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Author Topic: Becoming a great Architectural Photographer!?  (Read 42890 times)
Lust4Life
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« on: October 14, 2009, 06:48:44 AM »
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I have a long history of shooting landscapes and really enjoy it (http://www.shadowsdancing.com), however I do not find it a profitable venture.

Ive become quite interested in Architectural Photography for two reasons:
   Beauty of the structure/s
   Capacity to generate revenue in a hopefully more predictable manner than Landscape Photography

Given
Im 63 and retired software developer on SGI platform.  I have a long history in digital image capture going back to the days of the Eikonics arrays.
I currently own:
Hasselblad H3D11-39MP
28mm, 80mm, 150mm
RRS Ultimate Omni-Pivot Package on Gitzo Carbon Tripod

Im seeking suggestions/direction about:
   Equipment required to do the best of work
   Successful methods of marketing my services - seek architects, developers, high end realtors?Huh??
   Other ideas Im not aware of to ask yet

I feel I have enough energy to start a new career and I want it to be a profitable one - thus Architectural Photography seems a natural transition to me.
I have been experimenting with local structures, some of the condos on the beach here in Naples, FL are beautiful, and find it fascinating but different than Landscpaes.
Hoping my knowledge of HDR might allow me to focus solely on Natural Light rather than getting into a menagerie of lighting setups.
I want to do this solo, not with an assistant.

Observations from folks actually earning a living from Architectural work and shooting digitally would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Jack
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SeanBK
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2009, 07:12:42 AM »
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Quote from: Lust4Life
.......
Observations from folks actually earning a living from Architectural work and shooting digitally would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Jack

Just a quick observation, in your website > subsection heading for "Architecture" is spelled wrong! You might want to look into HTS 1.5 to complete your Hasselblad system. Architectural magazines is one sure way to expand your knowledge & techniques. Developers & Architects always want another way to flatter & complement their vision.
  If you were to expand into Interior shots, you might need to supplement the interior lights, as Hasselblad limits the exposure time, compared to Phase One's long exposure duration. Personally I would also have Nikon D3X as a suplementary camera.
    Good Luck
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 07:14:32 AM by SeanBK » Logged
geesbert
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2009, 07:14:55 AM »
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you should rather rephrase it: becoming a successfull Architectural Photographer.

it is much easier to become successful than to become great.

and regarding your site: what means archetecture?
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geesbert
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2009, 07:15:34 AM »
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Quote from: geesbert
and regarding your site: what means archetecture?


sean beat me on that one...
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Lust4Life
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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2009, 10:33:34 AM »
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John,

Thank you for your very thoughtful response to my questions.
Makes great sense and I'll be re-reading your comments many times in the coming months!

To SeanBK and geesbert:
As to the corrections on my web site spelling, corrections made.
Thanks for pointing it out - just added the tab late last night.
That's why this posting isn't titled:  How to become a Great English Teacher!
 

And no to the Great deletion - Great is the destination I want to target.
I have the rest of my life to accomplish it!

Jack
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Rudy Torres
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« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2009, 10:41:58 AM »
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Jack

I wish you luck with your new venture. I redirected my shooting to Architecture 5 years ago and I'm still doing pretty good. At least I'm still paying my bills, mortgage and sending my kids to college. I agree with John-S, study your market. Take some time to visit architects and builders.

As far as gear goes, I use C-stands, Combo Stands, High Boys, Low Boys, and tons of other gear and lighting. This stuff is heavy and we move it around. At the end of the day I'm hurting, yeah even with assistant(s). I used this stuff even when I started but I was 20 years younger. I often wonder after a shoot if I can still do this when I'm ..."63". The one piece of gear I recommend is a bottle of ibuprofen.

Oh yeah, I'm 45.

