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Are Architectural Photographers Necessary?

bayareabrut

So I know that getting great photos can always help, but it's hard to find a good architectural photographer worth their salt without having to shell out thousands of dollars a year. I mean, I am really considering purchasing a nice DSLR and a few lenses to shoot my projects myself. It could be a good long-term investment - and it could be fun. I shoot as a hobby, so it probably won't take too long to figure out.

Anyone know some decent photographer's they've worked with out in the San Francisco area? How much do you have to pay for x amount of photos? Has anyone shot their own work and been successful getting it published?

 
May 30, 16 4:12 am
gruen
I hire a pro. It costs thousands. I get even more thousands back in new work.
May 30, 16 8:27 am  · 
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Yes. Just like we are pros at what we do, they are pros at capturing the spirit of our work.
May 30, 16 9:14 am  · 
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A DSLR and a nice lens doesn't make anyone a good photographer. Witness airbnb. I work for them as a photographer on the side and the crap imagery that proliferates via user-uploaded images would blow your mind. You'd think in this day with everyone owning at least one DSLR, and with even the crappiest smartphone equipped with a pretty decent camera, that it'd be foolproof to take a good, well lit, straight image. But nope.

Airbnb knows that by hiring photographers to shoot people's listings, it will increase the number of bookings they get. It works - listings get up to 80% more bookings with professional photos. 

Hire a pro.

May 30, 16 11:18 am  · 
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SpatialSojourner

If you're interested in trying it out, why not?  One of the principals that I worked for always used to complain how they couldn't find any good architectural photographers and had their own DSLR/lenses... his photos were mediocre but luckily he hired "subpar" photographers to shoot the projects as well and we always used their photos for marketing and award submissions.  You could always go through the project and pre-shoot it and show the photographer the perspectives that you would like.  Going to architecture photo-shoots was one of the weirdest experiences to get used to when I was entry-level at small firms.    

May 30, 16 11:24 am  · 
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citizen

What Josh wrote.

Our own profession is constantly assailed on the grounds that others can do what we do just as well, but for less money.

May 30, 16 12:36 pm  · 
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bowling_ball

I really hope so - my partner is an architectural photographer. Yes, it's going to cost thousands to get good photos, but it's worth it - her photos have helped numerous clients win awards and new work. And don't just hire any photographer - hire one who understands architecture, detail, lens distortion, compositing, etc. The photos you think that you can take, often take even a pro several hours. For every hour my wife spends on site, she spends 1 to 2 hours uploading, organizing, editing, etc. And this is a full time pro with years of experience.

May 30, 16 11:43 pm  · 
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LITS4FormZ

Skimping on final photos is like taking a client to dinner and telling them they can't order that second bottle of wine.

It's the cost of doing business. 

May 31, 16 12:43 am  · 
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archiwutm8

A good photographer understands the scene and composition that is needed for each individual brief but an amateur just doesn't have the eye for it in comparison.

May 31, 16 7:28 am  · 
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good details

A creative professional not seeing the value of hiring a professional in another creative field and seeking a cheaper alternative...lovely...  Do you know how to use tilt/shift lenses or correct distortion in Photoshop?  How about balancing flash and ambient light to appear natural?  Do you know what filter you'd use to reduce window glare?  I won't even get into composition...

"How much do you have to pay for x amount of photos?"

A photographer's worth is not calculated in cost per photo, just like an architect's worth isn't calculated in cost per sqft.  There's a lot more to consider...

May 31, 16 11:41 pm  · 
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bayareabrut

Thanks everyone for the input - definitely gives me more perspective on how important it is. I like LITS4FormZ's response the most. So I've been doing some research. I can't afford Iwan Baan or anyone from Hedrich Blessing, yet Google not the best on pulling up a large selection talent in the bay area.

Looked on Dexigner for architectural photographers and their directory seems to be the best resource, since it's curated.

