The best time of day to photograph architecture is a subjective decision and largely depends on the style of imagery you wish to create. That said, as a general rule most of my photography is shot at either end of the day. I usually prefer to shoot with the sun approx 20-45 degrees high in the sky, positioned at an angle to the elevation I am shooting to give my images a little bit of drama. This means that I am typically shooting exteriors at:
6am-8am, 9pm-10pm in summer
9am-11am, 3pm-5pm in winter
I often visit a site more than once so that I can shoot the various building elevations in the best possible light. This is the ideal scenario, but often I have constraints - time, budget, access etc and I need to make the most what is available.
The workflow I use for determining the ‘perfect’ light:
- Look at the site plan and track the sun’s movements around the building.
- Mark the plan with the features/angles I wish to shoot and the ideal and next best shooting times (always good to have a backup plan!)
- Visit the site and compare my marked up plan with what I see: shadows, sun direction, strength and subtlety of light and building materials are all relevant. At this point I am also looking at the surrounding environment to ensure nothing is going to block the sun.
- Review and update the plan and create a shot list with the final times.
An important thing to remember is that the human eye is a lot more sensitive to light than a camera, even a professional model. In practice, this means that a camera cannot see as much detail in the highlight or shadow areas of a scene. If you have identified the feature you wish to shoot and planned it using the method above you should not have any issues as the subject or building will be in direct sunlight
When using an automatic or partially automatic setting (including point-and-shoot cameras and Iphones), if you focus your camera on the subject and click it should expose the photo correctly. If you are taking photos when the subject/building is not in direct sunlight you may need to manually set the exposure and adjust the photo in post production to ensure it is looking its best. I will cover the basics of post-production later in this series. For more tips on using manual settings please watch the tutorials on the Canon website - they are fantastic!