- Rudy
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MHFA
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2009, 10:54:17 AM »
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Hi Rudy,

for architectural work you must first learn more about architecture. I tried to explain this in my photographic guide:"architectural photography" :
http://www.amazon.com/Basics-Architectural...5446&sr=8-5

Michael
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Rudy Torres
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2009, 11:18:05 AM »
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Michael,

Haven't read that one. I'll have to pick up a copy.

- Rudy
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Rudy Torres
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« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2009, 11:20:00 AM »
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Oh and Jack,
Think Big. Don't think real estate shooter. Production Value goes a long way.
My 2 cents. Ummm, on second thought, my one cent.

- Rudy
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Lust4Life
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« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2009, 01:56:14 PM »
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Rudy,

Your comments about the extensive gear is a bit concerning.  I'm hoping to build the business on very little "general hardware" .... more natural light and a ladder on limited occasions.  From your comments, sounds like I need a moving van full of gear.

Am I being naive?  
Possible on the extent that natural light will do the job for me - Hassie will now take a 1 minute exposure with latest firmware.  And I prefer to work alone - days of numerous folks working with me being fun has long since passed.  Managing 6 programmers from MIT/Georgia Tech tends to do that to a chap.

Due to undiagnosed issue with muscle tremors, repeated heavy lifting is out of the question.  General health is excellent - I walk/jog 4 miles every day and have no issues with weight control - 6'4" and 203#.  

Was hoping that adding just a TechPan camera body and a few lenses, or the HTS, would provide the foundation for most jobs.  

This thread is valuable for me as I've never worked with or know well an Architectual photographer - just going on what I envision the task to be.  Interfacing with the client and build the business does not intimidate me.  I've done it before in my software development work.

I'm fortunate in that I have no debts to force me into compromising situations.  Just want to extend my photography passion into an area that would provide an additional revenue stream.  Would be nice, compared to Fine Art Landscape Photography.  

A buddy of mine has been able to pull off making a handsome living from Landscape work - Clyde Butcher.  But he has worked very hard and spent his life building a niche market.  I know it can be done, but I'd like to go in a new direction that would make use of my current knowledge base.  Thus pondering the move in the direction of architecture.

Jack

Jack
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 03:38:40 PM by Lust4Life » Logged

Juanito
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« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2009, 02:14:37 PM »
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I'm not an architectural photographer. After food, it's my least favorite specialty. However, I've got almost 20 years experience as a commercial photographer and there's common trends that affect us all. Nowadays, almost anyone can produce professional results with a camera and photoshop. My clients shoot with the same camera that I use.

What I bring to the table is not only my creative vision, but my technical skills. There's a lot to be said for the ability to use lighting to produce results that the client can't do on their own. If you can take a drab structure and make it look amazing through your creative vision, lighting and post-production skills, you'll have no shortage of clients.

I think one of the keys to success nowadays is being able to bring in production value that the client can't duplicate on their own. So, before you dismiss the possibility of using external lighting, I'd learn how to use it and see if you can't incorporate it in your work. In the end, you either stand out or you don't. Thinking that you can be successful as a professional photographer without lighting experience is kind of like playing football without a passing game. Might have worked back in the days of Jim Thorpe, but not anymore.

John
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2009, 04:40:16 PM »
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A huge topic-way too much to discuss here. This is not a great economy to start, but hey there is always room for someone good. Visit my blog on architectural photography listed below. I am a bit behind updating it as I have been to busy with work, but give it a try. As per lighting, there is sometimes that you just have to supplement-a topic I've been meaning to discuss on the blog-maybe in a couple of weeks. And I would not work without at least one assistant. I would not get much done without an assistant to straighten things up, move furniture, run to the truck to get something etc. Usually thee client is there too helping to rearrange furniture etc.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 05:32:16 PM by Kirk Gittings » Logged

Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
Architecture and Landscape Photography
WWW.GITTINGSPHOTO.COM

LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)
Jeffreytotaro
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« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2009, 08:26:08 PM »
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Quote from: Lust4Life
Hassie will now take a 1 minute exposure with latest firmware.  And I prefer to work alone -
Jack
Jack,

John has made many good points.  As the co-chair to the architectural specialty group of ASMP, I invite you to join so you can benefit from the knowledge of the membership which is shared openly on the list serve.  I would second those who have commented that HDR is not really a great solution at this point.  I find that there is much time spent in PS on every image to bring it to its fullest potential, but this still involves hand-work, cutting paths, using adjustment layers.  HDR is not a magic bullet.  

