Monthly Archives May 2013

How to Create an Architectural Photo: Manhattan Style

I'd first like to thank Scott and Brad for inviting me to be a guest blogger!  When I was asked to write a post, I was very excited and immediately began thinking about what to share.  I love when photographers show how they created one of their favorite images from start to finish, so that's what I'm going to do for you.

Although architecture is a relatively small niche of photography, there are many architectural photographers out there; each with their own style of shooting and retouching.  Some do very minimal retouching, if any, to their photographs, but I am not one of those.  I put just as much time, love and attention to detail in post as I do on set.  Every square inch is accounted for whether I'm behind the camera or behind the computer monitor, and here's how I do it.

The Assignment:
The image I'm going to talk about is of a residential townhouse on the Upper West Side.  This street happens to be one of the few in that neighborhood that's not landmarked, so the architect was able to redesign the entire fa§ade with a modern twist.  It's very different from the rest of the townhouses on the block (and really all of New York City), yet the colors and materials used allow it to blend well with its surroundings.

Final Image

The client wanted a dynamic shot of the building with no cars parked out front.  I knew that the best time to do this would be about 15 minutes after sunset time.  Twilight skies emit a vibrant blue color, and with the lights in the townhouse turned on (which my client had arranged for), the house really comes to life.  I also had to find out the street cleaning hours for the building so that I could get a clean shot without the cars.  Since there would be cars parked outside during the optimal twilight period, I planned on doing the same shot at two different times with the intention of compositing them in post.

Shooting at Night:
I arrived a few minutes before sunset to prepare for the first shot (sunset times can be found at  While waiting for that magical blue light, I took note of the street cleaning time, which was going to be Friday from 11:00am - 12:30pm.  I stuck three small pieces of Gaffer's tape on the street where my tripod was set up so that I could return to the exact same spot on Friday.  I also waited for a few cars to pass by to get a few swooshing lights going across the bottom of the image for added color and drama.

Unretouched twilight shot of the building

On Friday I returned to my spot during the street cleaning time to recreate the same shot, only this time there would be no cars parked out front.  I positioned my tripod over the tape marks that I'd left from the night before and composed the image as best I could to mimic the composition of the twilight shot.  I knew the alignment wouldn't be perfect, but it would be good enough since I only needed to use the sidewalk portion of this picture.

Left: unretouched daytime shot of the building. Right: same shot only darkened using Curves in Photoshop

As you can see above, the daytime shot was made darker to make the sidewalk appear to have been shot at twilight.  I layered and aligned the daytime and twilight shots together, created a mask, and painted in the sidewalk from the daytime shot.

Left: original, RAW twilight shot. Right: final image after retouching

I created this shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 17mm Tilt/Shift lens at ISO 200, f/11, and a shutter speed of 6 seconds.  I use tilt/shift lenses for about 80% of my work, both exteriors and interiors.  Even with this small townhouse, the 17mm TS lens needed to be shifted upward to capture the entire building.  When I can't get the whole building in one frame, I'll compensate by taking two shots - usually the bottom portion including some of the street, and then the upper portion including some extra sky - and then I stitch them together in Adobe Photoshop.  In this case, only one shot was needed.

I always shoot on a tripod so that I can bracket the exposures for manual HDR processing.  I say manual because I don't use HDR software, which processes and merges the bracketed exposures together.  Instead, I choose which parts of each exposure I like the best, and I blend them by hand.

Final tips for shooting urban architecture:

  • The size of the building will determine which lens you need to use (I strongly recommend using tilt/shift lenses for architectural photography).
  • Season - are there trees in front of the building? If so, would the shot look better with foliage?
  • Scout out parking rules and regulations - it's best if you can shoot the building without cars parked out front.
  • Time of day - if you're shooting during the day, it's important to consider the direction of light to avoid harsh and unwanted shadows.

The final ingredient for shooting architecture is passion.  Study the location you are going to capture.  Visit it during the day and also during the night to see how it looks in different light.  Think about the purpose of your photo and who your client is.  An architect wants to see the beauty in what they created through form and functionality.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you learned something useful!

Architecture by workshop/apd

You can see more of Donna’s work at, and follow her on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

Great video clip from my buddy Matt Kloskowski on what he thinks may well be the most useful button in Lightroom (he originally ran this over on last week). I can’t say I disagree, because I use it literally every single day dozens of times (if not more). If it’s not “the” most useful button, it’s surely is among the very top!

Hope you all have a great Monday. :)

Audi R8 Detail Shoot with some interesting new lights
When I found out one of my friend’s had a brand new red Audi R8, I was begging them to let me shoot it, and this week I got about an hour to shoot some detail shots (here’s a few above), and the car was, just insane! I’m hoping to get another chance soon to shoot the full car in an airplane hanger, so I’m pretty psyched. But for this shoot I tried out some groundbreaking new lights, and I don’t want to spill the beans because I did a behind-the-scenes video (hopefully I can share it here next week), but they were pretty darn slick, and I can’t wait to share it with you as soon as the video is ready.

