Genealogy: Photographing buildings

Genealogy: Photographing buildingsBy Barry J. Ewell

For over 40 years I have used the camera to capture the lives of my family and friends.  The camera has been a very important tool in my professional career in public relations and advertising.  I first started with a film camera and spent hundreds of wonderful/fun hours in a dark room developing and printing my on prints.  Since the late 90’s I have used the digital camera extensively in to aid in my genealogical research.

I would like to share with you a few of the lessons I have learned when photographing buildings.

  1. 1. Choose your angle and avoid distractions:
    1. Choose your angle carefully to minimize the clutter of telephone poles and street signs.
    2. Try photographing from several angles.
    3. Watch out for cars and trucks that might pass between you and the building you are trying to photograph.
  2. 2. Include an interesting object in the foreground.
    1. Include an object in the foreground to add depth to your picture, such as a branch, a boulder, a fence.
  3. 3. Take pictures of the building’s architectural details.
    1. Consider taking photographs of unique architectural details that help tell the story of the building and/or its craftsmen: windows, eves, staircases, awnings, or masonry work.
  4. 4. Include peoplewhenappropriate:
    1. Consider adding a person in the photo to add scale of size.
    2. Add people who live in the home, especially if they are family.
  5. 5. Use lines to lead the eye.
    1. Lines, such as a road, a river, or a fence, direct attention into your picture. Select a spot or an angle where major lines in the scene lead your eye toward the main center of interest.
  6. 6. Wait for the right light:
    1. Photographing a building when the sun is shining directly on it will ensure the sharpest picture and the clearest detail.
    2. The best light is in the early morning shortly after sunrise or late afternoon when the sun is low.
  7. 7. Consider the direction the building is facing:
    1. Some buildings you will need to shoot in the morning, while buildings on the other side of the street may be best shot in the afternoon.
    2. North and south-facing buildings may be even trickier; depending on which way they face, some buildings seem to be perpetually in shadow.
  8. 8.  Take pictures even in bad weather:
    1. Don’t let rainy days discourage you from taking pictures.
    2. Polished by the rain, colors seem to glow.
    3. On overcast days, try to include a spot of color to brighten your picture.
  9.  9. Turn-off your flash:
    1. For more effective lighting—when you’re outside in dim light and your subject isn’t within more than about 10 feet away—turn off your flash and capture the scene in the existing light.
    2. Hold your camera extra steady or use a tripod.
  10. Remember the green grass and blue sky.
    1. Try to get some green grass and blue sky into the picture, if possible.
  11. 11. Choose your angle, avoid distractions:
    1. Choose your angle carefully to minimize the clutter of telephone poles and street signs.
    2. Try photographing from several angles.
    3. Watch out for cars and trucks that might pass between you and the building you are trying to photograph.
  12. Winter, spring, summer, fall.
    1. Consider questions such as the following: How important is it to capture the entire building without blockage of plants? Some buildings are best viewed and photographed in the winter when leaves are off the trees and the building is more clearly visible.
  13. Take your time to frame the photograph.
  14. Take your time to frame the photograph so there is balance and includes the desired detail.