Photographing Buildings Simplified – How To Take Excellent Photos Of Buildings

Take Excellent Photos Of Buildings(1)

There are three parts to my photographing buildings simplified

  • Taking the photos
  • Gear
  • Processing

In this post I will concentrate on the taking the photos bit.

To take excellent photos of buildings you need to

  1. Know what photos you want to get
  2. Know what you are going to do with the photos
  3. Know how many photos you want
  4. Know how many photos you actually need
  5. Understand the building
  6. Think about the context
  7. Include people or not?
  8. Understand what is going on with the light
  9. Get your composition sorted
  10. Have your camera settings sorted
  11. Have your gear sorted
  12. Practise, practise, practise

Get this little lot sorted in your head and taking great photos of buildings should be a breeze

And there is my secret trick – walking around. Yes really.

OK who am I to tell you this stuff?

I am a professionally qualified photographer, an Associate Member of the British Institute of Professional Photography – ABIPP.

I am also professionally qualified in construction, being a Member of the Chartered Institute of Building – MCIOB.

I have been working professionally in construction for many years, and photographing buildings for just as long – so I know this stuff ok?

Right – let’s get into these in more detail

1 Know what photos you want to get

Start with the end in mind is one of my favourite sayings. And I apply this very much to taking photos of buildings. Well any photos that I take, to be fair.

This is difficult to do at first. That is why practise is so important. And this is where studying other people’s photos of buildings will help you.

Practise by getting out and taking photos. Read this first of course, and take what I teach with you and apply this stuff every time you go out to take photos of buildings.

And once you have some photos of buildings look at them the very same way that you do other peoples photos of buildings. And when you do this you have started your own journey to taking better photos of buildings.

2 Know what you are going to do with the photos

Are they

  • for a client?
  • for you?
  • for your website?
  • for your portfolio?
  • For social media?
  • for you to make money from?
  • Just for practise?
  • Just for fun?

What the photos are for should relate directly to how much time and effort you give to taking the photos. And the amount of care and skill that you apply to image capture and processing.

So what are they for?

3 Know how many photos you want

When I am taking photos for a client I will know how many photos I need to issue to the client to satisfy the brief and to get paid. The number is different for different shoots for different clients.

If I am photographing a live construction site I will probably take a lot of photos, as what I am photographing is changing weekly, daily, even hourly. In my time on site I am capturing not only the construction process but also construction progress.

But, if I am taking photos for myself I will not take that many photos. You might be surprised how few photos I take.

I might only take a couple of photos, and certainly only one of each viewpoint. I do not take one photo and then move to the left a bit and take another – I do all that before I take a photo, so I know that when I take a photo I have what I want in the composition.

Don’t take loads of photos and choose the composition after, get that right first. More on that in a bit.

4 Know how many photos you actually need

Need and want are different.

Sorry but I have to repeat myself here. How many photos do you need? The reason that I am saying this is that I used to take loads of photos of a building, to make sure that I had everything covered.

And when I got home and was going through the photos choosing what to edit, what to work on, well it was a bit of a problem.

I would spend a lot of time choosing which photos to edit, often agonising over the decision process and often picking similar photos and editing both/ all of them.

Now? I take a much fewer photos, and do you know what? I have never, and I mean never, had to go back to a building as there was a shot that I had missed.

Now I am not saying for a second that I captured very angle on every shoot, and neither am I saying that I have not missed things on any building that I have photographed.

But I am saying this.

By concentrating on what I was taking photos of, I would always walk away from a building happy with what I had captured, and even happier with the reduced number of images that I had to work with.

5 Understand the building

Get to know the building, find out what it is all about. Know it’s history. What has happened in the building?

Understand it and you will take better photos of it. And all buildings have significant parts.

It does depend of course on the building. A regular, modern house will not have the same history and intrigue as an ancient castle, of course not, so a little common sense needs to be applied here.

But there are buildings with incredible pasts, where significant events have taken place. Buildings are part of our history, our culture, our evolution, even part of us.

So find out all about a building and capture it all!

6 Think about the context

I am talking here about where the building is and what is around it. The context of a building is so relevant, how a building impacts on and relates to

  • the environment
  • people
  • adjacent buildings
  • adjacent spaces

This is a great way of getting a different angle on photos of a building, concentrating on the role of the building and how it relates to the things around it.

7 Include people, or not?

This is a big question. It of course depends what you are photographing, where and when. Have people in a photo and a building or space looks alive, like it was intended.

Exclude the people though and you remove the human element. You lose the human context.

Neither is right or wrong, it depends on what the photos are of and who for.

And if you exclude all the people then there are no permissions to worry about.

I exclude people from my photos – that is my thing.

8 Understand what is going on with the light

Look at the building, and look at the light. As you explore a building you should see how the light interacting with the building changes. This is where the magic happens – you just have to find it.

This is why I walk around and study a building. I walk around and see what is going on, and see where the light makes things interesting.

It could be

  • directional light through a window
  • light giving depth
  • light highlighting textures
  • light separating areas
  • different light levels in different parts of the building
  • light giving different colours
  • light giving warmth
  • light giving coolness

Light is a photographers most important tool. And light is free. It is there to be used. It is there to be studied and valued.

Get the light right in a photo and you have a much better chance of getting a great photo of a building.

9 Get your composition sorted

Composition is king. I love that saying. Well it is. Think about it, it has to be. Composition is what you include in a photo, and also what you do not include in a photo. And each is equally important.

