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The thing is that with architecture, what is there is there. We can't put a human to create a story there since then it would be about the human, not about the building.

For example — thousands of photos have been taken of Taj Mahal. If you search google with Taj Mahal photos, you will find all photos with the same view.

Aim, indeed, is to show the beauty of the building. How to achieve it in such a way that it does not seem like another Taj Mahal photo which is always printed on the postcards?

What can I do to make my photos stand out? What are the guidelines which can be used for shooting architecture photos?

  • It would be interesting that you show some of your actual architectural photos. – Rafael Apr 26 '17 at 13:36
  • You might start by selecting a subject that is not one of the most photographed structures in the history of mankind. – Michael C Apr 26 '17 at 14:52
  • One of Michael Freeman's books has a section on photographing Machu Picchu — another quite well covered setting — in an interesting way. I can't find it in quick browse, but I'll try to turn it up. – mattdm Apr 26 '17 at 15:53
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  1. You can wait for a very specific lighting (dawn, sunset), atmospheric events (fog, clouds, storm).

  2. You can add a concept to the picture : lego figurines, human characters, accessories, staging.

  3. You can questionate the concept of Taj Mahal itself : if it is over-representated, people will recognize it immediatly, so you can play hide and seek with it, hide it partially, blur it,…

  4. Taj Mahal is architecture ? Well turn it into still nature, portrait, even pornography. Shapes can be diverted.

  5. What we see everyday are single shots. Try to work on a series and turn it into a narrative of several frames.

  • I would be careful with people, because they tend to grab too much attention. There are zounds of pictures "Bob an Jane were at Taj Mahal!" But when arranged decently it may work well and even better. – Crowley Apr 26 '17 at 9:28
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If you want something different from "the average Taj Mahal" picture you have to find something that the others hasn't focused on yet.

I have never been there, so I cannot tell for sure. Try to find different shooting point with different story.

The "average Taj Mahal" focuses on a perfect alignment and symmetry of the building and the complex. Break it.

It is also shot from a hand-held camera or a tripod, try to shoot from the ground or from the sky.

Another option is the one you have discarded in the second sentence. Don't focus primarily on Taj Mahal. Find something else to snatch the attention and let the Taj Mahal to finish the emotion.

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    I would have written a similar answer as you, but I think the key point you made was "break it". If all the photos of the Taj have been made according to the classical rules of photography, then the only way to stand out is to break those rules. – Peter M Apr 26 '17 at 11:40
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With just camera

  • Lighting Lighting and Lighting. Wait for good lighting, a storm, a dramatic sky, a harsh 3pm shadow, an early morning fog, a late night star show.

  • Focus on composition. What speaks to you about the building. What is the history of the building. What best represents that history?

  • The building as character. The building is the focus here. But what is the building's foreground? What is the building's background? What angles do the building look best? Like a portrait of a person it may be a full body shot, it may be only a piece. In the case of architecture it may be the same. Perhaps its only a suggestion or portion of the whole.

  • The building as setting. Put the foreground in focus. Perhaps its plants or the water. The building is clear enough to give a sense of location to the photo but its not the centerpiece.

  • Dodge and Burn. Even in film days people dodged and burned. So many today seem to want to just slap on a preset do some minor tweaking to White Balance and consider the image done. What was the lighting you were going for? How can you enhance and ensure that the lighting you wanted really leads the eye --- by dodging and burning.

  • And finally, color grade. While you certainly won't be able to light most architecture projects especially when talking about landmarks that doesn't mean you can't do post processing to grade them. Do you want to bring out the warmth of the building or make it cold and modern. Should it be flattened down in an attempt to be almost painterly in quality. Should it be black and white lending even more attention to shadows.

With gear

  • Drone if allowed is one way to stand out
  • Low ND Filters to create dramatic skies
  • High ND Filters to make people disappear from the setting
  • Tilt shift lens to get everything parallel
  • 1
    In a "in post" section you could have a point "stack multiple exposures to remove people" which with the right tools (that allow you do select a bit more) can give you amazing results. Especially in crowded areas, just with ND filters you will have a "people haze" over the image. With software and enough exposures you can get rid of them entirely and just use the pixel data of the building. – PlasmaHH May 2 '17 at 14:00
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When people did this with actual film, infrared was a go-to for architectural photography, mostly because of the dark skies and light foliage. You can see examples here and here. You can take infrared photos with your digital camera using an infrared filter (blocks everything but infrared) and longish exposure times, or have your camera converted.

Almost forgot... Taj Mahal in infrared!

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Those postcard shots show the places in the most pleasing way, but usually fail to show the spirit of the place. Perhaps show the building when the cleaning takes place. Perhaps look at what happens at the back side. Or look for signs of history on the walls and in the neighborhood?

Take a look at books by Michael Freeman: The photographers eye, The photographer's story, The photographers mind and others.

There are different approaches in photography. Some people tend to look for the decisive moment, some look for the spirit of the place or the portrayed individual, some love to play with geometric shapes and have more abstract thinking.

  • Thank you, but I'm afraid I will disappoint. I added few ore thoughts, but intentionally nothing specific. I think the ideas should come from the photographer's heart in order to remain genuine. – MirekE May 6 '17 at 6:36

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