The first one on the list is an unknown who started in the bay area, but seems to have really decent portfolio. Not sure, but you guys think she's worth a shot?

http://www.dexigner.com/directory/cat/Photography/Architectural-Photography.html

Others I've looked at are Cesar Rubio and Tim Griffith.

Jun 1, 16 2:02 pm  · 
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bayareabrut

I guess what I'm wondering is (and I'm bracing myself here)...are the rates she's listing on her website reasonable for the images?

Sorry, I really wondering since her images look legit, but her prices wouldn't price a job in the thousands like everyone is echoing. I'm calling a few photogs in the area to get quotes too and she seems to be on the low end. 

Jun 1, 16 8:53 pm  · 
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Carrera

The problem with architects is they just shoot the building and the details they love….a photographer shoots the light, contrasts & shapes...finds the music….if you want to do great work then you need awards and to get awards you need great photography, even if you have to borrow the money. The photographer doesn’t have to be great, he/she just shouldn’t be an architect.

Jun 1, 16 9:38 pm  · 
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bayareabrut

Thanks, Carrera. I agree. I think just in the past I've been a bit unlucky with finding photographers. I guess I just have to really bite the bullet and go all out on this aspect. 

Interesting perspective on not shooting your own work. Guess it's something like how you should never try cutting your own hair, no matter how many bad hair dressers your come across. Then again, I may just be really picky.

Mind if I ask who shot that? Gorgeous photo.

Jun 1, 16 10:19 pm  · 
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Carrera

^ The great Balthazar Korab…not our project (SOM), but we never won a design award without him…started to think it didn’t matter what we designed….

Jun 1, 16 10:54 pm  · 
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good details

bayareaubrut: This is a bit of an aside, but if you want to check out a documentary about architecture photography I highly recommend watching the documentary about Julius Shulman titled Visual Acoustics.

Jun 1, 16 11:10 pm  · 
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There is something so special about those photos by Balthazar Korab that you just have to love. There is something about the quality of B&W photography and capturing the contrast of the light that's just beautiful. 

Jun 1, 16 11:11 pm  · 
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Carrera

It's the light never the building that's why B&W is better...color distracts the eye focusing on materials instead of the form, at least that's my take on it.

Jun 1, 16 11:17 pm  · 
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zenza, 

Exactly. There is something that get accentuated that B&W photography can express that sometimes is muted by color photography. I'd have to get a chance to watching that documentary about Julius Shulman who like Balthazar Korab (both of whom were great architectural photographers, indeed). 

Jun 1, 16 11:17 pm  · 
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Pretty sure that's the Republic building in my hometown Carrera. It's a great building.
Jun 1, 16 11:17 pm  · 
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Carrera

​Yes, Republic Newspaper building in Columbus Indiana, some "hometown". Just another glass box with a photograph that told an entirely different story.

Jun 1, 16 11:25 pm  · 
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Very true. The Newspaper is selling the building, but luckily found a buyer that wants to keep the building intact and only slightly modify the interior.
Jun 1, 16 11:34 pm  · 
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bayareabrut

Yea, Balthazar Korab's a favorite of mine. Ezro Stoller's a close second and there's something jarring and haunting about the way Lucien Herve shot Corbu's designs.

I just don't see many people out there shoot like that anymore. Wonder if it has anything to do with the magic of film, but mostly I think Carrera is right. Color can take away from form the way photographers rely so heavily on color these days to make their photos "pop."

Zenza, thanks - I'll take a look at that film.

And hold on - I think Korab worked as an architect with Saarinen :/

Jun 2, 16 12:12 am  · 
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bayareabrut

Will leave this find here: http://www.konstruktphoto.com/jean-bai-fine-art/

Jun 2, 16 12:17 am  · 
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I think Balthazar was hired as a designer at first in 1955 but it was his photography skills that caught attention. His education was originally trained in architecture. I suspected he was among new hires around the time when Ernest Brown (who worked for the firm) headed to Astoria, Oregon to join Ebba Wicks Brown and John E. Wicks. 1955 coincides to when Ernest Brown got licensed in Oregon and came to Astoria. You can't blame him. His fiance and soon to be wife.

