Learning patterns/Improving your building photography
What problem does this solve?
Your photos of buildings don't seem to come out as well as you'd hoped. Is it your camera? Is it the way you take the photos?
What's the solution?
Here's the good news: the quality of those photos can be greatly improved if you keep in mind a few simple tips. You don't need an expensive camera to take good shots – just a little knowledge and care when taking the image.
Common errors – camera handling
Take care to keep the camera straight. Spending ten seconds on composition (how the visual elements are arranged in the photo) and alignment can greatly improve your picture quality. And in spite of what you may see others doing, always hold your camera or your mobile phone in both hands when composing and taking the picture.
Camera tilt is the single biggest problem with mobile phone uploads, and it's worth repeating: always hold your camera or your mobile phone in both hands when composing and taking the picture.
While there are applications for later editing pictures by rotating them, it's much better to get it right in the first place.
Building partly obscured
Try to avoid objects that obstruct the view of your subject. Choose a different angle, or (if the obstruction – especially parked cars – might go away) come back later. If you absolutely can't avoid cars, for privacy reasons ensure that numberplates are not visible (the number plates had to be blurred out to display this image).
No timestamps please!
If your camera creates a timestamp watermark, please turn off that feature beforehand.
Top of building chopped off
Don't chop off the top of the building or, as some people like to say: "make sure you get the cross on top of the steeple". It can ruin a good picture if the viewer expects to see something that has been chopped off.
Think about how far the edges of the building are from the frame. If the entire building won't fit in the frame, walk back if you can, or try a different angle. If there's nowhere from which you can take a good picture, concentrate on something else instead, such as some of the smaller architectural details.
Bottom of building chopped off
Don't chop off the bottom of the building unless it's unavoidable. It's easy to forget the bottom when you point your camera up to get the top of the building.
If the entire building won't fit in the frame, move back if you can, or try a different angle. If there's nowhere from which you can take a good picture, concentrate on something else instead such as some of the smaller architectural details.
Avoid pointing the camera too close to the sun. The amount of flare in this photo makes the picture unusable, even though the sun itself is outside the frame.
To avoid camera movement, especially in dark church interiors, use the font or a pillar as a support. Blurred images such as this are of little use. Even outside, occasionally we're lucky enough to have something solid like a bench or fence conveniently located; if so, try resting your camera on it for greater stability, and see if the composition and alignment work from that angle.
This picture seems to have been taken one-handed; remember the rule about always holding your camera in two hands? Notice the annoying chopped-off candle holder on the left; again, think about each element in relation to the edges of your photo.
Common errors – auto settings
The camera has automatically exposed the sky correctly, but that leaves the building much too dark. If your camera has exposure adjustment, increase the exposure by about one stop and try again. If that doesn't solve the problem, take the picture from another angle and try to keep the amount of sky to a minimum.
Overexposure like this is not very common on modern cameras. If you see it, check your camera settings: the "exposure compensation" may have been set incorrectly.
Check what your camera is focusing on
Here, the camera autofocus has latched on to the lamp to the left, rather than the building.
Common errors – subjects
Please don't take photos of signs
Please don't upload photographs of posters, noticeboards, signs, modern murals, or anything else having text or two-dimensional images that might be copyright-protected. That applies even to text or images in a public place – even if everyone else is taking pictures of them. Ancient wall paintings in churches are fine: they have no copyright protection.
Here, the copyright-protected text and images have been blurred out. It's OK if your photo of a building incidentally includes an unobtrusive sign that appears small in the final image, but if the sign appears large or prominent, please take the photo from another angle.
No posing please
Please don't upload images of people posing, even if there's a nice building in the background!
That looks a lot better!
The signs are small in the composition and don't cause a copyright problem. Maybe you can do even better than this?
When to use
- Individually uploaded photos of local buildings
- Wiki Loves Monuments, 'Wiki Takes ...' events and 'Wiki Scavenger Hunts'
- Compositional techniques, in the English Wikipedia.
- "Picture composition" in the Danish Wikipedia (Google translation into English).
- "Composition" in the Finnish Wikipedia, which goes into greater detail concerning lines and directionality (Google translation into English).