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Lighting is as important in architectural photography as it is in other genre. However, the scale of architectural subjects is normally such that it is impossible or entirely impracticable to use artificial lighting. A photographer must consequently use natural light and control the effects with the limited tools at his or her disposal - time of day, direction of light and weather conditions.

Front lighting produces rather flat images but at least illuminated the subject in a tolerable manner. back lighting is not particularly helpful unless the photographer is looking for particular pictorial effects. The unlit side of a building is seen in uniform shadow and detail can be lost if contrast is high. Under such circumstances, the best option may be to zoom in on particular areas of the building to eliminate the bright background completely.

Given that buildings are three-dimensional subjects it is often best to photograph them under a combination of front and side lighting. A suitable three-quarter view then shows lit and unlit areas of the subject which consequently reveals form and depth. The shadows thrown on parts of a structure by side lighting also reveal textural detail and highlight the repeating elements. The use of a very slow shutter speed can be a useful technique to blur and wash out the moving detail of the sky and hence lift a building or structure out of its background.

Another approach to lighting is to work either at night or during the twillght periods of the day. Artificial lights add a great deal of colour and interest to architectural subjects but the photographer must take care not to blow out highlights of lose too much detail in the shadows or unlit areas. The so-called blue hour, which occurs after sunset, can be a fruitful time to work because all the internal lights are turned on but sufficient natural light remains to capture external detail.


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