The composition is what other people will be looking at. All someone else knows about a photo is what is in it. You can forget everything else.

Well ok it has to be technically correct, of course it does.

But if the composition is rubbish then nothing that you do to the photo will change that. If the composition is rubbish then your photo will always be rubbish.

Take time on the composition and that time will pay you back over and over with much better photos. I spend more time on the composition than I do on anything else.

I spend as long as I need to getting the composition that I want, and only then will I take a photo. Yes, I get the composition right, take one photo and then move one.

This is how I have massively reduced the number of photos that I take, which has massively simplified how I sort and edit my photos.

If you take one thing from this blog post make it this – composition is king!

10 Have your camera settings sorted

More on this in a future post.

11 Have your gear sorted

And more on this in a future post too!

12 Practise, practise, practise

You can’t practise enough. The number one way for you and me to improve our photography is to go out more and take photos.

That’s go out more and take photos. Not go out and take more photos. No, it is time to stop taking loads of photos and think about the photos that you are taking.

That is the number one thing in the simplification of any type of photography, not just the photographing of buildings.

Go out more and take photos. Practise, practise, practise. I still love practising my photography, even after all these years. Every time I go out and take photos I try to practise and to learn.

Get this little lot sorted in your head and taking great photos of buildings should be a breeze

And there is my secret trick – walking around. Yes really.


Be clear about what you are photographing and why. This will help you massively, and will simplify things and help you to get great photos of any building.

And this applies to routine buildings. We can’t all spend every shoot taking photos of spectacular buildings. Sometimes we have to photograph conventional buildings for commercial purposes.

And this of course is fine, but apply what I have told you in this post and this will help you to take better photos, more easily, of any building, be it a palace or a small house!

What is important here?

Well, did you notice that the actual photography side of things is way down the list. 10 and 11 to be precise.

This is important.

Photography is not all about the gear, and photography is not just about taking photos. Really? No, photography is drawing with light. And what is the most important thing about photography?

What is in the photo. The composition. What you include and what you do not include. Anything else is secondary to this.

Sure you have to get the technical stuff right, but this is secondary to what you are taking a photo of.

What if I just use a phone?

If you just use a phone you are missing out on stuff. Check out my Photography Explained Podcast episode 141, Do I Really Need A Camera In 2022? Or Will My Phone Do Instead? for lots more on this.

You are limited by the sensor size, the lens focal length, and the other stuff that I talk about that you do not get with a phone.

But, looking at this a different way, if you only use a phone you have simplified things as much as you can, you just have what you have with you.

And everything that I have written about here applies. If you go through all the things that I have written about here you will get better photos of buildings, as by using your phone all you are doing is changing the device that you are taking the photos with.

Like I said you are constrained by this, but you can use this to your advantage.

What do I do?

When I am taking photos for a client it is dead simple – I will have a shot list, photos that I have to get. I will, however, apply all of the above to get other photos that I feel add to the shot list.

See I might see things differently from a client, especially as I am looking at a building that I am photographing from my own unique perspective, and with fresh eyes.

This is what I do every time I photograph a building. And yes I really do wander around and look – that is my special skill, my secret weapon if you like!

Right – that is me done, just a few other things that I want to tell you.

My course – How To Become A Real Estate Photographer

I have created a course which you can find out more about here. My style of course, no frills, no bull, just me telling you everything that you need to know to become a real estate photographer, and no more.

The Photography Explained Podcast

I mentioned an episode that relates to this post. Now I want to tell you about my small but perfectly formed podcast.

I am the creator and all things at the splendid Photography Explained Podcast. In my podcast I explain one photographic thing per episode in plain English without the irrelevant details in less than, well less than 27 (ish) minutes these days.

I talk about all aspects of photography in my podcast, and welcome questions from listeners that I love answering.

My Blog

If you are reading this you have found my blog. Check it out – there is lots more stuff about building photography, ok architectural photography, construction photography, real estate photography. And Lightroom and all that good stuff too.

Related reading

Well there is loads of related reading on my website, but there area couple of posts that I want to bring to your attention.

Can you sell photos of buildings? Is it illegal?

50 Essential Photography Tips For Beginners Who Want To Photograph Buildings

My You Tube channel

Yes I have a You Tube channel, where I talk about what I have written on my blog. Check out the video for this post right here.

Again no frills, no bull, just me telling you the stuff that you need to know.

Get a weekly email from me to you

Yep, if you want to receive an email from me every week then fill in the form on this page – there will be one somewhere. And in return I will send you a splendid Lightroom thing, and you will receive my thoughts straight to your inbox on a Friday afternoon. Which is nice.

OK – how can I find out more about this stuff?


Get in touch with me – email me –

Get in touch, ask me a question that I can answer on my blog or podcast, or just say hi – it would be great to hear from you.

Thanks for visiting my small but perfectly formed website, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Cheers from me Rick


Rick McEvoy

I am Rick McEvoy, an architectural and construction photographer living and working in the South of England. I create high quality architectural photography and construction photography imagery of the built environment for architects and commercial clients. I do not photograph weddings, families, small people or pets - anything that is alive, moves or might not do as I ask!! I am also the creator of the Photography Explained Podcast, available on all major podcast providers. I have a blog on my website where I write about my work and photography stuff. Rick McEvoy ABIPP, MCIOB

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