– Considerations to get the Best Possible Outcome when Commissioning an Architectural Photographer

Commissioning an Architectural Photographer

Any business in architecture, civil/structural engineering, real estate, building materials and products or marketing of places to visit that has decided on commissioning an architectural photographer will wish to brief the photographer in in a way that will get the best out of their commission. In a previous post I highlighted the value of good architectural and commercial photography, this post considers the steps to take in the commissioning of that photography to ensure the best possible outcome.

In order to get the right imagery, a client needs to consider the message they wish to broadcast about themselves and how they want to use the final images. Portrait or landscape orientation, negative space to position logos and titles, panoramic images to fit to sliders streaming across the top of websites, composite images to show multiple subjects simultaneously, Etc. These are best thought out at the start of a project and communicated to the photographer before he is sent off to site. The more the photographer knows about the intended use of the images the more able he will be to deliver the best results.

In the case of a business involved in construction, consideration of whether to show the finished building, furnished, unfurnished with construction work in progress Etc may also be an important consideration.

To produce a brochure consideration of paper size and orientation are important, A3 and A4 paper have nearly a 5:7 aspect ratio, most digital cameras are either 2:3 or 3:4 aspect ratio and large format 4:5, if advised of the intended usage of the images the photographer can compose and crop the images to fit the required output size. If an A4 portrait brochure is to be produced a portrait oriented exterior shot of a building with a large area of sky at the top for the placement of logos and titles for the cover, an A3 landscape image for the centrefold and a collection of other images to fill around blocks of text on interior pages might be what’s needed. A completely different set of images may be required if the intention is to produce an A4 landscape brochure, a trifold or a 6″ x 4″ postcard.

The required size of images are best determined at the start of a project. Anything more than around 1080 pixels will slow a website and not make a significant contribution to it’s appearance, print resolution is usually 300 dpi (dots per inch), which may be reduced to 125 dpi for roadside hoardings. The large format camera I presented in previously, can produce 6′ prints in fine art resolution, the higher scanning costs and longer editing times can make image files in this quality uneconomic unless they are necessary. 16″ x 20″ framed prints or 24″ x 30″ canvasses will look great on most boardroom walls and are significantly less expensive to produce. It amazes me how many offices and boardrooms I visit with bare walls when hanging 3 or 4 images of completed projects could make a positive impression on visiting prospects, it’s therefore worth asking for at least one image in a higher resolution.

The position and elevation of the sun has a major impact on how architectural exteriors and interiors appear in photographs, a set of floor plans showing a north arrow, window positions and sizes plus a site plan that highlights walls, fences, trees and any other feature that could cause shadows can benefit the photographer in his work. With this information an architectural photographer can predict not only how the sun will illuminate the building exterior but also how it will penetrate the interior and plan the best sequence in which to photograph the interior spaces. New buildings, may not appear on satellite maps and it’s usually difficult or impossible to determine the position of the critical rooms within a building by looking at on-line maps.

For all challenges there is a solution, if for example a north facing facade is to be photographed but the photographer is commissioned in September it may be half a year or more before the sun shines on the facade. The architectural photographer can recommend several ways to achieve a satisfactory result, which may include doing interior shots only  initially and returning to shoot the facade at a better time of year, taking an exterior shot and replacing it the following summer or if the facade is illuminated doing a night shot and adding a day time shot later. Clients who wish to update brochures and websites with images of several projects but who wish to spend their photography budget gradually over a year or so may approach an architectural photographer with their entire catalogue of photographic requirements and use the experience and knowledge of the photographer to decide which projects to photograph each month.

To conclude, consider the image at the top of this post and think sun, building, photographer and how you plan to use the images in order to get the best out of your commission.

Please get in touch if you wish to discuss an architectural photography project.