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9 Tips for Beautiful Landscape Architecture Photography

A guide to landscape architecture photography

Architectural landscape photography is a unique and challenging genre that blends elements of both landscape and architectural photography. It involves capturing landscapes within architectural settings and buildings within natural landscapes, and the results can be stunning – if you know the right approach!

In this article, I offer plenty of practical tips for shooting architectural landscapes, with a focus on gear selection, composition, lighting, and planning. Whether you’re an intermediate or advanced photographer seeking to enhance your architectural landscape images, this guide can help you out – so if you’re ready to level up your shots, then read on!

1. Use a wide-angle lens

Landscape Architecture Photography

As I mentioned above, landscape architecture photography involves capturing both buildings and landscapes in the same frame. But while there are plenty of stunning examples of this type of image, getting top-notch results can be a bit more complex than it appears.

You’ll want to start by choosing the right equipment, and while your camera won’t make a huge difference, a wide-angle lens is essential. It’ll let you include more elements in the frame, which is particularly useful when photographing large architectural structures alongside significant landscape features.

Plus, wide-angle lenses can help you add depth to your landscape architecture subjects by including room for interesting foreground elements, such as vegetation or paths.

That said, wider focal lengths do tend to cause converging verticals – where straight lines lean inward – and while it’s possible to correct this perspective distortion in post-processing, I actually recommend a different approach:

2. Try a tilt-shift lens

Landscape Architecture Photography

Converging verticals are a common problem in architectural photography. This perspective distortion occurs when parallel lines, such as those created by the walls of a building, tilt toward the center of the image. And the unfortunate result is that vertical objects appear to fall backward.

Correcting this issue in post-processing can be challenging, but tilt-shift lenses are designed to address it before you press the shutter button. Tilt-shift lenses are particularly effective at straightening lines in architectural landscape photography because by carefully shifting the lens either horizontally or vertically, you can straighten the edges of buildings as well as inward-leaning trees in the landscape.

Tilt-shift lenses are more expensive than conventional glass, and there aren’t a whole lot of options – but if you’re serious about photographing landscape architecture, grabbing a TS model is often worth the cost and the reduced flexibility.

(That said, in some cases, leaving the lines as they are may benefit the composition of the image! Therefore, if you don’t wish to use a tilt-shift lens, or you simply happen upon a scene that looks better with perspective distortion, feel free to use the more conventional approach.)

3. Incorporate flowers and plants

Landscape Architecture Photography

When observing interesting architecture, have you ever stopped to appreciate the breathtaking flowers and plants in the gardens or surrounding landscape? The flora around architectural wonders – be it palaces, castles, or urban skyscrapers – can dramatically spice up your photos.

Because flowers are seasonal and generally only last between two and twelve weeks, timing is crucial if you want to capture them at their peak. For instance, many snowdrops are typically found in winter, daffodils in spring, and lavender in summer.

Incorporating these elements into your shots can enhance the overall scene and even make the architecture seem more prominent, so do your research and try to photograph when the gardens are in peak condition!

4. Think about the light

Lighting significantly influences your results in landscape architecture photography; depending on the light quality and angle, you can capture dramatic silhouettes, soft scenic views, high-contrast building profiles, and more.

There’s no single best type of light for landscape architecture subjects, so experimenting with different lighting conditions is a great idea, especially when you’re just starting out. Daytime offers opportunities to capture scenes under overcast skies or in bright sunlight, which can look nice but lack drama. On the other hand, early morning and late afternoon shooting can accentuate shadows, adding depth to your files.

Shooting just after sunset is another excellent choice, as the mix of artificial building lights and the dimming sky can yield stunning results.

Basically, you have a lot of options, so the key is to carry your camera in a wide variety of lighting scenarios, and then simply photograph scenes that captivate you. Over time, you’ll gain an eye and an appreciation for certain types of light, and you can use that as a springboard to even better shots!

