5 Basics of Architecture Photography, by Matthew Anderson

The video discusses the five basic fundamentals of architecture photography according to the host Matthew. He first outlines some prerequisite equipment like a DSLR camera to control settings, a wide angle lens to avoid distortion, and a sturdy tripod for long exposures.

The five fundamentals are:

1) Use a narrow aperture around f/8-f/13 for maximum sharpness.

2) Carefully compose shots to tell a visual story and highlight important elements.

3) Have the main light source pointed toward or perpendicular to the camera to create texture and dimension.

4) Use consistent color temperature light to maintain accuracy and avoid muddiness.

5) Keep the camera level so vertical lines appear straight.

Matthew elaborates on each principle with examples and explanations. He notes there are sometimes exceptions and wiggle room, but following these core fundamentals will lead to professional-looking architecture photos. Matthew wraps up by asking viewers for feedback on any principles he may have missed.


In this video, I’m going to go over what I would consider the five basic fundamentals of architecture photography. Music So if you’re new to the channel, my name is Matthew. I’m an interiors and architecture photographer based in Kansas City.

Now if you ask any professional who’s been in any kind of field for an extended period of time, more than likely they are aware of the fundamentals of that field in order to be a successful professional.

Whether it’s a chef, a carpenter, an accountant, or an electrician, there are basic principles that they apply to their work on a regular basis that help them be good at their job. Well, the same exact thing can be said for the field of architecture photography.

For seasoned architecture photographers, most of what I’m going to go over is going to seem pretty obvious. But for individuals who are brand new to this genre or possibly kicking around the idea of getting into it for the first time, well, this video is for you.

So before we get into my list of five fundamentals, let’s go over what I would consider equipment prerequisites. The first being a good camera where you can control settings like shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

And the camera gives you the ability to use a variety of different types of lenses on that camera body. And it does not have to be the latest and greatest camera with the highest megapixel count. But typically if you have a camera where you can control those kind of settings, it’ll help you get way better images than you could if you say shot something with a camera phone or a simple point and shoot.

The next equipment prerequisite being a wide angle lens. Now the inevitable question is, what lens is the best lens for architecture photography? There is no uniform answer to that question. But you do want a lens that can go fairly wide without bending, warping or distorting things that appear in the image.

You definitely want to avoid any kind of lens that’s going to be… to give you that funky fisheye effect. And the third equipment prerequisite being a good tripod. As we’ll explain here in a little bit, when it comes to architecture photography, oftentimes you’re going to need to take photos with longer shutter speeds.

You could have the most steady hands in the world, but I guarantee that if you’re attempting to handhold a camera while taking a half second exposure, even the most subtle of movements will make your final image look blurry and kind of amateurish.

So a solid, stable tripod will help prevent your camera from moving and help make your final images look tack sharp. Now for everything I’m going to mention from here on out, these are not absolute hard set rules.

Photography is a creative outlet, so there will always be wiggle room, unique ways to interpret something, and liberties that we can take with our images. That being said, if you’ve ever looked at an amazing photo of a a commercial building, a residential house, a cool kitchen or a beautiful living room, and you are impressed with the quality of that photo?

I’d say there’s a good chance the photographer followed most, if not all of these basic principles. Okay, so let’s get to the main list. Here are the five basic fundamentals of architecture photography.

We’ll start with number five, shoot with a narrow aperture or f -stop. When it comes to architecture, most photographers want their final images to look tack sharp. A great way to ensure that most of what appears in your frame is sharp is to shoot with a narrow aperture or f -stop.

Now different photographers will give you a wide variety of answers, but as far as a range, I would say most architecture photography is shot around f -8 to maybe f -13. When you narrow down your aperture, you cause your lens to see a much larger range of where things will be in focus.

Have you ever seen a portrait of someone where the background is extremely blurry? Well, a photographer who’s going for that look has actually the opposite goal of what we want as architecture photographers.

A portrait photographer who’s going for that blurry background look will typically shoot with a f -stop or aperture around say f -2 .8 to sometimes even as open as 1 .4 or 1 .2. And by shooting at that kind of aperture, you then cause your lens to see a very small range of what’s going to appear in focus.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Here we have a shot of a kitchen. Now in this shot, we put the focus point on objects that are sitting on the kitchen island. As you can see the items behind on the back counter, well they seem pretty out of focus.

They’re definitely not sharp. And that’s because in this shot we’re shooting at f -2 .8, typically an aperture that’s too open for architecture photography. Now in this image, we took the same exact shot, but we close down the aperture to f -8.

Now take a look at the objects on the back counter again. Quite a bit sharper, right? Many times what appears in the front of what we shoot has either structures or objects of varying distance from the camera.

So in order to get most or all of it in focus, it’s best to shoot with a narrow aperture. Basic fundamental number four, putting a lot of thought into the angle or composition of your shot, aka tell a good story with the image.

Now, if you are primarily in real estate photography, this may not necessarily apply to you. While real estate photography is definitely an art and it does take a lot of skill. More often than not, real estate photography is beholden to the nature of the industry.

You’re forced to just set up your camera in the corners of a room and shoot wide. Outside of real estate, though, photographers have more of a responsibility than simply show a building or room or space.

