I don't often have the
time to wonder in the streets of the city shooting historical building and
monuments. I had the chance one time though to go with a photographer friend of
mine, both holding our DSLRs and tripods on our back, acting like tourists in
our own town. I was not sure what to shoot and how to shoot it that night. The
result however was astonishing and it is a proof that you don't need fancy
equipment to shoot amazing architectural details. Like me, when you take that
walk, you will notice that there’s never
any shortage of interesting buildings to photograph.
If this is your first time, I urge you not to worry too much about perspective-correction, leveling, and reflection-reducing polarizing filters.
Tip 1: forget about not shooting clichés i.e. don't care whether somebody else has taken that similar photo before you. If it’s original to you and you like it, then go with it.
Tip 2: if you are looking for something new that nobody has shot before, reduce that wide angle and start focusing on the details. I am sure that mosque was photographer hundreds of time before from the same angle. To me I wanted to try a close-up to it from behind. The result I guess is self-satisfying and original.
Tip 3: ancient buildings offer a variety of texture and structural components. Take a step back and look at the whole then zoom in and look for the details that tells the story of the architect who build it.
Tip 4: find the right angle, composition, and lighting. Don’t be afraid to experiment angles, underexposure and composition. Most importantly shoot many photos and don’t be cheap about it. You will decide later what to keep, what to process, and what to reject.
Tip 5: what about equipment and settings? Well off course a good tripod and a selection of the right lens. Just like any photography subject, your focal length is going to depend on the size of the subject and your proximity to it. In all cases consider investing in an all for one lens like me. I usually grab that 18-200 Canon lens. On the other hand, if you are in Tunisia and photographing only doors then you’ll need a wider angle lens.
When you are photographing the entire building, you have to be careful about tilting your camera back too far and causing distortion. When you tilt back to look up at a building, the bottom of the sensor is closer to the building that the top of the sensor, resulting in an image where the top looks narrower than the bottom. Well you won’t encounter this issue while photographing details but you still need to consider it.
As a final note, shooting architectural details can be a great way to sharpen your lighting and composition skills and you will have the chance to practice in less stressful settings because you can experiment with only natural light and without worrying about you being fast enough to get the picture right before it is too late (like in sports and weddings) or you subject becoming bored (like in portraits).
Keep shooting – Gaby Awad