The DIY vs. PRO series is meant to visually show — as well as express in words — “architectural photography gone bad.” The photos above are a classic, classic case of why composition and time of day are more than just photography buzzwords; they truly make or break an image.
Setting up what appears in the lens in a logical, strategic way is called composition. It’s how the individual elements at play contribute to the overall image as a whole, and it’s important. The right time of day, or TOD, is equally important. Without smart TOD planning on the part of the architectural photographer, the natural light works against them, not with them.
Take a look at the DIY shot on the left. Is this business’ name clear?
Technically, the sign is in the shot, but it’s almost like an afterthought in the left side composition. Unless showcasing ample parking is the goal, the shot has way too much pavement taking up too much foreground real estate. The heart of the shot is swimming, and the mid and background elements almost seem as if they are being punished, ordered to the back of the frame. (LOL)
The sky in the DIY shot appears blown out, void of color or sky detail. The photo was likely taken during the summer, midday, when heat is at its highest, between 11 and 2. It’s a timeframe professional architectural photographers avoid.
On the image above, meanwhile, it’s clear that the PRO shot composition was actively considered and sought out. The point of view (POV) focuses in close on the well-executed landscape bed, lush lawn, and client signage. The landscape design not only provides a pop of color to the grey signage, it puts the core of the photo — the company name — front and center. In this way, it offers the project the prestige and of a well-known brand that engages potential client attention in a way the DIY shot lacks.
And this prestige secondarily carries over to the architectural photographer, who gets an opportunity to show his or herself as a brand storyteller.
Clearly, the PRO architectural photographer watched the forecast and avoided days with oppressive temps reaching 90 degrees or more — and purposely arranged to visit the site early in the day.
HCP Insider Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to get in closer to your subject. Also, note that shooting exteriors at the wrong time of day, coupled with the wrong exposure, will always result in loss of color and detail.