Photoshoot Planning for RIBA Architectural Awards

Photoshoot Planning for RIBA Architectural Awards

Photoshoot Planning for RIBA Architectural Awards. There are deadlines for almost everything, one deadline architectural practices face annually is the submission period for RIBA awards, which is generally from December to January for UK projects. Part of the submission requirement is 10 low resolution and 5 high resolution photographs, showing both the building’s exterior and interior, preferably with the building in use.

Like good construction, the production of photographs for these submissions works best when well planned. This post looks at why the photographer needs time to complete his work and explains why sometimes, multiple site visits are the best solution to produce the best photographs and therefore the best chance of winning.

The image at the top of the page shows the difference between shooting on a predetermined date and deciding when to shoot by checking the weather forecast. The facade on this building faces northeast and was shot in August, by mid October this facade is in shadow the entire day. Note also the soil smear on the base of the wall in the left hand image from heavy overnight rain, assistance from an occupier with a brush can overcome such issues.

Building Orientation

Since submission deadline is in winter, many architectural practices will first start preparation after the summer holiday period, this post therefore focuses on the period late August to late November.

As the seasons progress from late summer to late autumn, the point at which the sun rises and sets moves from north to south. One consequence for architectural photography is any building with a north facing facade, will receive some illumination from the sun until mid September, thereafter production of an interesting exterior shot will depend on other light sources.

Weather Patterns

According to the Meteorological Office the average number of sunshine hours per month steadily decreases during the submission preparation period, both the shortening of the day and increased frequency of rain contribute to this. To add to the challenge of a last minute urgent shoot at the end of the submission period, high pressure regions coming in from the Atlantic often cause fine weather periods that last a few days.

These weather systems can cause intensely busy times for architectural photographers, travelling from one building to another between sunrise and sunset to get the best possible images for clients. A consequence of this is images can become queued for processing resulting in longer turnaround times from shooting to delivering finished images.

Met Office averages for the UK:

Month                            Sunshine Hours                   Rainy Days (more than 1mm)

August                            163.0                                              12

September                      124.7                                              12

October                           92.5                                                15

November                       57.2                                                15


Appointing an architectural photographer early in the process of Photoshoot Planning for RIBA Architectural Awards will improve the chances both of meeting submission deadlines and of getting the best photographic images possible. In our example of the RIBA awards, this is particularly true for north facing buildings without significant nighttime facade illumination. For any architectural exterior photography the availability of sunlight rapidly decreases during the period, August through November. Turnaround times for architectural photographs can increase when weather patterns create periods of sunny and grey days.

Architectural photographers also like it when client’s win competitions and are willing to contribute solutions to produce the best possible imagery, sometimes this could involve multiple site visits. As an architectural photographer, I always welcome the opportunity to discuss how to proceed with a shoot as this is the way to achieve the best results and give my clients the best chance of winning awards and recognition for their work.

Grey days can be conducive to interior photography, therefore all is not lost if the photographer’s appointment is left to the last minute. However, in these cases be prepared for the possibility of multiple site visits, possibly shooting an interior at the building occupier’s convenience and a drive by exterior shooting when the weather’s good.

Involving the Building Occupier

The RIBA expresses a preference to show buildings in use, it’s therefore very helpful if the architect can put the photographer in contact with the building owner. If an exterior shot is to be done at night, the co-operation of the building occupier to switch on lighting and remove posters from windows Etc is very welcome as is knowing window cleaning schedules for daytime shoots.

The ability to do interior shots of an occupied building interior will very much depend on the occupier and what the building’s used for. Some buildings will be a total no-go after occupation, others will have no-go areas for photography. It may be possible  to shoot a swimming pool in use but not the changing rooms, in such cases shooting the changing rooms immediately before handover and revisiting after opening to shoot the pool might be the ideal solution.