Elaine Li Manfrotto

16.10.2018

Finding Shapes in architectural photography

written by:
Elaine Li

16.10.2018

Finding Shapes in architectural photography

In big cities, more often than not, you’re surrounded by architecture and skyscrapers. Finding shapes while shooting architecture is not difficult. The ‘easiest’ and most straight-forward shot, is to stand in the middle of the building and get a perfectly symmetrical shot. Be sure to turn on the grid function on your camera or phone for perfect symmetry in your shots that satisfy your compulsive tendencies. But there is more to it and mountains of skills to earn in order to capture more creative photos of the same building to create different compositions.

Elaine Li for Manfrotto

A look-up or look-down shot is good for starters. If the building you’re in is pretty tall – say 20+ floors high – try shooting from the bottom level, then go to the mid level (e.g. 10th floor), then go to the top level to scout the building and get the most out of your stroll. Each floor will offer a slightly different angle, that could make or break your quest for the perfect shot. Having a deeper understanding of the building will help you find the perfect floor, for the perfect angle, leading to a perfectly framed shot.

Elaine Li for Manfrotto Elaine Li for Manfrotto

You might notice I also added a human element to the shots above. That way you can get a sense of scale of the building. Without people, it’s hard to get a grasp the grandeur of man-made architectural works of art that surround us. I also enjoy finding reflective surfaces nearby; whether it’s mirrors, marble, glass/panels on buildings. For example, the Louvre below looks amazing by itself at night, but stepping further away from the prismatic masterpiece, you’ll find interesting reflections on the marble edge of the pool that surrounds it. The building on the right from Guangzhou was particularly interesting to me too. If you look closely, you’ll see a reflection of another building, which is where this photo was taken from. The tastefully embedded layers of elements that form this image is what intrigues me the most. At first, you just see a portion of the building shrouded in clouds, but each additional moment you spend looking at the picture unravels my true intention behind the shot, and how it is framed.

Elaine Li Manfrotto Elaine Li for Manfrotto

If you step even further back of the main subject you’re trying to shoot (and this could be as easy as taking a few steps back, to a short hike around the subject), you might notice even more interesting ways to frame the subject. While this sounds challenging and a lot of additional effort, it is definitely worth the final result. Eventually, you will be able to scout without physically moving and narrow it down to just a few different angles that result in the best capture.

Elaine Li for Manfrotto Elaine Li for Manfrotto

Last but not least, it’s also really fun to find shapes in aerial photography. With the help of Google Map Satellite View, often times you’ll find interesting structures you’d have never imagined. Drone photography has opened a whole new perspective or angle to how we can see, show, and portray the world. The bird’s eye view is hard to plan for, that’s why i’m glad Satellite view helps me determine good spots by moving nothing more than my fingertips.

Elaine Li for Manfrotto Elaine Li for Manfrotto

Elaine Li

Hong Kong

Elaine is a Hong Kong-based art director and freelance photographer. She specializes in city and street photography, and is known for her urban exploration and rooftopping work. With her passion in photography and power of social media, she has garnered over 150k following on Instagram, and work with a variety of brands as a social influencer.

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