How to become an architectural photographer

hospitality and hotel photography

Architectural photography of Dubai Airport, Terminal 3, by Gerry O’Leary

For over 30 years, Gerry O’Leary has been at the forefront of architecture photography, capturing some of the world’s most iconic buildings. Here, Gerry shares his advice to let others follow in his footsteps and have a career photographing buildings and architectural marvels around the world.

If you have a passion for both photography and architecture, then becoming an architectural photographer can be a fulfilling and rewarding career path. Although I didn’t even realise that a career in photography was an option when I was at school, some people have reached out to me wondering what steps they should take to pursue their dream.

Top tips for budding building photographers

  1. Learn the fundamentals of photography.

Begin by gaining an understanding of the basics of photography, such as composition, exposure, lighting and camera settings. Invest your time in learning about different types of cameras and lenses, and how they can be used to capture architectural elements effectively. 

  1. Invest in the appropriate photography equipment.

You’ll need a full frame camera and a perspective control lens (PC) also known as tilt and shift lens.  The most widely used PC lens for a 35mm camera is the 24mm. I use this lens for 75% of all my images. And a solid tripod is a must. 

  1. Become a student of light.

Light is key to every image. Learn how it interacts with the buildings you are photographing. A building will change every minute, even when you are shooting from the same perspective. When you learn to follow the light, you will understand how to get the most from the building and create compelling images.

  1. Build a portfolio.

Take photos. You don’t have to photograph the world’s most famous buildings, seek out interesting architecture in your area and find details that fascinate you. Showcase it on Instagram or your own website. Be prepared for feedback and public comments. Note that it may not always be positive. Some people are trolling, but others may have constructive feedback on your images. Welcome the interaction.

Learn from the best photographers in the world

  1. Observe the best photographers of architecture in the business.

Follow them on social media channels such as Instagram and LinkedIn, study their images and style, check out their websites, read their blogs and learn what it takes to be the best in the world. I followed Julius Shulman, whose photography of the Stahl house made both him and the property famous.

  1. Find a photography mentor.

If you can’t assist your idol because they are on the other side of the world, try to befriend them by following them on Instagram or LinkedIn. Comment favorably and regularly, telling them why you love each image. Once they see you as a regular contributor / follower, ask them If they would be willing to mentor you and provide feedback on your images?
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how successful this is. 

  1. Become an assistant to building photographers.

Assisting is one of the best ways to learn. When you assist great photographers, you get a master class on every shoot. 

Finally, the vital component to become a top architectural photographer…

  1. Practice, practice, practice.

You cannot learn to fly a helicopter by reading about it or watching YouTube, you must practice. Most professionals spend 10,000 hours honing their craft. Remember that becoming a successful architecture photographer takes time, dedication, and perseverance.

Stay committed, stay passionate, enjoy the journey. 

Follow me on Instagram to see my current projects. Feel free to share this article with any budding photographers in your life, or anyone else who may be interested.