Night photography is inherently dramatic. It’s bold. It stands out. It turns heads.
That being said, nighttime photography is a lamentably underused architectural photography tool. It’s something many of my clients have never even considered, and it’s certainly not something a lot of architectural photographers take the time to tout and execute.
So, what are the benefits to adding night photography to your next architectural photo shoot? And to that end, what are some of the drawbacks? Let’s have a look.
AIA is the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architects. At an annual event called the AIA Design Awards, the chapter gives out Honor Awards to outstanding achievements in multiple categories of both building and architecture.
Night Shots: Pros
They tell a story. Night photos can feel richer and more magical than daytime shots, particularly when the space in question is in-use.
They provide complexity. For projects in which a single subject needs to be shot in a variety of different ways, night photography always helps break up any lingering monotony.
They add drama and infer luxury. Photos taken at twilight have a tendency to feel elegant and regal. They can instantaneously elevate a simple subject to a space of great stature.
They are attention-grabbers. Night images are showstoppers. They can be ideal for crafting a stand-out submission for a design award or other project recognition.
They showcase “blue hour” skies. “Night” photography rarely actually happens at night. Blue hour, the perfect time for this type of architectural photography, occurs just after sunset and lasts an hour or so if you’re lucky.
They establish a timeline. Shots taken at various times of day can be useful for portfolios that need a variety of shots or sequential shots showing the ways a space can be used or the emotion evoked by being in the space itself.
They imply uniqueness. DIY night shots are nearly impossible to do well, so professional night imagery makes it clear a project is special and worthy of showcasing.
Night Shots: Cons
They can be costly. The additional time needed for great night photography can make the process more expensive than a traditional interior/exterior shoot.
They are tricky to get right. Night photography requires a skill set almost exclusively reserved for professional photographers, and even then, advanced technical skills may be required. Long exposures, light painting, and other technical wizardry can make a huge difference in results.
They require significant post-production. Night shots usually require more post-production retouching than daytime shots which can further elevate the cost of a project.
They are hard-to-get. Since the blue hour is so short, only a limited number of photographs can be captured during this time. Setting up the right shots is an exercise in patience.
They can be limiting. Night photography is far more ideal for shooting exteriors than interiors, which can add to the complexity of a creating a great shot list.
They necessitate multiple shoots. Most photographers schedule night photography separately from daytime shoots because the time required to set up and wait can be significant.
Is Night Photography Right for Your Project?
Night imagery makes a lot of sense for marquis projects. It’s a ideal for making simple architecture pop and the end results are still eye-catchingly unique. Night photography can humanize your work.
When choosing an architectural photographer, ask specifically whether they have experience creating night photography. Creating truly stand out nighttime images requires a great deal of skill and technical expertise along with sheer artistry. If getting great night shots is important to you, the discipline shouldn’t be an afterthought to your photographer.
I’ve produced many nighttime images for my clients.