When it comes to architectural photography, I’m happy with however clients choose to participate in building our shoots together. Some like to be active in brainstorming the vision and planning the day right along with me, utilizing my expertise as a commercial photographer to figure out the most opportune projects locations, elevation options or sites. Others prefer a more hands-off approach with much of the decision-making left up to me.
Either way, an architectural photography shoot can be like an onion, with many layers. That’s not to say this planning will make you cry —not at all — but sometimes the simplest additions, layered upon the rest of the logistics, add complexity. I never say anything is impossible — access to the site, a detailed shot list and the artistic vision are the main drivers when it comes to pressing the shutter, in the end. But I like for clients — whether architects, builders or commercial brokers — to be educated and empowered, and to know what to expect when they embark upon a shoot.
A few examples of shoot configurations that go from simple to more complex are:
– A single visit, single location with full site access, and the photographer goes out at their convenience when the timing is right.
– Next, that single visit and single location, but with restricted site access.
– From there we add complexity if the property manager and/or client is joining the photographer to help with site access or to review the shots live as we work.
– Then we begin addressing if the site needs to be de-cluttered and staged. Will there be elevation? Is the project being photographed from up on a ladder or in a lift bucket that will need prior approval to be on the property – or shooting from the ground?
– Lastly, a higher-complexity shoot factors in the client joining, people/models at a site that requires special-access permission (possibly even security clearance), and a certain level of staging.
– Finally, a very complex shoot consists of multiple visits, multiple locations, varied times of day at each property (for orientation) with models and or staging, ladder or lift assistance, etc., over a period of weeks or months — you can imagine how time and costs change as a result.
I’d like to focus for a moment more on the addition of models (people) in an architectural photo shoot. The best architectural photographers will educate their clients on factors like these when the public or staged models are to be included in images. It sounds like a simple request: Get shots of some students walking past a university portico. But it opens up some potential legal risk on the part of the firm. And adds layers in the form of more time, which translates into added shoot costs.
When models are used in a shoot, model releases may need to be obtained and signed to free the client from potential liability. When professional models are not used, releases may need to be signed by passersby who might show up in shots. Alternatively, their faces may also be blurred (which may or may not be a desired effect for a particular project’s images). This is especially true in the case of children. Your commercial photographer should not just snap away without having the conversation. In this type of photo shoot, it’s the client, as the hiring party, that holds responsibility to secure the releases for everyone photographed; they assume the liability. In fact, it’s a very widespread misconception that photographers are responsible for the model-release signature process. They are not. As a courtesy I offer releases to my clients that they can customize and use for their needs, you can find them here.
People add a great element to architectural photography and architects almost always want people in their images for a couple of reasons. First, they design spaces to be used by people. Second, it gives the project space and composition proportion of scale. But just like peeling an onion, there may be layers underneath which some clients haven’t considered. An experienced commercial photographer will arm clients with information, including creative alternatives and possibilities that ensure an effective, surprise-free experience. This is essential to supporting the client in making decisions as to the level of complexity of their shoot based on their needs, how much project management is required, and what is within their budget.