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August 31, 2021

The Evolution of Building Photography as a Catalyst for Modern Architecture

building photography

What is building photography?

A practice of photography that captures both the artistic and functional aspects of a building is building photography. Building photography creates an opportunity for the architecture to have a permanent story. This story is captured in an image, which then creates permanence and a marketable image. Architectural photography and building photography seek to take images of structures and buildings to highlight an artistic concept while marketing intention.


As a photographer begins to build a photography portfolio of building photography, the collaboration between the photographer and architecture is key to creating a unique style. A photographer’s style and technique are what aids in creating a captivating image. 


Buildings are stable and permanent so it is the photographer’s job to portray a lasting elegance beyond the structure. Building photography gives a way to capture the timeless concepts of an architect. 


Regardless of how an image of a building is shown, whether it be black and white building photography or even a modern approach, the task of building photography is to create a timeless picture that encapsulates the true nature of a space. 

How has building/architectural photography changed overtime?

The development of modern architecture has grown with the evolution of modern photography. Photography’s role in architecture has been one of a catalyst for creativity. Modern photography has encouraged new architectural designs that have visual appeal in day-to-day life as well as images. 


Modern building photography has transitioned architectural designs to move beyond the boundaries of geography. In the past, building photography focused on taking pictures in a 2d scope. This scope focused on taking images of a building with a flat perspective, with a very simple visual appeal. Photography became a means to push architects and designers to create buildings that were more interesting to the eye and more captivating on camera. 


This progression of building photography occurred in the 1950s, a little after WWII. After the daunting state of the world in WWII, the real-estate industry strived to market a lifestyle change. One of the ways this occurred was moving from pictures taken of just a face of a building to an image that approaches building photography with angles and interesting perspectives. The photographer’s focus was now to take an image of a lifestyle versus just an image of a simple building.


Photography gave a world-stage architectural design. This changed the architectural approach to design a building not just for an individual town but designing buildings to impress a global audience. This transition from old building photography to modern photography has moved architects to a grander, worldwide stage. 


This addition of photography to sell and market buildings moved buildings from the confines of their local borders to the parameters of a worldwide audience. Photography created a comparative culture of architecture. This pushed a change in creativity from architects and building design, while also encouraging change in building photography. 


With an addition of a bigger audience, a change in creativity will always occur. The world stage of building photography created a need for a more interactive image. The image could no longer be just the face of a building, but it needed to show a personality to a space. Pictures now needed a higher level of layers, texture, and contrast to show the unique qualities of a building. Building photography shifted to a style focused on the interactivity of a building. 


Does building photography have an influence on architecture?

Modern building photography has an influence on architecture in the way it features and highlights various aspects of a space. Photography makes a building come to life, it takes the building out of a singular circumstance and moves it throughout time and history. Building photography can show the way a building looks at different times of day, during different circumstances, and with different people within its lifestyle. 


Some may see photography as having a negative impact on architecture and buildings. This view sees building photography as a means to homogenization and globalization of architectural and design norms. Others view photography as a movement that drives more artistic and competitive styles of building design.


The 3d perspective of a space provided by building photography can arguably be linked to the emergence of modern architecture. Modern architecture emerged as a functional style of architecture that focused on asymmetrical designs with clean lines and a relationship to the outside environment. The ebbs and flows of these designs create a geometric fluidity to a building.


Photography’s focus on clean lines and perspective can be seen as an impact on this style. The lines that occur within modern architecture have the ideal structure to be portrayed in an image. Modern architecture is a style of design that looks best in images.


How can we see the progression and change our approach?


Building photography focuses on a lifestyle of space and then creates a visual approach to describing this lifestyle to future buyers. A building promotes a movement and culture within people, a photographs’ role is to best capture this life within a space. 


Buildings live while humans live, photography provides a way to track the history or future of a building. The history of a building in images lies with previous pictures that have been taken. A key contributor to unique storytelling is understanding past photography styles on a building. A photographer can make a building speak to a new dimension or a new appeal by working with and improving past images.

How to approach building photography:

Buildings are designed to be both functional and beautiful, this beauty is captured by the photographer. The photographer frames the functions of a building in a pretty picture. There are many ways to approach building photography but, shooting different perspectives, understanding architecture, and telling a history of a building are the best ways to ensure an incredible picture.


  • Shoot in Various Perspectives:

Finding different perspectives shows a personality and design to a building. To properly capture a story of the lifestyle within a building, it is necessary to move your lens to creative positions. It is your task to show a lifestyle narrative within your images, and various perspectives aid in this process.


  • Understand the Architecture:

A key in taking any picture is to understand the story of the subject being captured. Understanding the intentions of a building can aid in taking interesting and appealing images.


  • Tell the History:

Every building, new or old, has a history to it. This history isn’t determined by the age of the bricks on the outside or the type of wood used in the beams, it is from the history of the people in the plot the building is on. A buyer wants to understand the history of a building so they can create a future for the building. Building photography helps to describe this story.