I need to take photos of some buildings which have glass facades as a building shell. They have around 10 floors.

What lens, composition, lighting, time of day are appropriate for this kind of photos?

How to avoid ugly reflections on the glass?

What white balance for a glass facade which is dark blue?

The purpose of photos is to show architectural possibilities with glass facades.


6 Answers 6


Soft light is going to work better for you than harsh light (you get less strong reflections and the contrast will be more manageable) so either early morning, early evening or an overcast day would be best.

A circular polarising filter will help control reflections: you may find you need to try different locations until you find an angle where it's really effective. Or alternatively, try a low angle so you only get the sky reflected instead of other buildings (if this is possible).

Unless you're able to shoot the buildings from far away, you'll inevitably be using a wide-angle lens. Shooting the building close up and straight on (i.e. shooting at a 90° angle to the façade) will usually result in a disappointing shot: the building will be "leaning backwards" very unnaturally. However, shooting at a bit of an angle can be really effective and result in a much nicer effect. Try standing nearer a corner of the building rather than square on. Either way, try not to zoom the lens any wider than you really have to.

As for white balance, the colour of the buildings is irrelevant: just set your camera to the prevailing weather conditions (sunny or cloudy). White balance is about removing colour cast to ensure faithful colour reproduction: to make sure whites appear white and, in your case, blues appear blue.


Sunrise and sunset can be spectacular times for such shots: the reflections become an interesting photographic element rather than something to be eliminated:


1/50 sec f/6.3 (17mm) ISO 400 (no polarizer)

Just meter on the part of the image you want appropriately exposed. (I used spot metering near the door frame.)

The glass on the first two storeys is blue. The warm light of the setting sun balances it; no special white balance settings are needed. Notice the cool look of the sidewalk in the foreground: that's in shadow and, being lit indirectly by the sky, is decidedly blue. The bricks at the top of the building are decidedly warm under direct illumination. If you want to emphasize the building itself, and not the reflection, you might want to cool the white balance slightly, whereas if you want to emphasize the reflection, it might need a tiny bit of warming: but you can see that the sky reflected in the blue glass is not much bluer than the actual sky exposed at the top, anyway. (Transmitted light will have its color altered more radically, whence the pink cast in the windows just above the door.)

Due to the huge range of color in the light sources, image capture in RAW format is almost essential so that you can control the white balance and saturation afterwards. Nevertheless, this image represents almost no post-processing: I removed the lens' distortion (desirable for rectilinear subjects like buildings), increased the contrast by a notch (reflections seem to reduce contrast), and very slightly increased the saturation. To make sure of getting a usable image, I bracketed the shots around this one by about one stop (by varying the exposure time between 1/25 and 1/125 second).

  • 1
    Nice shot too! Great example.
    – dpollitt
    Dec 9, 2011 at 19:03
  • 1
    that's a great example photo. that's a glass facade!
    – john
    Dec 9, 2011 at 22:03

One extremely effective, and extremely time consuming method, is to use off-camera lighting and digital composting.

Essentially, you light the interior of the building and shoot windows in the evening, and then take photos of the building during the day, then compost the night shot windows into the day shot building image.

Best way to describe is to point you to a Strobist article on this technique and photographer:

Strobist article

Michael Kelly website

enter image description here

  • Great shot, but are you allowed to post it here?
    – dpollitt
    Dec 9, 2011 at 19:04
  • Nice photo, but it is not a glass facade. this is a normal house with windows. A glass facade means that glass and metal are the structural elements of the facade. Usually used for office/public buildings, and usually the interior must not be seen from outside. They have strong reflective glass.
    – john
    Dec 9, 2011 at 22:04
  • 1
    I just linked the image on Strobist blog, full attribution is provided with a link to the article. Nothing different than any blog would do for any other blog.I have not copied the image, only linked to it. The photographer's website, also listed, contains many shots of glass facade buildings, shot with similar method.
    – cmason
    Dec 10, 2011 at 2:14

Polarising filter is a must, to either reduce or enhance the reflections you get.

If you are at street level and aiming up, you are mainly going to get clouds and tops of other buildings as reflections. If that doesn't work, you might try to gain access to nearby buildings, or take telephoto shots from nearby hills for instance.

If you do want strong reflections, the best time to do this is often when the building is in shadow, but the reflected objects are in full sun. This way the glass is dark and the the light reflected buildings/clouds have a lot of contrast and drama.

Pink/red skies around sunrise and sunset can be spectacular reflected in glass buildings.

You may find there are few good angles for photos with good reflections. Once you find these, you may find it's the wrong time of day. Suggest you scout out possible angles and note when the light may be good for those angles. You may have to revisit a few times to get all the best shots. I've taken a lot of shots of glass buildings, a few were easy, most took a lot of legwork to get a decent shot.

If you don't have a great wide shot, try taking some detail shots of just one or two panes/segments of the glass which do have something interesting reflected in them.


If you can cooperate with the building management, you'll get very impressive photos with all the lights behind facade windows switched on during twilight. With the right timing (a narrow window of maybe 2-3 minutes), the sky will be dark blue and give a nice contrast against the windows. Since the light is coming from inside, reflections won't be a problem. Usually Sunny or Tungsten WB will work well, depending on type of lighting used. As you go through so much trouble setting up the shot, shoot in RAW and adjust during post-processing.

To give a taste of what's possible, here's a recent photo I took:

Nice evening

Here, the WB is Tungsten. Notice that even if you can't switch on all lights, the sky reflection is quite nice. Looking back, I was a couple of minutes late - the sky should be a little lighter.


Depending on the angle of the building, you can shoot a great sunset/sunrise against it. Here is an example captured using a mobile phone. Sunset in Palo Alto

My aim is to use a DSLR to shoot this scene with light-trail.

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