In the previous article Best Time of the Year for Architectural Photography we have already mentioned that the sun reaches much higher elevations in summer than in winter months. This also changes the angle from which sunlight strikes subjects on earth. As architectural photographers out objective will be to use the light emphasize the right characteristics of the building. The angle at which the building is lit will determine which all parts of the building receive direct sunlight, where the shadows are, how long or short are the shadows, the amount of contrast between the bright and dark areas in the picture, whether it reveals or hides texture, how rich are the colors and also whether it enhances or compresses perspective.
The movement and angle of the sun
The effect you wish to achieve in your shots determine the angle from which the building should be lit. Since we have no control over the sun, the best we could do is to shoot during the right time of the day. Having a strong understanding about the movement and angle of the sun will help you work out the optimum time of day to shoot the relevant elevations thus making the most efficient use of available sunlight.
Best Angle of the Sun for Straight on Front Elevation Shots
|Best Angle of the Sun for Straight on Front Elevation Shots|
The best position of the sun for shooting straight on front elevation shots is when the sun is approximately 45° between the axis of the lens and the plane of the elevation. The light coming from the side and from a height is creates perfect shadows for both modelling the structure and to reveal texture.
Best Angle of the Sun for Shooting 60°/30° Perspective of the Front Elevation
|Best Angle of the Sun for Shooting Front Elevation from an angle|
For Shooting 60°/30° Perspective of the Front Elevation the best angle of the sun is approximately 90° between the axis of the lens and the plane of the elevation. From that angle the front elevation of the building will be well lit while the side of the building will be in shadow, this will emphasize the three dimensional feel of the picture.
You can vary the tonal difference between the lit and shadow areas by changing the angle of light (shooting at a different time). When the angle between the lens axis and the direction of the sun becomes smaller the tonal contrast decreases and the building appears flat. The smaller the angle the lesser the contrast and vice versa. One advantage of lesser tonal variation is that the side of the building will receive more light and therefore will show more detail on the side elevation; this could be very important for certain elevations.
One little problem you may face when photographing buildings up close using wide angle lenses especially during winter months (sun being in a much lower elevation creating longer shadows) is that the photographers shadow may appear in the image. This could be easily fixed by:
- Using a longer focal length lens if there is space for you to move further away from the building.
- If you are shooting with a tilt shift lens, you could use vertical shift to crop foreground where the shadow appears.
- If there is another building or a tree behind you, you can hide or disguise your shadow with that of the buildings or trees.
- One final option is to wait for the sun to move round or select an alternative angle where the sun in a more favourable position.
- Weather Forecasting for Architectural Photography
- Architectural Photography – Taming Natural Light for Exterior Shots
- The Importance of Styling and Detailing in Architectural Photography
- Perspective in Interiors Photography
- Controlling Perspective in Exterior Shots Using Focal Length