In regard to working alone, shooting arch is not a solo event.  There is often a client on the shoot and I encourage you to make sure there is one there.  Everyone is always happier when they can see the challenges you faced on the shoot rather than having to make excuses later.  Also I consider the whole process a collaboration between photographer, architect, and yes even assistant.  Working with an assistant will make your images better, no doubt.  When you are rushing to get a shot, there's nothing better than having someone there to help make things happen.  Having the freedom to walk away from the camera set-up while working on a busy city street to go look for the next shot is invaluable.  Clients will pay for assistants as part of the shoot cost, so don't consider it something that you have to pay out of pocket for.  You will appear, and you will be, more professional when working with an assistant.  It raises the level of the entire process.  And your equipment will thank you as well.  The gear tends to get more thrown around when you work alone since you are more hurried.  I had a mentor who would not rent out his gear to me unless I was working with an assistant for just that reason.

All of this is meant to give you a better idea of what to expect, not to discourage so please keep that in mind.
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collum
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« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2009, 11:34:22 PM »
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I've also just started in the business of architectural photography as well. So far, I've found the lighting to be much more significant than the camera gear. If you look at images from Architectural Digest, and compare them to the local Real Estate brochures, it seems to be the quality of light that separates them the most (well.. the property photographed also has something to do with it as well   ). Each shot has been a production event... the setting up of the camera has been the first, and easiest task. The rest of the time has been spent balancing lighting. I have a few monolights, but have ended up also renting additional lights.  I've found that a days work will produce 15-20 quality, finished images at the most.. and that's what I quote clients.

So far, I'm loving it!  (and still a *long* way to go before being even a 'good' architectural photographer)


      Jim
      http://www.collumphotography.com
« Last Edit: October 14, 2009, 11:38:21 PM by collum » Logged
Rudy Torres
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« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2009, 11:59:49 PM »
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Quote from: Lust4Life
Rudy,

Your comments about the extensive gear is a bit concerning.  I'm hoping to build the business on very little "general hardware" .... more natural light and a ladder on limited occasions.  From your comments, sounds like I need a moving van full of gear.

Am I being naive?  
Possible on the extent that natural light will do the job for me - Hassie will now take a 1 minute exposure with latest firmware.  And I prefer to work alone - days of numerous folks working with me being fun has long since passed.  Managing 6 programmers from MIT/Georgia Tech tends to do that to a chap.

Due to undiagnosed issue with muscle tremors, repeated heavy lifting is out of the question.  General health is excellent - I walk/jog 4 miles every day and have no issues with weight control - 6'4" and 203#.  

Was hoping that adding just a TechPan camera body and a few lenses, or the HTS, would provide the foundation for most jobs.  

This thread is valuable for me as I've never worked with or know well an Architectual photographer - just going on what I envision the task to be.  Interfacing with the client and build the business does not intimidate me.  I've done it before in my software development work.

I'm fortunate in that I have no debts to force me into compromising situations.  Just want to extend my photography passion into an area that would provide an additional revenue stream.  Would be nice, compared to Fine Art Landscape Photography.  

A buddy of mine has been able to pull off making a handsome living from Landscape work - Clyde Butcher.  But he has worked very hard and spent his life building a niche market.  I know it can be done, but I'd like to go in a new direction that would make use of my current knowledge base.  Thus pondering the move in the direction of architecture.

