Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

So why try to Photograph it in a day?

With architectural and indeed any form of commercial photography being such a critical business decision, I’m often surprised how many prospects simply request a day rate without any notion of what is to be achieved in a day. I understand everyone has budgets but what’s the point in saving a few quid on marketing when you’re targeting multimillion pound projects?

Briefing an Architectural Photographer for Success

No marketing manager is going to look good reporting to the board, how they managed to cut expenditure when their competitors received more and better enquiries. It’s often said the first thing any prospect looks at on a website or brochure is the photographs, if these don’t convey the right message, chances are the prospect will go elsewhere.

As an architectural photographer I want to take away as much “pain” as possible and put my clients in the best position to realise their goals. The more I know about the planned use of any images I’m commissioned to produce, the more able I am to deliver work that achieves these objectives and yields the maximum return on expenditure.

My checklists are something of a simplified version of an architect’s brief and can be completed via telephone conversation, video conference or face to face. Once I know the objectives I can put together a fixed price quotation that achieves as much as possible within budget. If I’m simply booked to shoot something next Wednesday, all I can do is go to site, shoot as much as possible and pray the weather produces some good light to make the images interesting.

How Many Shots can I Produce in an Hour or a Day?

The simple answer to this question is it depends on what I’m shooting, how lucky I’m with the weather and how many things need moving to create the best possible shot. I’ve spent best part of two hours shooting just one image and minutes on others.

If I know a large print is needed to hang on a wall where prospects are going to see it, I may spend more time and effort on it than I would on an image that is to appear on social media and be forgotten within 24 hours. That’s not because I value social media less but because I’m pragmatic and deliver value.

Story Behind The Photographs

The four image snippets at the top of this post are of very different projects and demonstrate some of the challenges of producing quality architectural photography:

  1. Merlion statue in Singapore, being only one degree north of the equator there are around 12 hours of sunshine with the sun peaking at around 66 degrees altitude every day of the year, (approx. 8 hours / 15 degrees mid winter, 16.5 hours / 62 degrees mid summer in London). I.e. at these latitudes the sun rises and sets very quickly giving only a short working window for the photographer. On this particular day a band of light cloud on the horizon effectively delayed the sunrise, time to capture this image on site was around 90 minutes.
  2. Interior of Southwater Library in Telford England. Although a relatively straight forward shot with good lighting inside the library. The image was made at dusk when illumination inside and outside were approximately equal to afford the viewer a taste of the surrounding architecture, which had been completed around the same time as the library building.
  3. This architectural detail was taken on a typical April day with showers and sunshine in southern England when I was literally shooting interiors when it rained and rushing outside when the sun came out. The shot itself only took a couple of minutes to capture with the appropriate lens.
  4. The Frauenkirche in Dresden is a special challenge. The only time of year when the sun is low enough to bring out all the details on the facade without shadow from neighbouring buildings is December and January. The view is blocked in December by stalls from the annual Striezelmarkt. When I made this image I had to wait until I got a clear shot without too many people between camera and building. When I got my break in the human traffic the sun had become so low the Martin Luther statue cast a hard shadow on the right of the image.