both are professional photographers, both go about selling their photography in a different manner and both get paid differently and use different equipment. One wouldn’t criticize one over the other especially when both provide a living, but one could intellectually and rightfully point out the differences. A $100K per year children’s sports photographer has as much right to be professional as a Joe McNally who covered sports for Sports Illustrated for many years.

    So everyone – please try to be nicer when you are answering someone you disagree with – people get hurt – especially people who care so much about the industry and people who give so much back to others at no cost other than personal time.

  • @Chris – one more thing – I am a published photographer (sports and credentials at SuperBowls and Olympics) and shoot some very famous people – I also do web design and marketing work for some world famous photographers . I have a book on real estate photography about to be published with great advice and editing from very good real estate photographers (not architectural). My Photo-art quilts hang in some very famous houses. I just don’t boast about my own personal accomplishments and through my extremely long and expensive education and business experience in photography – feel I have a right to make comments about anything I want – as do the people who buy from me. So this will be my one and only pat on my own back about my experience over the last 30 years as it relates to photography.

  • @Michael – the only people who you should bow down to are the people you choose to – which should be no-one. You should always consider yourself as good or better than someone else and always with more to learn and absorb.

    That doesn’t preclude admiring people – you should list out the people you admire and see why you admire them and how to become more like them.

    Who do I admire in the Real Estate Photography business – First and Foremost – Larry Lorhman – he dedicates his life to making this industry better.
    Scott Hargis and Malia – who could be strictly shooters but choose to share their talent with all of us through books, classes, webinars and personal responses to emails and phone calls.
    Dave W. – who started out with me earning very little money shooting for another company and now earns over a six figure income in less than one year in business for himself.
    Alan Blakely and the others who created organizations to help us improve ourselves and share with each other rather than take each other down.
    And finally Paul Rodman – who made an entry into a very busy field of tour companies and created a great product with great customer support and is there to support his customer base even beyond just technical support.

  • @Suzanne

    Its not just me that didnt feel your “writing met my expectation”. Take a look at the replies from the first 3 out of 4 people. Does that not tell you its probably not me, but most likely you and the way you come across?

    Lets clear the air here, currently you are not a real estate photographer nor a architectural photographer. Nobody cares what you have hanging in famous peoples houses or what stars you photographed 10 years ago. This blog is for real estate photography, not sports photography or famous people photography, please remember that before you comment as to what photographers can and cant evolve to. Like I said, there are many regulars of this site that could easily make the jump to architectural photography….your logic is plain stupidity.

    Its odd that you claim that you do webdesign for world famous photographers yet you use a basic cookie cutter template system that you pay monthly for by http://www.photobiz.com ?

    6 months ago you were telling people what they must be charging, today you are telling people what they can and cant evolve to….next we will hear your strong opinion on real estate video i guess….lol

  • I LOVE PHOTOBIZ.COM. If your problem is the templates – then that is another issue – either people do their own programs or they hire and pay a lot or they use templates. Are you saying that I can’t distinguish between Real Estate Photography and Architectural Photography – but you can state clearly that templates are “cookie cutters” and this is a negative? Not sure I understand why you feel this way – are those who using templates less than those who struggle through WordPress blogs on their own taking up valuable selling time? Are people’s websites worth less if they are a cookie cutter (maybe they cost less, but they are fun and easy to use).
    I believe people should strive to charge what they are worth. My whole point of my blog 6 months ago was – encourage people strive to improve and move forward at any level. I think you are reading too much into blogs and real estate groups. They are for expressing ideas whether they are different or the same, for creating thought to discuss and debate at a professional level.
    Oh yeah- I am a second shooter on real estate shoots (not architectural) and I do lighting and I do staging at the time of photography and I post and I do real estate video – so….what does that make me – Oh yeah – nothing with no opinions!
    And one more thing – I use PHOTOBIZ.com for all my clients and they love the fact that once I have designed the site, they take over. I convert at least 1 photographer a month off custom or self programming whether I do it or they do it themselves to free up their time and allow timely upgrades.

  • @Suzanne
    I think you missed the point, nothing is wrong with templates …lol (mine is a custom wordpress).. And trust me Suzanne, I am in no way implying that “those who using templates less than those who struggle through WordPress”. The comment is directed only at you….nobody else, and its based on your “web design work for some world famous photographers” comment.