Landscape Architecture Photography

5. Composition matters!

Composition in landscape architecture photography is often neglected in favor of stunning subjects and dramatic light. That is a mistake. Composition is a critical aspect of landscape architecture photography because the placement of elements within the frame can significantly influence the impact of your images.

Therefore, you must think long and hard about the composition of each frame before pressing the shutter button.

Symmetry, for example, can be a powerful compositional tool. You can create horizontal symmetry by dividing the image into two similar top and bottom sections, or you can create vertical symmetry with a central line creating mirror images on either side.

One of the easiest ways to create horizontal symmetry is through reflections on water surfaces, and the results can be very compelling:

Landscape Architecture Photography

6. Remember the rule of thirds

While symmetrical compositions can be effective in some instances, and while it’s a good technique to have in your back pocket, I don’t recommend symmetry as a go-to compositional approach.

Instead, when doing landscape architecture photography, applying the rule of thirds often yields better results. This technique involves dividing the image into nine equal parts using two horizontal and two vertical lines. By positioning the main subject off-center, either along the gridlines or at their intersection points, you can achieve more visually appealing and impactful photographs.

Notice how the most prominent element in the image below – the tree – is positioned left of center for a dynamic effect:

Landscape Architecture Photography

7. Frame your subject

Including a frame in the foreground of your composition is a classic trick, one that works great when photographing architecture in the landscape!

The frames can be created by any natural or human-made elements, such as trees, windows, or bushes, that surround the main subject or even just lead the viewer’s eye into the shot. This technique not only creates contrast but also adds depth to the composition by incorporating a foreground element that highlights and complements the primary subject.

Landscape Architecture Photography

8. Spend time planning

Arriving at a location unprepared makes it challenging to capture compelling images. Research and planning are key; it’s during these early stages that you can identify interesting subjects and determine the optimal time for your shoot based on desired lighting conditions.

If possible, scout a location on foot a few hours (or days) before you plan to photograph. Consider different compositions. Think about the position of the sun and the effect it’ll have on the scene.

If you can’t check out a location in person, spend some time Googling other images captured of the subject, or at least “drive” by on Google Maps. Compile a list of shots you might be interested in creating.

But during the real shoot, don’t become so focused on the plan that you miss any outstanding spontaneous opportunities. In other words, spend time planning, but be flexible and adaptable!

9. Use a tripod

A tripod is a vital tool for capturing landscape architecture photos. It can be useful in any light, but it’s especially important to work with a tripod in low-light conditions.

If you shoot sunset images, blue hour images, or night images, a tripod will ensure that your files turn out tack-sharp. That way, you can focus on creating a well-composed, well-lit photo, and you won’t have to worry so much about maintaining a fast shutter speed while handholding.

Just make sure you don’t spend money on a cheap tripod that won’t last. With tripods, it’s generally better to invest a decent amount of cash upfront than to pay for a sub-$50 tripod and be forced to upgrade within a few months.

Landscape Architecture Photography

Landscape architecture photography: final words

Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate, or even an advanced photographer aiming to enhance your landscape architecture photography skills, these tips can significantly improve your results.

Remember to pay attention to the issue of converging verticals in architecture and consider using a tilt-shift lens. Also, focus on creating strong compositions by employing techniques like symmetry, the rule of thirds, and framing.

You’ll be capturing gorgeous shots in no time at all!

Now over to you:

Do you have any tips for landscape architecture photos that I missed? Share your thoughts – and images! – in the comments below.

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Jeremy Flint
Jeremy Flint

Jeremy Flint is an award-winning photographer and writer, specialising in travel, landscape and location photography and is known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. Jeremy has won awards including the National Geographic Traveller Grand Prize and the Association of Photographers Discovery Award, besides being commended in Outdoor Photographer of the Year. He has also been a finalist in the Travel Photographer of the year and British Photography Awards several times. He has been commissioned by commercial and editorial clients worldwide including National Geographic Traveller, Country Life, Discover Britain, USA National Parks and Visit Britain and has travelled extensively to over 65 countries.

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