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“ (


Service Equals Quality

Remember the axoim that on the web, content is king?  While we all need to be cognizant of this, when your business is based on providing something – whether it be a product or a service, you simply must be pleasing your customers as well.

That axoim has held true here on the blog too.  Time and time again, people have told me not to worry about how often I publish posts, but rather to make sure that when I do post – the article provides good quality.  You don’t want to view lame photos and read articles that don’t have a lot of thought put into them.  So, when I get busy at work, or am otherwise unable to give this site the attention it needs, readership tends to understand that while I may be gone periodically – I always come back, and it’s almost always good content.

Today, I’d like to share two stores:

Story # 1 – Basil’s Italian Restaurant in Corbin, KY


Chef Richard

Our first story is the result of a recent training trip to that neck of the woods.  The clients I was training asked where I’ve been staying and where I’ve been eating.  When I first started this gig, I was hesitant to share that info – until I realized that they were politely suggesting that they had good ideas for where to eat and visit.  I started tuning in and have been getting recommendations across the country. Sometimes, in fact, I’ve attended a restaurant blindly.

This night was no exception.  I arrived at the place at 7:20, palette readily salivating for some good pasta.  I go in and the place, while nice, appears deserted.  I must admit I was disappointed because it came so highly recommended.  The place is a one-man shop, and he prides himself on his food from what they say.  The next thing I know this “one guy” – Chef Richard – comes out and apologizes but says they are closed.

I acknowledge my oversight at not arriving sooner or checking their hours (they close at 7 because it’s in a residential neighborhood).  I start to head out when he rattles off a few items (7 total) that he could whip up quick for me if interested.  I don’t want to be a bother because this guy must be tired after a long day.  We exchange a little dialogue, and the next thing I know, he is pulling me into the restaurant because he WANTS me to try their lasagne.

Only after being repeatedly assured that it’s not a problem, I take a seat in the otherwise almost empty place (there were a few people lingering at the bar).  I order a merlot, and nosh on some garlic bread until the lasagne arrives.  Oh.  My. God.  My mouth had died and gone to heaven!  You know that taste of Italian – when it’s good but almost instantly when the acidic nature of the tomatoes hits your throat?  It burns a little, right?  This had the taste without the acid.  It was amazing!

On top of that, Chef Richard and I ended up hugging briefly as I left 90 minutes later.  I felt like I had made a true new friend.  He genuinely wanted me to experience a wonderful and delicious meal, which I did!

The place was obviously closed, yet they went out of their way to provide both wonderful good food and stupendous service.  And one man basically did it all!


Story #2 – The Pink Slip, hotel restaurant in Nashville, TN


The Pink Slip
The Pink Slip

Our second story was at the Pink Slip in the well-esteemed Hotel Preston in Nashville.  I hear from the shuttle driver that their in house restaurant is available, so I decide to try it.  The velvet walls, female lounge lizard singer and guitarist try to evoke “jazz” but really only brings to mind “porn”.  Yet it’s been mentioned, so I ask for a menu… The bar-maid (ironically, named “Bar”bara), takes a beer or something out to another table, gets another pair of gals a drink and a menu, then finally comes back to me 5 minutes later with a menu.  I hear her rattle off some off-menu items to the gals and make a mental note to ask about the burger.  Another 5 minutes go by and she finally gets back to me.  Yeah, I can get the burger.

Do I want a beer?  Fat Tire draft please – been a long week.  A cursory nod, a beer is drawn and brought over.  She tunes into Modern Family on the TV (a repeat by the way) as it starts up.  Meanwhile the over-amped lounge lizard belts out some 90’s Madonna tunage.  Oddly, (during a commercial) she asks if I am ready – uh, yeah, I ordered the burger?  She nods and goes back to put the order in that I’d requested about ten minutes ago.  I sip the brew, and about half way through, while sipping and reviewing email, ask for a glass of water, figuring the food is just about ready.

The water empties, and the beer disappears.  Finally, the food comes, and while it’s not great, it’s not inedible.  I scarf it down because the atmosphere is starting to give me a headache. Within 10 minutes I am done, and wait to get a check.  Modern Family is almost over though, so I wait some more – I don’t want to interrupt, but will definitely make a note if she looks over.  Finally, she looks over and I quickly ask for the receipt.  She walks over and asks if I want some dessert – no thanks just a check please.

The bar was clearly open for business, had the grill on, yet I never felt less welcome in an establishment.  The burger was on par with McDonalds – you could tell it was pre-made then heated and slapped on a bun before being tossed out to the side of the customer.

This place was almost like they were going out of their way to send the message that they had something more important to attend to than a customer – a repeat TV show.


Which would you rather visit?  Now granted, the food at the latter was not worth writing about, but the service sure was!  Where content is king online, service is king in restaurants!

How does this relate to photography?  Simple.  You are only as good as you make your clients feel.  There is so much competition out there these days – I can get good photographs from anyone.  If you make me feel special though, you will stand out above the crowd.  If you seem genuinely interested in me, it makes me feel special (even though I know I’m just another Joe…), and that can make you stand out.  It takes dedication, passion and a lot of work, but the amount of passion you put into your work is directly proportional to your success.

But when you deliver just average photos, and seem bothered that the person is preventing you from working a larger gig (or table) and otherwise just not interested in even getting to know you, that can be bad for business.  You may get a reputation as an ass.  Which will kill the business first – your average photos or your poor attitude?  While content may be king online, attitude is everything in small business.

Most photo gigs are small business.  Remember the moral of the story here when you get a customer.  Big or small, single or simple order, treat everyone special and you will succeed.  Otherwise, you are doomed to fail.

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.