Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Right Weather For Photographing Architecture

Photographing Architecture on Bright Sunny Days

Right Weather For Photographing Architecture
Right Weather For Photographing Architecture: Photo by: Randy Von Liski

Bright sunny days with clear blue skies and few fair weather clouds are the ideal weather conditions for photographing architecture. Sun being billions of miles away from earth causes sunlight to be very hard light. As a result direct sunlight on buildings produces sharp high contrast pictures with clearly defined shadows and rich saturated colors. Such hard light is great to reveal texture and detail in the buildings, especially when the light strikes from an angle.

One other advantage is the bright blue skies that we get, attractive sky is one important aesthetic element when photographing buildings. But that is not the only reason for choosing sunny days for out shoot. The exposure for bright blue skies and the building beneath it lit by direct sunlight are most likely to be even. So we could easily expose our sky and the building in one single shot as long as the sun is at some angle behind you.

Photographing Architecture on Overcast Days

Overcast conditions are generally not recommended for architectural photography. The major reason for this is the quality of light. When there are clouds in the sky, the overhead clouds acts as a giant diffuser not that far from the earth’s surface. This alters the quality of sunlight and makes it a soft even light which wraps around objects, penetrates even the most difficult spaces and fills in the shadows. As a result of light striking from many angles, even the shadow areas get much more light. This reduces the overall contrast of the picture and also hides textural details; as a result the building appears flat making the picture dull and boring.

Apart from the reduced contrast and texture there is one other problem; that is of exposure. We know that the clouds above are now acting as giant diffusers and this in effect makes them our new light source. Now we are trying to photograph a subject with the light source also in the picture. Obviously the clouds overhead are going to be many stops brighter than the buildings in the foreground. Now in certain cases you could reduce the problem either by using graduated neutral density filters or by taking multiple exposures (one for the sky and one for the building) and then combining them later in image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop.

However not everything is bad about overcast skies, we know such conditions are very much preferred by photographers working in other genres of photography like landscapes, nature and even portraits; the soft diffused light along with a sky which has a lot of character could add a lot of mood and drama to the shot. In architectural photography too there are certain subjects that actually benefit from such conditions.

One such subject is north facing buildings. Elevations of buildings facing north receive very little to no direct sunlight depending on their exact position. Then there are building in crowded cities where sun never could light the entire building at once due to other buildings, structures, trees or any other object blocking the light. A building cut in two by direct sunlight and shadow is a very difficult subject to handle. In those situations overcast conditions could easily illuminate the entire structure producing much more pleasing lighting than on bright sunny days.

So you need to consider all aspects about the location of your building, the direction in which it is facing, are there buildings or other structures obstructing sunlight in the angle from which you wish to photograph etc. 

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