Jack

Jack

Jack

I don't use a Large moving van but it is a lot of gear. In my experience it's not practical to think you can shoot a large building (interiors and exteriors) in only the best light. Such projects are unrealistic and would take forever to complete. Clients don't have that kind of time. If your shooting a home, owners of the home don't have that kind of patience. I just finished shooting a 21,000 sq ft home and it took 7 days from sun up to sun down. This project was for the builder and architect. We scheduled the shoot during the time the owners were in California. So I take strobes and tungsten lights to give me the ability to shoot all day long. That's why all the gear.

It's been mentioned before but I will say it as well. I don't think you should shoot alone. For more reasons than just the obvious. Believe me when I say (and has been said), production value goes a long way. Don't just show up with a camera and tripod. You don't need a crew of many, just a few or even just a couple of people to help move stuff around. It helps to have a second pair of eyes. It helps to have a second pair of hands. It helps just to have someone else to talk to because the client will not always be around, especially if the client trusts you'll shoot what they need.

Oh and don't forget that ibuprofen. I'm not kidding.

- Rudy
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stewarthemley
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2009, 03:38:44 AM »
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This is a GREAT little thread and I want to say thanks to Jack for starting it and to all who offered such thoughtful and useful advice. As some one who came late to architectural photography I realize how much there is to learn and that nothing compares with talking to someone who has been successful - "great" is over-used these days. Kirk, a special thanks for so selflessly sharing your thoughts and techniques on your blog.
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geesbert
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« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2009, 04:51:43 AM »
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the best thing about working with assistants is the moment, when the shooting is finished, you gave everything and are exhausted. then you just sit down with your client for a nice chat, all pressure gone, while your crew packs up everything.


Additionally: once you're up the mentioned ladder you wish for a second pair of hands to grab you that filter, card, battery. and you might appreciate someone looking after your bags while you're up there (quite often you stand on a public street or square while working). you don't really want to ask your client for a helping hand...
« Last Edit: October 16, 2009, 03:03:23 AM by geesbert » Logged

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Lust4Life
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« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2009, 05:48:29 AM »
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Ahhh - now if finally understand the concept of an Assistant!

Jack

Quote from: geesbert
the best thing about working with assistants is the moment, when the shooting is finished, you gave everything and are exhausted. then you just sit down with your client for a nice chat, all pressure gone, while your crew packs up everything.
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marcwilson
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« Reply #18 on: October 15, 2009, 08:28:43 AM »
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Quote from: Kirk Gittings
Visit my blog on architectural photography listed below. I am a bit behind updating it as I have been to busy with work, but give it a try.

Great blog Kirk.
Out of interest in regards to simple 2/3 shot flat stitching...what are your overriding reasons for using stitching over a single wider image.?
less distortion, larger files. etc?

Marc
« Last Edit: October 15, 2009, 09:51:15 AM by marcwilson » Logged

TMARK
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« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2009, 09:42:48 AM »
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I don't shoot architecture, really, but my father is an architect and an artist who has shot his own stuff for years.  He gave me his old Sinar P and RZ.  He started shooting his own work because he was disatisfied with most of the shooters he worked with, mainly because they "didn't get it".  What they didn't get, the "it", was the import of the structure, th history of how a society organizes space, and consequently what makes the building/plaza different.  If you can understand that, understand the building's significance and place in history, and what's new, you can find the essential truth of the building/site, and shoot it.

The problem seems to be that most people don't understand Modernism in a deep way, not just its history, but its impact of society, and thus societal choices in how space is organized, which is obviously architecture.  Once you understand this history, Brutalism makes sense.  Post Modernism makes sense (as much as it possibly can).  Then you can know the essential truth of the site, and shoot accordingly.  

I also agree with what everyone else is saying about the business side, and lights.  Look into a big silk and a couple of Ari 2k fresnels.  You can light the side of a building very nicely with a big silk.  Interiors strobes and HMI's.

Good luck.  I think most of teh work will be on the business side.
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