Seeing line, shape and form in Manchester’s architecture

I’ve always wondered what the secret is when it comes to architecture photography. After going on a course today, it turns out the secret is using manual rather than aperture (or shutter speed) priority, and looking for line, shape and form.

Don’t be scared of manual

Using manual means you’re thinking about the right exposure for your picture. I’ve always used AV and set my ISO to auto and plumped for whatever shutter speed the camera gives me, switching to TV mode if the shutter speed was too slow, but compromising the depth of field. Using manual gives you much more control; you can set your ISO to 400-800, leave it, decide on the depth of field you want, and then set the shutter speed to give you the right exposure (you can check this on the back of your camera).

Experimenting with shallow and wide depths of field and managing the exposure like this gives you much more control, results in better exposed pictures and allows you to experiment a lot more with the available light. It’s also much easier than I thought it would be.

IMG_3431Finding form

Looking deliberately for lines and shapes in architecture gives you a different way of photographing buildings. Instead of seeing the building, you start to see it as a series of shapes, lines and patterns – it becomes almost abstracted. You can start to put different shapes together to create much more interesting photos.

Top tips

My top tips from today’s course are:

  • Use manual – don’t be scared of it, it’s easier than you might think and much more satisfying to use
  • Put different lines together, maybe from different buildings or structures
  • Look for shapes and patterns in the world around you to create great photos
  • Reflections can be an unusual way of capturing a building
  • Look from different angles – adjusting yourself so you’re low to the ground or at a slight angle can make all the difference to a shot
  • Try to tell the story of a building, like what it’s made of, or when and where it was built – give the viewer clues to its whereabouts by what you capture around it.

Want to improve your skills?

Big thanks to Paul Wolfgang Webster – I took all of these today during his architecture photography course, and they’re a huge improvement in my work (so much so, I’ve written my first blog in a while!). Usually after a day of shooting I don’t have this many shots I’m proud to share, so hopefully this is a new beginning for my architecture shots. This is the second course of his I’ve been on, and I’d definitely recommend them – you can get them through Amazon Local deals at the moment and they’re well worth the money!


For more of my pictures of Manchester, have a look here.

Week 6 of 52: lightening eyes and smoothing skin

Last week’s photo is one I took a few weeks ago. For this one I:

  • Kept it in black & white, which was how I edited it for the 365 project. I think it has a much nicer feel than the original colour photo, and the whiteboard edge in the background is less obvious in b&w.
  • Lightened the whole image a bit in Camera Raw. While some of the background is a bit blown out, the face was a little dark on one side, despite my makeshift paper reflector (note to self – buy a proper reflector). I don’t usually do edits in Raw as I tend to stick to Photoshop, but thought I might as well try it as an experiment. I think it worked okay.
  • Lightened the eyes to make them whiter – being careful not to overdo it, which I did initially. In fact, I’m still not sure whether they’re a bit too bright…
  • Softened the skin using layers.

Here are the before and after pictures, just to prove there’s a difference. And big thanks to Kelly for being this week’s muse 🙂


Project 365 days 23-26: landscapes, birds and points of view

On Thursday I went to an ‘alternative camera club’ at Selfridges in Manchester, as part of the Festival of Imagination. We were given a brief to take a photo with our mobiles, the brief being ‘a photo with a point of view’. These sunglasses don’t really have a point of view until worn, at which point they’ll all have different points of view. And I liked the repetition of the pattern. This is the first picture I’ve taken with my phone for this project, and it’s a bit blurry, but I included it so it reminds me about the day I went wandering around Selfridges at lunchtime taking photos.

023 a point of view resizedI had the afternoon off on Friday to go and pick up the new car, so after I finished work I took a tram up to Salford Quays to meet the other half so we could set off. I took a few different shots of birds and various bits of architecture while I was waiting, and even found steps can make an interesting abstract shot. I think my favourite picture of the day is of the bird in the water because although it’s not quite as sharp as I’d like, I like the way the water looks and the bird’s reflection, which I didn’t notice I’d captured until later.

Yesterday we had a drive over Woodhead pass and back over Snake pass. This was taken on the road off Woodhead on the way to Holmfirth.

025 Woodhead pass resized

Today we had a run out to Blackpool. It was raining and very windy so we spent more time in the arcades than on the front. I did a black and white conversion to this photo of the beach and pier, which I think suited the cold weather (and is my photo for today), although the clown in the arcade has an almost sinister look to it in black and white.

See the full 365 day project here.


Brighton sights

I went to Brighton last week for a conference with work where I ran a workshop on how to be creative; the workshop was quite playful compared to the rest of the (rather more serious and business-y) agenda, and covered key questions like ‘how do you put a giraffe in a fridge?’ It was good fun to run and big thanks to all the people who came along. People seemed to really get into it, and I gave everyone a contract to sign at the end to say which practical tip they were going to take away with them. Might seem like a bit of a gimmick, but not one contract was left on the table afterwards, so everyone took them away. I take this as a good sign and hope we (I was ably assisted by a colleague, Mark) managed to spread a little bit of creativity around some workplaces.

While I was there I had a couple of hours to walk round Brighton. I’ve never been to Brighton before, so not one to miss the opportunity – despite already having several bags to drag across the country with me – I took my camera and thought I’d have a nosey round (I also took my lomo but haven’t had the film developed yet). It was fairly overcast, but at least that meant the sky didn’t blow out – I tend to find this a problem even with a permanently attached UV filter. I must be going wrong somewhere.

I tried to be a bit more selective in setting up my shots than usual, as I’m conscious that I often end up with too many pictures where the subject isn’t clear. I tried framing a point of interest in the foreground with a wide aperture, to blur the background, which worked okay.

I thought I’d try a couple in black & white while I was editing them, or in the case of the lamp post, just tweaking the contrast, as it looks b&w anyway. I should experiment more with b&w shots. I’ve only recently learnt that if you shoot in b&w in raw, you can always convert to colour in post-processing, so there’s no excuse not to really, you can always change your mind later.

I’ve learnt to take more pictures of odd things which I might not necessarily think would make a great picture on first glance. I quite liked this sign, and decided to snap it. I like the resulting juxtaposition of the poster (and its message) with the couple walking past in the background as I took the shot. If I’m honest, this was accidental, but I’ll take it! The composition could be better – the couple could be in focus, and the post in the background is distracting – but if you ignore that, there’s something about it. Just shows an ‘interesting’ picture could appear at any moment.

I think the ones below are probably my favourites.