WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN HIRING AN ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHER
Choosing the right professional to photograph your project is so important, yet it can be overwhelming when you're not sure what to look for. Should you only consider the financial aspect? Maybe hire a friend with an 'amazing camera'? There are many factors to consider when choosing an architectural photographer. In this section, I will highlight some points that can help you know what to look for and what to avoid. As I'm sure you've heard, a picture is worth a thousand words. So start by viewing photographers' portfolios and keep in mind some of the following points to look for.
EXCELLENT COMPOSITIONAL SKILLS
Composition in a photograph is so important, and should not be underestimated. A skilled architectural photographer can look at a space and quickly frame up the best shots in their mind's eye. They know instinctively how many views it will take to capture the given space in the most complimentary way. This not only saves time, but also avoids the pattern of some who simply take many "snapshots" of a room and hope for the best. Do the photographer's pictures look "intentional" and highlight the space in an appealing yet effective manner, or are you unsure of what you're supposed to be seeing?
USE OF HIGH-QUALITY LENSES MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Many photographers today like to highlight the type of camera they use. While the camera is certainly important, in many situations the types of lenses used are even more so. Proper architectural lenses allow the photographer to capture a view with minimal distortion while maintaining complete perspective control over the image. This is critical because it means that all vertical and horizontal lines will be straight. Pay attention to pictures in photographers' portfolios – walls should be straight, not distorted; in exterior images, buildings should not appear to be "leaning" forward or backward. Vertical elements such as doorways and pillars should not be curved like bananas.
EXPERIENCE IN VARIOUS LIGHTING TECHNIQUES AND CORRECT EXPOSURE
There are many instances when natural light can cause deep, unsightly shadows; these can hide details in furnishings and design. In most circumstances, determining the best time of day to photograph will prevent these lighting challenges; however, supplemental lighting will sometimes be necessary. Choose a photographer who is skilled at manipulating light to achieve optimum results, whether it be on-location at the time of the shoot, or in post-production. What you do NOT want is a photographer whose solution to low light is to over-expose the image. This results in windows and light fixtures that become virtually unrecognizable, completely blown out and devoid of any detail. Many times people call these shots "airy"; in reality they are incorrectly exposed and indicative of a photographer with very low standards and technical abilities. Look for pictures that show the room evenly exposed and windows that you can see through.
SKILLFUL USE OF POST-PRODUCTION METHODS
More often than not, this is necessary in order to deliver the highest quality product possible. If the photographer hands you a DVD or flash drive right after the photo shoot, then what they are delivering are essentially ‘snapshots’. Professional images should almost always go through post-processing, eliminating even slight imperfections and editing the images to the absolute best captures. Unsightly cords and cables, excessive wall switches, etc, can be distracting in an image. In many cases, removing these elements can enhance the viewing experience and leave the focus on the beautiful architectural and design elements.
TIME MANAGEMENT AND EFFICIENCY
During the image viewing and selection process, you should see only those images that best flatter and highlight the spaces photographed. The photographer should NOT waste your time by shooting images haphazardly hoping some "turn out", and then making you sift through the mass during a viewing. I have heard of photographers who will shoot thousands of images during a single architectural shoot (yes – one location), and then upload ALL of the work for the client to view. This is an unnecessary use of your time, especially once you realize the unprocessed work is the final product. It also suggests a lack of confidence by the photographer in his ability to compose well and create quality images in a decisive and well thought out manner. In the end, this style of shooting wastes time – both yours and the photographer's – and therefore money.
FINAL IMAGES THAT WILL ENHANCE YOUR MARKETING EFFORTS
The final image should be captivating, accurate and beautiful. I say this all the time: quality is more important than quantity. It is far better to use one stunning photograph than dozens of mediocre ones in your marketing materials. A talented architectural photographer will create beautiful photographs that can be used effectively for years.
There are so many high-quality architectural photographers today and one should keep in mind that a higher price doesn't always mean better photography. Therefore good architectural photography doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. Finding someone that will meet your marketing needs and work within your budget should not be difficult. We encourage to keep these points in mind when seeking a professional photographer for your next photo shoot. See what a difference it can make!