    You boast that you do “web design work for some world famous photographers” yet you use a cookie cutter template that you pay monthly for? Just seems a little odd to me…

    By designing do you mean entering in the info on a template site? Maybe I misunderstood?

    Anyway, back to work for me, Im sure we can go back and forth all night but thats not fair to the others.

    Keep up the good work Suzanne, your strong opinions really help out the real estate photography community! 😉

  • This argument is fascinating and has been developing for over 10 years. Just like several other industries, professional photography is benefiting from cheap technology and free internet education, while traditional educational channels, titles, and professional segmentation are being challenged and eroded. No longer is a professional education necessary, as respected, or even preferred when hiring a creative.

    The .com boom started this trend when students were teaching professors how to write HTML code and when few courses or common knowledge existed at the time (1990). Students graduating would often start companies and become successful before any professional channels were developed to educate the new wave of talent for them to hire. The education and training of a generation of industry “professionals” started at M.U.G meetups and continued online in forums for learning (php, flash, html, css, etc). Online forums such as PFRE, Strobist, and others have done the same for Photography of all genres.

    Today the assumed differentiation between architectural photography and real estate photography is simply a matter of technique, skill and price point all of which are determined by market, business model and experience. To differentiate or classify any structural photographer as architectural vs. real estate is now obsolete and pointless. The gear used can be the same. The techniques, time and workflow can can be the same. The only differentiation may be one of composition. Consequently the compensation is both decreasing for traditional Architectural photographers and is increasing for some markets in Real Estate photography. I believe this is why so many papered, titled, and invested Architectural photographers are striving to make and differentiate between the industries and exactly why they come across as elitist and outdated.

    It seems to me that the underlying gripe of most traditional “architectural” photographers is a resentment and fear of a diluted industry. One where they see a race to the bottom not specifically in quality but in their traditionally justifiable rates. Fortunately our industry is literally one of what you see is what you get. All photographers are eventually defined, hired and compensated based on the quality of their work. How they get that quality changes every day and today is more easily achieved than ever before. Furthermore, it is the next client not the industry that determines the demand for style and quality. The photographer simply delivers it and continues to work.

    Scott Hargis is a great example of a self-taught talented photographer whose skill is only eclipsed by his marketing acumen. As this post demonstrates, he is capable of using traditional architectural photography techniques to accomplish the job at hand. Or when the business model demands it, create a lightweight, almost run and gun workflow to shoot higher volume lower-priced projects. It’s simply comes down to a matter of fitting the appropriate technique to the clients needs and budget. Any photographer who can pull from an infinite bag of tricks to accommodate any client is neither architectural or real estate oriented they are just damn good.

    To those Photographers of any description: “architectural”, “real estate” or otherwise, that produce the highest quality, understand their clients needs and deliver, hearing a self proclaimed expert assume to define the parameters of their industry and who belongs where in the pecking order is infuriating and indicative of an inferiority complex. Talk about trying to sell the sizzle, not the steak…never sell the sizzle to the Butcher, he has seen where the steak comes from!

  • I could not agree more with Boulderghost.

  • I just dragged the pecking order out to my backyard and burned it.

  • I would not say that technology has necessarily made things easier if high quality and maximum capability to compete are the goals. Technology may make some basic photographic processes easier, but it also offers incredible opportunities for photographers to create images in ways they could never do with film.

    As far as real estate photography versus architectural photography, perhaps one way to describe them is that real estate photography is concerned primarily with showing space, with the design of the house being less important (beyond showing the basic style of the house), and that architectural photography is primarily concerned with the design of the house. Not that showing space is not important for architectural photography, but the space needs to be represented in the context of the form and structure of the building to be effective, whereas the space itself is often of overwhelming importance to real estate clients, to the point that they will tolerate pronounced distortion of the design and structure that would not be acceptable to most architects.

  • Exactly David,
    That is what I awkwardly tried to refer to as the difference in composition. The differences are just that, differences, no more than the differences between learning lifestyle vs. portrait. Today, the industry “secrets” are freely dissected and explained on Flicker groups. All that is needed is to read, practice and apply yourself. I agree that technology invites higher expectations than ever before, but it has also opened opportunity to simple business models in photography that weren’t available just 5 or 10 years ago. Today a Nikon D800 can suffice in almost any photographic job and lighting is available for a fraction of the outlay of yesterday. It’s all good news, unless your business model is derived less on exclusive ability and more on prohibitive hurdles of entry that protect the established photographers and their rates while discouraging new blood. That reality has changed and with it, the old “professional” distinctions are eroding.

