Composing Better Cityscapes and Building Photos

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Photographing buildings can be tough sometimes when it comes to working with big and crowded cities. Getting to the right spot, composition, and even exposures can vary greatly and what should be a very careful and slow process can sometimes be rushed. But it doesn’t have to feel that way if you just make it a habit to follow a couple of key practices.

Combine Architectural Shooting with Street Photography

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To start, we recommend doing some of the things that street photographers have been doing for many years. When you think about that genre of the artform you think about getting up close, wide, and capturing moments that will elicit emotions in a person. And for the most part, we’re pretty much telling you to do the same thing. When you see a beautiful building, think about just how awestruck you are in the moment and figure out a way to do justice to the structure in your image.

Do you think that you’re incredibly dwarfed by it? Well then get right below the building and shoot upward to show this. But that’s only one method to do show that off.

Look for Natural Lines That Work with the Rule of Thirds

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Buildings are more or less a bunch of lines that work vertically and horizontally. And when you combine this fact with the rule of thirds, working to capture the buildings becomes either much simpler or incredibly more complex based on how you look at it–but it’s a start!

Something that we recommend is taking in all the lines in a scene–not just for the central building to your image but with those around it. Then work on composing the scene to get more out of it than the standard image of just a building.

Additionally, you can work with other things on the street to help frame better scenes like trees, pedestrians, etc. But in order to do any of this to begin with, we recommend that you get a wider perspective of your scene.

Shoot Extra Wide

Because cities tend ot be cramped and getting the right vantage point becomes more difficult due to urban construction layouts, we recommend that you shoot with a wider angle than what you’re typically used to. When doing this, you can can have an easier time working with the image in post because you can get the main focus of the image in the center where the lens is less distorted. Then you can work with the composition more in post-production if you want. Additionally, it gives you some extra room to work with when photographing large buildings so that you can capture a larger and grander scene.

Use the Sky And Building Intersections

One of the things that I always say to everyone visiting New York City is that they should always look up. Besides just seeing the skies and the history of many buildings, they’ll be able to see where buildings interact with the skies and create interesting compositions.

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When you do this you can create some very interesting compositions using both negative and positive space while playing with shapes.

Expose for the Details of the Building

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Ever heard of composing by color? Lastly, in order to get another sort of interesting composition, consider composing your scenes by the colors in the image vs the rule of thirds. Granted, this only really works in certain situations unless you expose differently and work with the images in black and white afterwards. Then you can adjust the contrast accordingly and work with the scene to create something better than what you got out of the camera.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.