As photographer Mike Kelly says quite often, our job as photographers is to capture a three -dimensional structure or space, and then presented in a two -dimensional form of media. A similar burden of responsibility lands on a restaurant or food critic.

While most restaurants put emphasis on the taste of their food and the atmosphere, a food critic typically has to relay all that using words. We have to tell a story with our images. We have to showcase an interior designer’s intended mood and feel of a space.

We have to showcase an architect’s unique style. We have to show what it would be like to stand in a specific spot of a room and drink your morning coffee while you watch the sunrise. We have to lead a viewer’s eye through the frame in order to show off all the unique aspects of a space.

So how do we do this? Don’t rush. Scope out a space and scout it before the shoot, if possible. Walk around, observe the space, take it in. Notice all the different lines and angles. Ask about the inspiration behind certain design elements.

When you set up a shot, be mindful of how your eye wanders through the frame. Focus on getting a great composition and you are 90% of the way there and getting an overall great photo. Basic fundamental number three, your main source of light should be coming toward or perpendicular to the camera.

Now this principle is probably the most flexible out of all of them and there will definitely be exceptions, but that being said, for most architecture and interior photos, you want the main light or the key light, whether that’s the sun, a flash, a softbox, or a big open window, you want that direction of light coming toward the camera or at the very least, perpendicular to the direction that the camera is pointed.

Now you may ask why. To answer that question, let’s look at a photo where I did not follow that principle. In this image where the camera was set up, I had a wall of windows to my back, so a ton of natural light was coming in the same direction that the camera was facing.

What happened as a result? It gave the image a boring, flat look and although it is a great kitchen space, it looks pretty dull and kind of meh. Now, fortunately for me, the windows behind me had electric shades, which I closed and then set up lighting outside to mimic natural light coming in a different set of windows that roughly a 100 degree angle relative to the direction the camera was facing.

And as you can see, by changing the angle of the light, I was able to add more mood to the space and give it a more three dimensional feel. As architecture photographers, we want highlights, we want shadows.

It’s what gives a building or space texture, mood, and character. So just keep in mind that wherever you have your camera set up, if you’re shooting with the brightest light, whether that’s the sun, an open window, or a flash, and it’s two year back, you’re probably not gonna get that great of an image.

Basic principle number two, all the light in your photo should be of a uniform color temperature or at least a similar color temperature. Now, this is another flexible principle. And the more I thought about it, In reality, there’s probably more wiggle room with this one than maybe there is with number three.

But typically with whatever we shoot, we want our colors to be accurate or at least close to accurate to how they appear in real life. If a space has white walls, well, in our photo, we want the walls to look white.

If a couch in a living room is vivid blue, well, then we want that couch to look vivid blue in our photo. If you’ve ever seen an image where you thought to yourself, wow, that’s a really clean photo, the photographer probably had this principle in mind.

Light from different sources can have different color tones to it. Typically light from a lamp or a bulb, it’s going to have warmer, amber and orangish tones. And daylight through a window can sometimes appear cold or even blue in a photo.

Even the sun outside can change color tones throughout the day. Problems can arise though when these different color tones get mixed in the same frame. Now, a big exception to this is photos that are taken around sunset or twilight.

The contrast of bluish tones from outside against the warmer tones of an interior do typically make for a beautiful image. But for images taken during the day, you generally want to avoid getting this odd mix of color tones.

If you have a space where there’s a lot of interior lighting, as well as a lot of natural light coming in through windows, adjusting the white balance for one or the other can sometimes make your image appear a little messy or even muddy.

And yes, I realize there are exceptions to this. In fact, there are some clients who insist on having the photos taken this way. So a real easy way to avoid some of these issues, especially for an interior photo, is to shoot with all the interior lights completely off and rely completely on natural window light or photograph a space at night where it’s only being lit via the lamps in the room or the ceiling lights or wall sconces, etc.

So if you’re going for that clean look, be mindful of trying to have everything in your shot hit with light of the same consistent color temperature. And the number one basic fundamental principle of architecture and interiors photography is, keep your camera level and have your vertical lines be straight and vertical.

In my opinion, nothing and I mean nothing is the biggest giveaway that an architecture photo was taken by an amateur. Then if the image does not appear to be level and or the vertical lines of a space or building are not straight up and down.

Again, there are exceptions to this, but it is very rare. If a commercial building or residential space was built with walls that are level and straight, then that’s how it needs to look in our photos.

With many camera bodies now having visual levels built within and post processing software sometimes adjusting our vertical lines automatically for us. It’s almost inexcusable anymore to deliver a photo that doesn’t look straight and level.

Well guys, that will do it for my list. Was there something I missed? Was there something that you think I actually should have mentioned? Do you see semi -common mistakes? that tend to show up in amateurish architecture photos.

If so, let me know in the comments. I’m kind of curious to see what your take is on all this. If you liked the video, make sure to give it a thumbs up. I think it really helps out the algorithm. If you didn’t like it, then hit the thumbs down button twice.

And if you have made it all the way to the end of the video, I sincerely appreciate you all taking the time to watch. I sincerely appreciate all the positive feedback and comments or even some critiques you all have been giving me.

I really do appreciate the time. That’ll do it. We will see you all on the next one.