Free Photography Tutorials, Beginners to Advanced

Photographing Buildings - Part 3

ornamental chimneys another chimney

On the top of La Pedrera are these wonderful chimney tops and tops of air vents and stairwells. Although they have been there for the best part of 100 years they look almost brand new.

As with all outdoor photography you have to be there at the right time of day. We got to the building in the early evening half an hour before they closed. The guide was reluctant to let us in because we would not have time to complete the tour. "But the light will be just right for photography and that's what most interests me." We returned the next day for the tour which we could then enjoy with the camera packed away in its case.

Taking snaps of famous buildings is all very well but your photos, however good they are, are going to be similar to thousands of other photos of the same scene. How do you make your photos stand out or at least unique. If you are going to take photos like the top one then you might just as well buy the postcard and save yourself the trouble.

The direction of the sunlight is vitally important to your photo. These objects look vastly different as you walk around them so choose your viewpoint carefully for the best lighting effect, also watch out for clutter in the background. Watch the color of the sky which changes as you turn around, it will be darkest at right angles to the sun. Try to allow plenty of time as the light also changes from minute to minute at the beginning and end of the day.

One way of making your photos more personal is to pose your friends and family in the foreground. When you go to any popular tourist site you see mobs of people queuing up to take such photos. This has been so overdone that it has become a tacky cliche and one of the main reasons why holiday photos can be so boring. You end up with this wonderful collection of photos of your kids in front of all the major monuments of the world. I suppose it proves that you actually went there, although in the modern age of computer retouching I'm not so sure. The more 'artistic' way of making the photo your own is to add a little element to the scene like the shadow in the bottom left corner of the photo on the right.

sun through chimney

In the photo on the left I manoeuvered myself into just the right position so the sun would just be poking through between the chimneys, I like the golden glow on the side of the ceramic chimney.

At first I was annoyed that I had just caught someone walking past but then I realized that the handbag and the disappearing back actually made the picture. Always avoid clutter in the corners of your pictures except . . .


Here is a photo of another of Gaudí's buildings, in fact his most famous one, the Sagrada Familia. The photo is spoiled by tower cranes which are there because, 80 years after his death and nearly 100 years after the project was started, they're still building it!! Spanish builders have never been renowned for their speed.

A little bit of jiggery pokery in Photoshop using the 'cloning' tool soon rid me of the cranes (well not so soon actually, it takes time). The cloning tool is quite easy to use, basically you just select a piece of sky, make sure it's the right color, and copy it over the top of the crane. The trick to doing this well is to make sure you use the right size brushes with the right amount of 'hardness' to match the sharpness, or lack of it, in the picture. When you zoom in and look at the edges in your photo you will see that nothing is ever 100% sharp, there is always a little blur at the edges, this is what you need to match.

The cathedral before retouching The cathedral after retouching

Cloning should be done a little bit at a time so allow plenty of time and don't get impatient to finish. After ridding myself of the cranes I used the distortion tool (described on page 1) to stand the towers a little more upright. With the cranes gone there was too much space between the tops of the towers and the trees so I lowered the trees a little by selecting them and using the 'move' tool, finally tidying up the resulting line in the sky by using the cloning tool with a large soft brush.

If you want to get serious about photographing buildings try this book.

Other tutorials in this section


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Lighting and perspective.

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What you need and what to watch out for.

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Extended Depth of Field

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All the settings you need.

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Photograph flowers like a professional, what you need to know.

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Focus Stacking

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Macro 1:1

How to get those ultra close-ups in focus.

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Shooting a panned sequence of shots and stitching them together to make a panorama.

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Techniques to help you capture those golden moments.

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Photography in the Snow

Getting the exposure right in all that white.

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Sports & Action

Tips on how to capture fast action.

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Travel Photography

Take better holiday photos without losing your sanity.

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Wedding Photography

A complete 'how to' for weddings, with an accent on crowd control.

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Working with Models

Bribing people to sit for you.

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