Location shoot for Empower Boxing
Yesterday I snuck out of the office with Brad to do a quick portrait with James, the owner of the literally just-opened Empower Boxing gym in Tampa, Florida. Very cool guy and a very cool set-up, with heavy bags hanging…well…everywhere. Some behind-the-scenes shots coming next week as well.

Wednesday’s Episode of “The Grid”
If you missed this week’s “Scott Responds to the Creative Cloud Feedback” episode of “The Grid,” the rebroadcast is above. The first half of the show is about Adobe’s subscription-only announcement, and the 2nd half is about an idea I had for Adobe for photographers, and it got lots of love from the community. If you’re going to comment here, make sure you watch the Grid first, before you comment, ’cause if I can tell you didn’t watch it, I’m pulling it. Just so ya know.

That’s it for now. Hope you all have a great Friday, and a kick-butt weekend.



P.S. I’m in Seattle with my new tour on May 23rd, and then LA on the 24th. Hope you can join me

Indoor Lifestyle Photography with Erik Valind
In his latest class, Indoor Lifestyle Photography, lifestyle photographer Erik Valind photographs scenes in various locations and shows you how to use various light modifiers, pose your subjects, compose your shots, and deal with challenges on location. Learn how to mix artificial light with available ambient light to look natural, then utilize that to perfectly light different locations like living rooms, retail locations, and restaurants.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free rental of this class!

Kelby Training Live
Want to spend a day with Scott KelbyMatt KloskowskiRC Concepcion, or Ben Willmore? Check out these seminar tours!

The Shoot Like A Pro Tour with Scott Kelby
May 23 - Seattle, WA
May 24 - Los Angeles, CA

Photographic Artistry with Adobe Photoshop with Ben Willmore
May 15 - Columbus, OH
May 21 - Boston, MA

Photoshop CS6 for Photographers with RC Concepcion
May 10 - Salt Lake City, UT
May 17 - Milwaukee, WI
June 12 – Nashville, TN

Leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!

Jeremy Cowart Workshop – The Field Sessions
Our buddy and Kelby Training instructor Jeremy Cowart is putting on a unique workshop called The Field Sessions this month at his studio in Nashville. In this workshop, Jeremy will be using “non-traditional (bizarre)” techniques to create fine art portraits of musicians and bringing you along for the ride. He’s showing you everything from lighting and gear, to directing, wardrobe, and “experimental post-production techniques  that may or may not include laser pens, fire, projectors, chemicals, pastels and baby unicorns.”

These workshops take place on May 10 (tomorrow), May 15, and May 25. You can get all the info and register right here. Leave a comment for your chance to win a free rental of one of Jeremy’s classes and a copy of his Lifefinder DVD!

Kelby Training Live Ticket
-Marcel Bauer Rental
-Garrett Dollar

Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers eBook
-Martin Boling

That’s it for today. If you’re one of the winners, we’ll be in touch soon. Have a great Thursday!

I'm humbled to make another appearance on Guest Blog Wednesday. I can't fathom what in the world Scott was thinking when he thought to have me return for a third time, though. When I think about the giants of photography who have shared their knowledge as Guest Bloggers, the pressure of trying to articulate something that will be worthwhile overwhelms me. I've gone to the well twice now and I'd like to think that I did so without completely embarrassing myself. Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead, but here I am, this time writing about golf photography and how I shoot the sport.

The quiet before the storm at the Augusta National clubhouse

Golf photography is really no different than any other type of sports photography, or really photography in general. Each genre or sport has its ins & outs, nuances and idiosyncrasies that aren’t necessarily difficult to grasp, but it sure helps if you're aware of them before you head out to shoot. Here are some preliminary thoughts, followed by a more detailed discussion on equipment, positioning and the types of shots I look for when I shoot the sport of golf.

Walking to the 18th green with Peter Hanson

One thing I have discovered is that golf is one of the most physically demanding sports to shoot, at least the way I go about shooting events and tournaments. I'm sure you're sitting there, scratching your head when you read that since golf is not typically thought of as a physically demanding sport. But when I shoot a PGA golf event, it's almost always as a Tournament Photographer or for a wire service. Therefore, my job is either: 1) to follow an assigned group for most of a round, occasionally catching up with or dropping back to follow other groups on the course; or 2) to photograph players in contention and the "name" players. That means I don't hunker down in one place and photograph the golfers as they come through that spot on the course. My photo obligations require that I do a lot of walking (and running).

Consider that most any PGA golf course is approximately 5 miles in length. Add to that going from greens to tee boxes, constantly moving from one side of the fairway to the other to get into position, etc., and it is not unusual for me to log in some 6 to 7 miles on any given dayâ¦with approximately 40 pounds of camera gear attached to my body in some fashion or another.

Jim Furyk tees off on #18 at Augusta National

I also make it a priority to capture images from unconventional vantage points. This requires a lot of extra climbing, squatting, sprinting, wading or other forms of physical exertion. For example, in order to capture the image above of Jim Furyk teeing off on #18 at Augusta National,  (more…)