Photographing Architecture

Whether your destination is close to home or across the globe, vacation travel presents a chance to photograph interesting architecture. Longtime pro John Linden shares his suggestions for making the most of this unique opportunity.


"On holiday," Linden says, "you don’t want the camera to get in your way. Carry a camera you’re comfortable with. These days, there are so many great cameras at every price point. You can do it with a compact camera, but if you’ve been thinking hard about getting a full-frame sensor and a tilt-shift lens, this might be a fantastic opportunity.

One reason I think it’s effective looking into the sun is, all those tall buildings are working like reflectors, bouncing light back into the shadows of the buildings. This is the absolute opposite of the "keep the sun on your shoulder" rule, but don’t be afraid to explore and make a mistake because some of the best shots break the rules.

"For most people," he continues, "I would recommend a good quality zoom lens and one or two primes—like a wide-angle and a standard prime. The standard prime is a fast lens for interiors or low-light areas. Travel light."

Traveling light may mean leaving the tripod at home. While they’re crucial for dusk exteriors, at many popular destinations, tripods aren’t permitted indoors.

"Without special permissions," he says, "you’re not going to be taking a tripod into many places. For exteriors, if you can bring a light tripod and you want to try doing evening twilight shots, that’s the time to bring it out.

"When you’re handholding," Linden adds, "make it a point to keep everything level and squared up. And try to avoid converging verticals at all costs. Keep everything on a grid, nice and clean, with as much depth of field as possible. I always use the longest lens I can in order to compress the image and avoid distortion."


"Especially on holiday," Linden says, "you’re going to want to get the establishing ‘all-in’ shot, but I feel you can often say more with less—with tight, graphic detail shots. They’re also more visually interesting. You can get the essence of architecture, especially iconic architecture, sometimes through the graphic detail. That image will be unique, unlike all the other tourists to your left and your right. The first thing I try to do is figure out what’s unique about a building and make sure to get that. And it isn’t always straight across; it could be straight up or straight down. Be aware of the surroundings, what’s unique, and try to find something that maybe other people have missed."

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