Architectural Photography Tips For Home Remodelers and Designers

Architectural Photography for Design-Build Remodelers

Architectural Photography Advice For Design-Build Remodelers

Forget about the old chestnut; "A picture is worth a thousand words."  When it comes to architectural photography on your website, a picture is worth tens of thousands in profit. High-quality images can sell design-build remodeling services faster, and for a higher price than mediocre unprofessional looking photographs. For home remodelers and designers, excellent photos can showcase your talent, giving visitors to your website, or potential customers an actual glimpse at what is possible in their own homes. Poor photography, on the other hand, will instill doubt in your abilities and will cost you tens of thousands of dollars a year in lost income and opportunities. You owe it to yourself to better understand what a good architectural photograph is and how they are created.

Architectural photography is a highly-specialized talent that requires a trained eye and a unique knowledge base. Design-build remodelers, architects, and interior designers will devote years towards crafting a vision and perfecting their craft. An architectural photographer can help them to tell their story. They can translate average work into something spectacular through their talents.

Great architectural photography can document your process, explore your challenges and show a finished product that when used on blogs and web pages, can help you to drive sales and build your business. Documenting the before and after, along with shots of the “during phase” can convey the story behind the project into a real-world experience for viewers.

The truth is, while it's always smart to hire a professional photographer if it's in the budget, most home remodelers and designers can take acceptable photographs that show their work if they use best a few best practices. You don't need high-end, expensive equipment, but you do need to have an “eye” a decent camera and image editing software. We advise taking the in-process images yourself and hiring a professional for the final project images. Despite the Home Depot tagline, "You Can Do It, We Can Help," choosing to do architectural photography on your own is similar to a homeowner trying to remodel their kitchen. If you have some skills in place and are willing to put in the work required to learn how to see well with a camera, you can learn how to take architectural photographs.

If the budget just isn't there for professional architectural photography as you grow your business, here are some tips to take your photography to the next level. 

Architectural Photography: All About Perspective!

Taking great architectural photos is about working with visual lines and using perspective to draw viewers into the details of the photograph. Try to keep vertical lines vertical and perpendicular to the horizon. Especially in a home remodel or from a design perspective, converging lines, complimentary patterns, textures, and colors can be used to create emphasis and a dramatic effect. Try to keep shots straightforward to present an accurate representation of the space.

One of the advantages of architectural photography is the “permanence” of your subject. It' not going anywhere! Take your time, walk around the space to gain perspective, look for unusual angles and lines. With digital photography, you have the luxury of taking unlimited photos. Take taking multiple shots from a variety of angles once you find a subject. Try moving the camera up, down or sideways a few inches. Try shooting from different angles. Having dozens of images of a room is always a great idea.

Purely Technical Photography Tips

Work Slowly!

Take a minute to look at what is in your frame. Remove chairs that sneak into corners, get rid of the towel hanging on the stove, eliminate the bottle of dishwashing detergent and in general only include those items that are important. Try stepping back to take on a greater perspective. Most pros avoid dead-on, eye-level shots. This can flatten images and result in boring shots. Telling a space's story is always about a balance between the creative and the practical. Putting a little more distance adds perspective to straighten converging lines. Shooting from a higher, or lower, vantage point can give a more realistic perspective to a space.

Use a Tripod! 

While your subject doesn't move, your camera might. Using a secure tripod keeps your camera still, allows you to use an aperture opening of F11 or higher to keep everything in the frame sharp, and gives you time to frame your image correctly. It can swing left and right, tilt up and down, and you can raise and level the camera to minimize distortion. A tripod is also essential for stabilizing the camera to reduce unwanted visual noise by using a lower ASA and produce sharp, crisp, professional looking shots.

Choose The Best Light

Make sure to take the proper lighting into consideration. As a “non-professional” you probably don't have a trunk full of high-intensity lighting equipment. Fortunately, natural light is readily available! It can show exactly how the design works in the real world. The key is to time your shoot to take advantage of the natural lighting. If your subject is an exterior shot of an addition or even a custom home, visit the property at different times of day to gain an understanding of the natural light. Ideally, exterior shots should never be taken between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm when the sun is at its highest in the sky.  Shooting at these times will result in more significant shadow contrast and flat overall lighting. For interior shots, light streaming in through the windows can influence the mood (and quality) of your shot. It can also dictate if additional lighting is needed. Try turning on all available lighting in the space to see the effect. Open drapes, and adjust the light as needed.

Direct sunlight early or late in the day can highlight patterns and textures giving your photos greater depth. Sunset and sunrise, when the light is warmer could be flattering both for interior shots and exterior shots.

Keep It Simple!

Remember, your focus should be on creating the most flattering, realistic, natural perspective of your subject. Composing your photograph is a key. Use lines to guide your viewer's attention. For example, for a kitchen shot, use the long horizontal line of a counter to draw your viewer's eye deeper into the space. Also, consider scale. If you need to give a sense of size, think about foreground and background objects and how you can add reference points, for example using people or landscaping in the shot, to convey it.

Keep your scene clean and clear of distractions. When photographing an exterior, remove cars, trash barrels, and lawn furniture (unless it is pleasant and makes sense in the shot) to give a clearer picture of the space. Even simple fixes, like tidying up leaves can make a difference.

Look for and remove reflective items like mirrors, or shiny metal objects. They can kill a shot with unwanted reflections, and often you won't notice until your editing or picking shots. Look for the details! Pay attention to how materials and lines interact with each other and with the available light. Pay attention to where shadows fall. Shadows can add interest to an image, or be a distraction. Examine all of the objects of your space!

Architectural Photography Post Production

One of the most significant benefits of digital photography is the ability to use editing software to help correct and enhance light, color, and even perspective. Of course, not all errors are fixable, and it does take some learning and practice to use a program like PhotoShop. The best option is to do as much as possible on-site when taking your photos. It will make you a better photographer in the long run!

Another tip to consider is whenever possible, hire a professional architectural photographer at least once. While the cost is a factor, you can get a top-level education by shadowing them during the shoot. Watch how they work, ask questions (but be discreet and don't be a pest!). The best way to learn is watching a professional do their thing!

Finally, keep in mind that patience is a virtue. Like any learned skill, improving your ability as a photographer will take time. You need to train your eye, especially when it comes to architectural photography. Like any other learned skill, it's all about experimentation, exploring and having the patience to learn through experience!

View Our Portfolio of Architectural Photography

About Michael Conway

I'm the owner and strategist at Means-of-Production. My firm builds Squarespace websites, Houzz profiles, and content marketing and advertising solutions for architects, interior designers, design-build contractors and landscape design firms. Our all-in-one marketing tactics attract the right clients with exceptional architectural photography and brand messaging that sets you apart from the competition.