As with any firm -- Saarinen, Saarinen and Associates was restaffing with reflect to new projects at the time and with one or more leaving the firm for any number of reasons.

When one or more leave, those positions are refilled by others. This was right about the same time. 

Just so people understand, there is no intended negative meaning or attitude. It's just something that stood out to me with the 1955 year.

Jun 2, 16 2:51 am  · 
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shellarchitect

I happened to meet him shortly before he passed, really wanted to get him to sign something, but he really wasn't doing well and I didn't have anything of significance with me anyway

Jun 2, 16 10:39 am  · 
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chatter of clouds

Personally, I didn't like that picture but it captures the idea of the building (at least from that view). Then again, it might be due to what the phorographer has as material to work . Yes, hire a photographer. Especially with architecture, they have the knowledge and the tilt-shift (especially for vertical structures) /software equipment to avoid perpectival, colour and pixelated abberations. I don't agree though, that a photographer is inherently more sensitive to form though, as some suggest, not at all. I've seen technically good Professional photographers with bland compositions and Ive seen amateurs with great perception of form.

Jun 2, 16 10:16 pm  · 
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Architectural photography is one of the more technically challenging genres of photography. Aside from needing a very good eye, a strong understanding of the subject matter, and enough time and access to the project, a strong technical background in photography is required, as well as specialized equipment. Interiors and twilight photography can be especially challenging. Daytime exteriors can be be relatively easy technically, as long as you can shoot at the right time of day, under appropriate weather conditions; however, gaining access to suitable vantage points from surrounding properties can be a logistical challenge sometimes, and often there is still a lot of retouching to be done that requires in-depth Photoshop knowledge.

Also, while digital photography offers more opportunities to shoot without using supplementary lighting than film did, many architectural photographers still make extensive use of supplementary lighting, especially for interiors and some twilight photography. I know of one architectural photographer who sometimes uses up to 100 lights and a crew of several assistants for some of his twilight photos.

I would expect a talented architect to have a good eye for light and composition, but the technical aspects of this kind of photography can take years to master.

Ultimately, the question is how important the photos are to your marketing. Only you can answer that. Some architects seem to sustain themselves on referrals alone, and just need simple reference photos as documents. However, if you want to convey the aesthetic qualities of your work to their best advantage, you will need to use a pro who specializes in this kind of photography and is at least very good at what they do, unless you want to take the time to acquire those skills yourself, and acquire the specialized equipment and software to go with it. 

While I am at it, I would like to suggest for those on a budget that a small quantity of really high quality photos will make more of an impression for marketing than a large quantity of mediocre (or worse) photos. Also, if you go for a pro, go for someone who really specializes in the subject matter and understands how to photograph architecture and design. 


Aug 26, 19 5:40 pm  · 
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sausages

If you want to take your own pictures of your work I would suggest learning how to use a view camera. Many architectural photographers (including myself) still use view cameras and film for the visual fidelity but more importantly, complete perspective control. You can get tilt shift lenses but the movements possible will be very limited compared to a view camera. 

Sep 3, 19 2:16 pm  · 
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3tk

I think others have articulated better above, but yes, at a certain point, you need the professional specialized in the field to take the shots.  If you have the luxury, find the architectural photographer that understands the style and market you are targeting (a regional home and garden publication is likely to want different shots than a design magazine vs architectural awards).

In my experience, a great photographer can do a walk through and then plan ahead to maximize the day (planning which rooms/angles to shoot when) and therefore limit the days required to capture all of the rooms.  This is to say that while you may stumble into some great shots, it is more likely that they can get them more readily.  Often, you'll build relationships with them so they understand your particular tastes as well as the tastes of publication editors and award juries.  Many travel the same social and professional circles to keep a pulse on trends too; something to take good note of.

Sep 6, 19 11:04 am  · 
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