This post adds to my series on composition in architectural photography.

The first composition I looked at was the Elevation Straight On shot. This time we’re going to look at what happens when we shoot an elevation from an angle. As a general term I’m going to call this an Elevation 3D shot, but really it’s two different shots which i’ll explain in more detail below.

What we get with an Elevation 3D shot


Before we get to far into this post let’s take 2 mins to think about what we actually get from a Elevation 3D shot as compared to an Elevation Straight On shot.

  • A view of the front facade AND the side facade.
  • We add depth to the building and three dimensionality.
  • We loose parallel horizontal lines and instead get converging lines.
  • Unless we shoot a cube shaped building at 45 degrees we will have one dominant facade.

Where an Elevation 3D shot doesn’t work

Not all building can be shot with an Elevation 3D shot. A terrace house for example has no side facade. Likewise, a building with a weak side facade doesn’t work well with this composition. In those types of scenarios the Elevation Straight On shot will likely be the hero shot of the building, but in most other cases, the 30/60 shot will be the composition that fully describes the building in one frame.

Different camera positions for an Elevation 3D shot

architectural photography plan

Above is a plan of different places where you can stand to achieve an Elevation 3D shot. Some positions work better than others, and each provides different results.

The Dead Zone

The dead zone is a place where photos go to die (add over dramatic music). It’s actually just a middle ground position which doesn’t provide a strong Elevation Straight On shot, or a good Elevation 3D shot. What you end up with is illustrated below. The front facade is still the dominant feature of the image, but now we have a slither of the side facade included. The side facade isn’t large enough to be descriptive and more often than not becomes a distraction. We also loose the parallel horizontal lines of the front facade (just enough to be irritating) but the converging horizontal lines we get aren’t strong enough to create a decent 3D form.

architectural photography dead zone

 The 30 / 60 shot

The 30 / 60 shot is similar to an isometric view of the building. It’s approximately 30 degrees around the arc and provides a 3D view where the front facade is still the dominant feature of the shot, but includes a decent amount of the side facade. This location is a likely position for the hero shot of many buildings. You could use the same 30 degree principle coming from the other side, but then the side facade would be the dominate feature. This probably wouldn’t work as a hero shot, but could be a secondary shot in a series.

architect 30 60 shot isometric

The 45 degree shot

A 45 degree shot is 45 degrees along the arc and provides an axonometric type view of the building. The end result is the front facade and the side facade being equally distributed. This can work really well for cube shaped buildings (and potentially provide a hero shot), but for most rectilinear buildings you’ll end up with the long face being cut off, or if you can manage to keep the entire building in frame, the long edge will become the dominant feature.

45 shot