A 17th-century Connecticut mill that once provided lumber and processed grains and is now an upscale commercial restaurant — with its link between old and new — is a perfect subject for adding drama, contrast and artistry to architectural photography.
In the DIY shot above, viewers are left with heavy shadows, no perspective control, and a space with zero personality. There is no artistry communicating what all this space is and can be to a potential business owner. The shot lacks warmth and the emotion of the story inside this space; it doesn’t communicate what it might feel like to run your own business there.
Much of what has gone wrong in the DIY shot has to do with the time of day the photo was taken, the sky conditions, lighting and exposure. The point of view doesn’t change significantly between the two shots, but those important adjustments make the pro shot come alive.
The pro nighttime shot below is fundamentally more dramatic. Notice that the shot was not taken in pitch-blackness, but rather, at twilight, which is the ideal time of the evening, as the “blue hour” unfolds. It has a decidedly warmer feel. I determined where the lighting sources were with an advance site visit to plan the best point of view. Check out one of my industrial night shots.
The lighting, exposure and composition are major factors in this successful pro shoot for many reasons. The use of space aspect is well communicated; clientele are dining and enjoying themselves. This indicates the setting and experience of the location draws a crowd. A long exposure creates starburst effect on the exterior lights, enhances time of day, and softens the waterfall feature. Available light illuminates the details of the mill’s iconic foundation, a feature lost in the flat light of the DIY shot.
Night photography is its own breed, and done well, stands out from the pack. It is also a great fit for shots of spaces that are overly simple, infusing simple architecture with much more drama.