Photographing Architecture Painlessly

Joe Farace Blogs

Joe Farace Blogs

Guest Post by Joe Farace

One of the best things about photographing architecture is that your subject doesn’t move around but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be moving around to find the best possible angle. In fact, there are only two main considerations when photographing any kind of a building: The time of day and the camera placement. I think it was Ansel Adams who once said :the difference between a good picture and a bad one is knowing where to place the camera.” Sometimes you don’t have a chance to scout a building before photographing it but if you do it will be obvious that either shooting in the morning or afternoon will produce the best results.

Tip #1: To produce the minimum amount of noise in an image, I prefer to use relatively low ISO settings to minimize noise. To me that means using the lowest “standard” setting your digital SLR is capable of producing for the given lighting conditions. That does not include any expanded or extended settings that are possible to using the camera’s custom function, which can in many instances increase noise. For night architecture shooting increased shutter speeds increase noise, so it becomes a balancing act between ISO and shutter speed. You find the perfect intersection of the two by shooting some tests before shooting it “for real”.

Tip #2: Try to keep the buildings’ lines as straight as possible. I divide my time shooting architecture equally between hand holding and tripod mounted exposures but when tripod-mounted I find a double level bubble accessory, one for horizontal alignment and another for vertical, slipped onto the camera’s hot shoe make its easy to keep all my lines straight.

Tip #3: Try to avoid Keystoning. If you’re photographing a tall (more than three stories high) building, don’t shoot too near its base. This will make the base of the building look too large compared to the top. Find a higher advantage point and if possible bring your own ladder to make your picture. But I realize that it’s not always possible. You can correct it in Photoshop using Edit > Transform > Perspective and that can save some images but it’s no substitute for a PC (Perspective Control) or TS (Tilt-Shift) lens.

Tip #4: Apply standard compositional rules. The ubiquitous Rule of Thirds states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Aligning elements in a photograph with these four points creates more than simply centering that element. I treat these kinds of “rules” as suggestions so let your eye be the final judge of what looks best.

Tip #5: Ignore some rules. The human eye sees parts of a photograph in the following order: sharpness, brightness, and warmth. The first thing the eye notices is the sharpest part of the photograph, next it gravitates to the brightest part of the image, then finally to the warmest. By placing your subject in accordance with these rules you get to control how people look at your photographs.

Some people call placing the subject of your photograph in dead center the “bull’s eye” syndrome and in many cases applying the rule of thirds to your photograph will produce a better looking photograph than might otherwise be the case but I didn’t think that rule is cast in concrete and other rules that govern how the human eye looks at elements within a photograph bear equal weight.

Visit Joe Farace at his blog “Saving the World, One Pixel at a Time“ (


How to Shoot Great Infrared Photography!

Joe Farace Infrared Photography

Guest Post by Joe Farace

One of my readers asked: “I know landscape is a prime subject for infrared photography but are other subjects, such as portraits, cityscapes, night city streets, and macro worth considering? The simplest reason for shooting digital infrared is that this technique has the power to transform mundane visual experiences into something unforgettable. Everyday scenes you might walk right by and never think of photographing, take on a dreamy look when seen in infrared. If you’re considering jumping into IR photography here’s a couple of suggestions.

Joe Farace Infrared Photography

First, used SLR bodies are often available at a substantial discount and I think purchasing one and converting it to infrared capture is a great idea. Another idea is after you’ve updated to a newer, more megapixels model have one of your older cameras converted. The most important think to remember is that after your camera has been converted; you will only be able to shoot monochrome infrared images with it.

Second, and to answer the question, everything makes a great subject for digital infrared photography! Nevertheless, digital IR photography is not for everyone. I have to assume that dark skies, snow-white foliage and increased contrast appeals to your aesthetic sensibilities and what the heck, it’s fun. Here are just a few of the possibilities:


This is the classical application for either film or digital infrared capture because tree leaves appear to be almost white. This is a common effect produced by deciduous trees and grass because they reflect the sun’s infrared energy instead of absorbing it. Along with the black sky, the effect is dramatic but I shoot IR in the winter when there are no leaves and the grass is dead or snow covered.


Regular readers know I’m nutty about cars and I used my IR-converted SLR to make the above shot that was later digitally colored in Photoshop. Infrared images don’t have to be strictly black and white and that’s why I also like to apply digital toning effects to IR image files.


Professional architectural photographers have long used infrared film to make images of buildings. That’s partly because IR photography cuts through any haze, adds contrast, and produces pure black skies—it’s even nicer when you’ve got some clouds—to make photographs of buildings look even more dramatic.


In my book on infrared photography, I show a few portraits using digital IR-converted cameras but not everybody agrees with this idea. Some think it adds a creepy “Twilight” (vampires ya know?) feel to the images because the subject’s eyes will look a bit odd but if you’re careful, aren’t too close, and have the subject looking off to the side, it shouldn’t bother you. If it’s doesn’t, then it’s time to move onto other subjects. And that’s what infrared digital imaging is all about, having fun with photography no matter what subject you decide to photograph.

Visit Joe’s Blog “Saving the world, One Pixel at a Time” ( ) for daily tips on digital photography.

Building a Basic Filter Kit

Joe Farace Blogs

Joe Farace Blogs

Guest post by Joe Farace

One of the easiest ways to improve your images is to use camera filters but like so much in the photo world, life is rarely that simple. That’s because photographers seem to be of two minds about filters: Some purists don’t like them because they abhor anything coming between reality and the captured image. True filter fans worry less about resolution charts and just like to have fun with their photography. When buying filters there is one overriding concern to follow: Don’t put a $19.95 filter on a $1,000 lens. You should purchase the best filters that you can afford but if you are in pursuit of “The Ultimate Image” that shouldn’t deter you. Get a piggy bank and start saving those pennies!

A Polarizer can deepen the intensity of blue skies, as well as reduce or eliminate glare from non-metallic objects. Many manufacturers offer Warm Polarizers that combines a polarizer and a warming filter. Polarizers are available in traditional linear or circular versions. Take the time to read your camera’s manual to find out what kind you need for your specific SLR and purchase the proper one for your specific camera.

If you want to get the ethereal effect of blurring while photographing moving water and can’t select a slow enough ISO speed, neutral density (ND) filters placed in front of your lens allow you to use slow enough shutter speeds to photograph waterfalls or river flow over rocks. Neutral density filters absorb light evenly throughout the entire visible spectrum, effectively altering exposure without causing a color shift. ND filters are available in different densities of gray and are rated by how many f-stops they decrease your aperture settings.

One of most useful tools in my filter toolkit are graduated density filters that have a clear area at the bottom and somewhere around the middle, start blending into an area of increasing color or neutral density. Graduated density filters allow you to control areas of excessive brightness such as a sky and bring them into balance with the rest of a scene by darkening and possibly adding color. The colored area of these filters covers less than half of the filter, but the effect can be adjusted by moving the filter up and down vertically or by rotating the filter folder, so there is no pressing requirement to split the image in equal and perhaps boring parts.

Most companies make color graduated neutral density filters that take what you see and “kick it up notch.” The final effect of using graduated density filters will vary based on the distance of the filter from the front of lens and the density of filter used. The effect is more pronounced when a wide-angle lens is used at small apertures, with just the opposite effect is produced at wider apertures with longer lenses. Other graduated filters add colors ranging from mauve to brown and are in pairs of the same color, with one having a mild effect with the other, darker one, being used to create more dramatic effects.

Joe is co-author of “Better Available Light Digital Photography”

Visit his blog “Saving the World, One Pixel at a Time”