Sunday, 13 April 2014

Best Time of the Year for Architectural Photography

The height and angle of the sun and the quality (color temperature) of light varies with changing seasons. Let us discuss what the conditions are during each of the four seasons and find out the best time of the year for photographing architecture.

Best Time of the Year for Architectural Photography
Best Time of the Year for Architectural Photography - Photo by: jesuscm 


Advantages of Choosing Summer months to Photograph Architecture

During the summer, sun is at a much higher angle in the sky than in any other season. So summer is an ideal time to shoot exteriors (especially in crowded locations) as the higher elevation of the sun enables light to reach even the most confined of streets and alleys illuminating parts of buildings that are either fully or partly in shade during most part of the year.

Apart from the angle of light, one other factor is the color of light. During summer the light is whiter than in any other season. Also any trees or shrubs on location will have lush green foliage adding to the freshness of the location.

Other advantages of choosing summer months for architectural work is that days are longer and deep blue skies are more frequent during the time.

Disadvantages of Choosing Summer months to Photograph Architecture

However there are some disadvantages too, during summer as the light is coming from a higher point in the sky, shadows are shorter. There is also a tendency for haze to be present in the atmosphere which could greatly reduce contrast and thus degrade the image quality.


Advantages of Choosing Winter months to Photograph Architecture

During winter months the sun is at a much lower height in the sky than during any other season. The quality (color temperature) of light is redder than during other seasons owing to the extra distance the light needs to travel through the earth’s atmosphere. This could add a bit of warmth to the scene which works well with architecture. Also during winter the air is much clearer and crispier with very little haze producing clear, sharp, high contrast pictures.

The lower angle of sun helps light penetrate deeper into interior spaces. This is beneficial for photographing interiors as the long shafts of sunlight with a golden tint to it could greatly increase the richness of the interiors.

Disadvantages of Choosing Winter months to Photograph Architecture

Although light during winter months produce long shadows, penetrate deep into otherwise hard to reach spaces and add warmth to the image, the lower elevation of the sun make exterior photography during the time much more difficult. Days are shorter during winter and to get the shot right precise timing is of paramount importance.

One other disadvantage is the extreme cold weather (happens more when there is clear blue skies during winter) and the chances of fog.

Best Time of the Year for Architectural Photography

We have seen what conditions are present during summer and winter months and the advantages and disadvantages of both. Now Spring and Autumn months presents conditions that are somewhat of a compromise between the advantages and disadvantages of both the summer and winter months. Also Spring and Autumn are the best season to shoot rich and natural looking foliage. So considering the facts we could infer that Best time of the year to shoot Architecture is during Spring and Autumn. 

While this being true, in reality we never get to shoot a building at our chosen time; practical constraints are always there and more often than not what we do is to make the best out of available conditions when we are on location or choose a day from within a relatively narrow frame work of time say a week or two. However being knowledgeable about the various factors do add to our ability to make wise decisions.

Related Reading

  1. Weather Forecasting for Architectural Photography
  2. Architectural Photography – Taming Natural Light for Exterior Shots
  3. The Importance of Styling and Detailing in Architectural Photography
  4. Perspective in Interiors Photography
  5. Controlling Perspective in Exterior Shots Using Focal Length