  • It is not merely differences. Architectural photography, if done well, is much more difficult than real estate photography, even though the subject matter and basic techniques may be the same. And all the techniques in the world will not make up for lack of talent and visual training. I do not think that there is necessarily a natural progression from real estate photography to architectural photography. The needs, tastes and visual skills of real estate clients are often quite different from those of architects, and I do not think that simply shooting nice homes will necessarily lead to doing architectural photography well. I think that one needs to make a concerted effort to use real estate photography in that way, and that is not easy to do when working with real estate clients who tend to prefer a photographic style that can actually be antithetical to good architectural photography. Also, real estate photography typically does not allow sufficient time with the subject to develop one’s skills for high-quality architectural photography, beyond some basic ones. I have been relatively fortunate with real estate work, in that I have been able to spend more time at the properties than most, as well as having had more access to properties of fairly high architectural interest. Beyond that, however, before I ever became involved in real estate photography, or any kind of commercial photography, I had formal training in the medium (technique and aesthetics) and I have had a life-long interest in art, much of it involving informal study, but I have taken some art history courses. This is not to say that it is impossible to be successful if one is completely self taught, but I think one at least needs to start with some basic talent and innate visual skills, and to be willing to work very hard to develop one’s visual, as well as technical, skills. Ansel Adams once said that photography is knowing where to stand. Of course there is more to it than that, but all the rest doesn’t really matter unless one knows where to stand. And it can take a long time to learn that seemingly simple skill.

  • David- All good points and I agree with almost everything you said. however, I do believe that it’s merely compositional differences that separates architectural and real estate photography genres not difficulty or talent. Given the BEST examples of each the difficulty can be very similar however it’s primarily the difference in composition and sometimes technique (such as using more ambient light to emphasize the architectural lighting features rather than a more common real estate approach of bright is right).

    I will concede that in the past the typical real estate business model often allowed for a much more basic and sloppy approach given the lack of expectation from the client and time allowed. However it is my point that today those differences are starting to blur and that the difficulty between the two approaches is starting to equalize at the highest examples of each art. Shooting multi million dollar homes requires multiple visits for optimal lighting conditions, sophisticated lighting setups, pc lenses, staging, even models and much the same technical requirements as any Architectural shoot. I just don’t see the hierarchy that you imply. Granted, the existance of poorly executed, “run and gun” real estate work my tarnish the craft, the accomplished high end RE photog will excel at Architectural photography much more readily than any Architect or Art school grad, I’d bet. My observation on learning each craft is that today the best way to learn may be the internet instead of $60,000 degree from Brooks Institute. Given either approach, talent is a mutual requirement for success, as always.

    I think where we get into trouble is trying to say that one discipline is more difficult than the other or that you need to be more talented or more “professional” for one than the other. That elitism is an aspect of our industry that is insulting, obstructive and not nearly as applicable today. Real estate photography in some markets is almost identical in required talent, effort, gear, and experience as typical architectural photography. There may be less compensation due to traditional expectations and the intended usage of the product. It is my hope and prediction, that very soon, the expectations, requirements, and compensation will be more equitable. Things are evolving and the lines are blurring, that is the trend as I see it.

  • Boulderghost — who are you? You’re making way too much sense for an internet discussion….

    I think your points are insightful and well-articulated.

    🙂

  • Thank you very much Scott! That means a lot to me, especially coming from you. I am an Architectural/RE photographer working out of Sun Valley, Idaho. I shoot in the Bay Area occasionally also. I have been shooting for @4 years, self taught, mostly studied online forums such as PFRE, Strobist, YouTube, etc… My website is a little out of date, but here your go:
    dubdubdub torytagliophotography dot com
    -Tory

  • Boulderghost, you forgot one very important criterium besides composition: lighting. Architectural photographers may spend hours or days, or even months getting the right light for one view of a subject. Real estate photography typically requires that, perhaps, 15 to 30 photos be shot in the space of a couple of hours, and there often isn’t much flexibility about what time of day the shooting takes place. Furthermore, these 15 to 30 photos are usually due by the day following the shoot, which doesn’t leave a great deal of time for extensive processing to partially compensate for poor lighting. While some real estate photographers have learned to efficiently light their interiors to provide some degree of compensation for poor ambient lighting, that still leaves the exteriors to suffer. I did not mean to imply that there is not some overlap between architectural and real estate photography, there are a few realtors who actually tout their use of architectural photography and who hire established architural shooters at considerably higher rates than are common for most real eatate photography. And there are some architects who, due to a limited budget, use what might be loosely defined as real estate photography for their marketing. I suspect this has been the case for quite some time. Nor did I mean to imply that one needs a degree or some sort of certification to do architectural photography. However, I do think that there are a lot of photographers who could benefit considerably from some kind of formal training, whether that be workshops or some classes at a local college. Also, there is the traditional method of apprenticeship: working as an assistant to an established pro. Still, none of this is to say that one cannot be completely self taught and be successful.

