An Architecture Photography Tip You Probably Haven’t Tried

When we think of architecture photography we tend to think of words like sharp, symmetry, high dynamic range, and wide-angle.  In fact, I think I just summed up 90% of architecture photographers workflow in that list.  If that is all you’re after, your competition is fierce.  The other 10% of architecture photographers out there, we’ll call them “out-of-the-box thinkers” will apply some other sort of “secret sauce” to their workflow to set themselves apart from the herd.  I’d like to share one of these techniques with you today.  It’s not a new or even semi-secret technique, but it’s not one that is generally used in this type of photography.

Gear Used

Orton Effect

There is plenty of information out there on this technique (Google it) so I’m not going to write out an entire “how-to” but will tell you that it is worth researching if you are an architecture photographer (or any type of photographer really).  The Orton effect gives your photography a dreamy glow effect and can be adjusted to be as subtle or strong as you’d like.  It’s not something you should use in all of your photography but there are certain times when it pays to have it in your tool belt.  I used the effect in these images to create images that did more than simply document the church.  Using the Orton effect I was able to create images that, to me, captured the essence of the church.  It’s important to practice restraint when using techniques like this or you’ll end up with unrealistic looking images.

pittsburgh, first presbyterian church pittsburgh, church, architecture photography, ortin effect, hdrWhen I spoke with the clients I could tell that the stained glass windows (made with Tiffany glass) were the pride and joy of the church’s design.  I wanted to emphasize their beauty and prominence in the church and the Orton effect really helped me do that.  The alternative was to use a local adjustment brush and simply increase the exposure over each window which would have desaturated the color and reduced some of the detail.

Whether or not the Orton effect makes it to your workflow, I really hope this article encourages you to think outside of the box and try new things.

This last image was taken at the top of one of the two towers in the front of the church.  I was granted access to anywhere and everywhere and started with this precarious climb.  When I photograph someplace I like to explore every nook and cranny to find the best perspectives.

What is your best architecture photography tip?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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4 replies on “An Architecture Photography Tip You Probably Haven’t Tried”
  1. says: Becky

    Gorgeous photos, John. At first I thought this was Heinz Chapel but then realized it is way too big for that. Thanks for the tip. I am going to google the Ortin effect.

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