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.

How I Photograph Race Cars

Joe Farace Photography

Joe Farace PhotographyGuest Post by Joe Farace

The secret of making great photographs is simply “knowing where to point the camera” and that’s harder than it sounds, especially after schlepping a nine pound lens, monopod, and camera body around California’s Laguna Seca track all day. This shot was created at dusk at an ISO setting of 800 using a moderately priced digital SLR, the Canon EOS 20D. Sure, the EF 500 f/4.0 lens cost $5500, so (I hear you saying) “It ought’a take good pictures.” Well, it doesn’t always work that way.

Let me tell you a secret, I don’t own the lens. I borrowed it for a short time from Audi’s team photographer, the incredibly talented Regis Lefebure. You can always rent expensive lenses like the 500 f/4 that, when purchased, cost more than a new Chinese car. Out where I live, this lens rents for $50 a day. Is it worth it? You bet it is. And don’t even think about making racing photograph with any big lens without a monopod. The lightweight EOS body was a less than perfect counterbalance to this beast; my EOS 1D Mark IIN would have been a better fit, but where was it? It was tucked away in my equipment closet back in Colorado.

The first step in making any kind of racing photograph on a road course like Mazda Speedway is knowing where you should be located. If you’ve never been to a track before, talk to some of the other photogs but walk around during practice and, well, practice yourself. Decide where you want to be and what lens you might use. A good place to shoot at Laguna Seca is near the top of a turn called “The Corkscrew.” The cars have to break hard for a sharp left turn then go through a series of twisty turns gradually picking up speed as they do. The corkscrew, like at many other tracks has a protective fence barrier with “holes “ where you can poke your lens through, so your final choice of location may be limited and since only two or three photographers can fit a particular hole, don’t hog the space. Let others get some shots too.

As night began to fall, I gradually began inching up my ISO speed from it’s daytime starting point of 200 at the start of the race to finally 800 as dusk descended over the track. I follow the car, panning with the motion and instead of firing off long multi-frame bursts in continuous mode, keep squeezing the shutter in rapid succession short bursts with fewer and, I think, better images. I shoot racecars in Tv mode and in this case the best I could get was 1/320th at f/9.

Don’t forget your earplugs. No matter how many Janice Joplin concerts you attended as a flower child, nothing will prepare you for the unmuffled sound of a full bore racecar. Earplugs are cheap, so get a couple of sets for each camera bag; that way you can loan a pair to somebody who forgets there’s and as Emeril says ”make a friend.”

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