  • I think you make a good point about the crossover between mostly real estate photogs shooting for Architects. I have spent several days getting perfect light on a realtor’s multi million dollar listing. It’s common in my market, especially in the Winter snow, to scrim windows, setup arris for twilights and use up to 10 strobes and a few AB 1600’s (dark log homes, 8000sf +). Sometimes you would think that its an Architectural shoot, except the compensation is nowhere near the traditional fee. The usage license is only for the life of the listing, so I have re-licensed several of these photos a few times over. Still, I believe the most gratuitous aspect that may define the genre, is compensation. I guess reputation is everything, regardless what is printed on your business card, under your name.

  • “It’s simply comes down to a matter of fitting the appropriate technique to the clients needs and budget. Any photographer who can pull from an infinite bag of tricks to accommodate any client is neither architectural or real estate oriented they are just damn good.”

    Perfect!

    I always held a similar belief as an architect. Good design is independent of budget or client.
    The best of the designers can take the given parameters of a project and create excellence.

  • Larry, many thanks for posting and sharing! I’m incredibly awed by the great discussion that occurred here as well, I’ve definitely learned a thing or two reading it. Of course, I learned a great deal by reading this site and wouldn’t be where I am without it 🙂

  • @Mike and @Larry Lohrman – I agree – one of the best sites for learning and expressing oneself. Thank you Larry.

  • I don’t want to ‘personalize’ this conversation into “architectural photographers” vs “real estate photographers.” So instead let me just comment on what I see as two “modes.” This is my take on it, for what it’s worth.

    I think there are key differences between photographing in “architectural mode” versus real estate mode that go beyond mere technique. I think technique is of course a function of technical skill within the constraints of time and budget that are allowable for a given project. I’d love to take as much time per setup on real estate shoots as I would for an architectural shoot but I don’t think I’d be working for long if I did.

    Before I go on, I will say that we all know there are of course many philosophies about how to capture an image and what defines one photographer from another. However, it seems clear to me – and this is largely based on conversations I’ve had with architects, rather than photographers – that many architects are looking for one who can to some degree, help to capture not just space and spacial relationships, but also the social narrative of a building. It’s beyond mere aesthetic. For a project I’ve been discussing with an architect of public buildings, he has discussed the importance not of ‘features’ in the way a realtor might, but much more about the social narrative. For example, in this case, the building is, from many viewpoints, considerably transparent and this connects inside and outside as part of that social narrative. As such, the ‘story’ of how this building is connected to it’s environment, and how humans flow through and as part of it, is essential to what he wants evoked in the images I shoot. It’s really a portrait of a building rather than simply documenting it. Of course, real estate shoots can sometimes do this very effectively, but that’s not really the main requirement of the shoot which is clearly to present the space in as appealing a way to make it more marketable.

    I think that from an architects’ perspectives at least, that is the difference. They recognize that it takes time to achieve the extreme quality of image they demand, and they expect you to do some thinking about what your picture says. That, coupled with extreme chops and ‘knowing where to stand!’ :-).

    For me, the search to improve technically is of course never-ending. There’s so much to know, from planning through post-production. But I also try to read a little here and there about architecture itself, to help me understand truly what goes in to a building’s design so I can get better at empathizing and understanding what an architect wants to say in a photo, and hopefully delivering that!

    One could somewhat cynically call this philosophical babble for “make sure you get the garden in” but I think architects hope that their photographers very much do NOT think that way. They are looking for their photographer to connect the dots of their design , not just as a passive capture, but in an interpretive aesthetically pleasing, technically competent manner. And that’s why, in addition to paying more, they say you as a photographers as fellow ‘professionals’, for lack of a better term.

    There’s plenty of crossover between the two modes to be sure, but they do have their distinct differences, the way I see it.

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