Solar Prediction – The use of Solar Prediction in Architectural Photography

The most important thing in photography whether you work with digital or film is good quality light, only a well lit subject will produce a good photograph. Much architectural exterior photography is reliant on the sun as it’s sole light source, knowing the sun’s bearing and altitude throughout the year allows the architectural photographer to pick the ideal time to shoot any building or structure.

This approach will not suit everyone, estate agents for example need photographs of properties immediately they come on the market. This can limit achievable image quality in this branch of photography and is perhaps why it is often referred to as real estate photography. It’s usually hoped these images will have a short shelf life as the property will sell quickly, therefore maximising image quality is not always a priority.

This approach to architectural photography may be described as putting projects in their best light. If you’re a building designer you will typically want to wow your prospective clients with imagery of past projects that convinces them you are the best partner to take care of the aesthetic of their project. A building owner or a tenant running a business that needs to attract customers to their premises will also benefit from this approach.

It may seem obvious in the northern hemisphere, north facing facades will only get the sun on them during the summer months, in many cases this knowledge will be insufficient. Neighbouring structures can cast shadows that are innocuous to the eye when stood in front of the building but look awful on photographic images. One service Stuart Brown Photographic offers it’s clients is solar prediction, using software to plot the position of the sun on satellite images allows the optimal time to photograph any architecture anywhere in the world to be determined. This prediction used to be done using sun protractors, computer modelling gives a more accurate result.

Solar Prediction - Canary Wharf

The above example shows where the sun and moon would have been at Canada Square in London’s Canary Wharf at 07:35 hrs on 11 May 2015 and the sun and moon rise and set positions. When image quality counts, solar prediction can help put the photographer in the right place at the right time.