Architecture In (E)motion
When you think about architectural photography, you probably don’t think about (e)motion: the focus is on the project, not on people engaging with it. Whether it's office photography or exterior photography, traditional architectural photography is frequently created using a clean canvas, devoid of people.
Maple Grove Central Park Splash Pad, Stantec
Fridley City Hall, BKV Architects
But I believe this is a lost opportunity. Including people in architectural images brings a static image to life. It ignites the imagination by adding human emotion. It shapes the narrative, or story of the project, subtly suggesting the likely content of the conversations that resulted in the ultimate design.
Brickhouse Restaurant, Shea Design
In spite of the conventional view of architectural photography, I suggest to my clients, architects, interior designers, and others, that this is not an “either/or” decision, but rather, one that is a “both/and.” We commit to taking the clean canvas shots of the building, and we also choose how to bring motion and/or human energy to the images. This is why I call these photographs “Architecture in (E)motion.”
Homestead Visitor's Center, South Dakota. JLG Architects
The result is that my clients have award-winning, building-only photos that can be used for architectural competitions, and they also have a portfolio of lively, (e)motion filled photos that are well-suited to use in marketing. (E)motion adds a softer, rounder dynamic human element to the solid static character of empty built spaces.
Private Residence, Mom's Design|Build
As one of the most experienced Minneapolis commercial photographers, I collaborate with the entire design team to understand why each element was included in the project. Sometimes I am able to learn about what a client specifically requested; other times, it becomes clear that the architect or designer’s imagination and experience added an unexpected element that changed the way people move, work or live in the space.
Eau Claire City Hall, JLG Architects
People in these pictures are never props; they help tell the story of the project. They are active; a person walking through a scene can be blurred, as if the viewer looked up at that moment and saw them passing by. Using photographic techniques we can obscure the identity of the people in the photo. We also get signed releases to allow us to use recognizable, clear, and focused images of people. This choice provides our clients with control and options, should styles change over time.
Logan Park Wading Pool, Minneapolis. Stantec
People also bring scale to an image and help the viewer understand the volume and geometry of the space. We usually shoot the space at slow shutter speeds without people first so we can maximize Depth of Field and luminosity. Then we reshoot the same scenes at faster shutter speeds with people when the scene requires it and subjects are available or cast specifically for the project. We take a series of shots to ensure we get just the right amount of movement, or to capture people when they are at their best. The result is that my clients receive both “A” and “B” versions of the final images, with and without people.
Otsego Middle School, Stahl Construction
With homage to our social media culture I also shoot photos that feature people with a secondary emphasis on the architecture. These photos are not staged; they are more organic and in-the-moment, often shot with a handheld camera rather than one locked down on a tripod. Half of my work is photographing people. Besides traditional portraits, I shoot captured moments of people so viewers get a sense of the true personality of both the individual and the business they work for. Used in conjunction with other architectural images, these photos leverage the emotional impact of a project by communicating how people feel about being in the space.
Private Residence, Ground One Enterprises
Because of my extensive experience directing and posing people, I know how to communicate, give understandable direction, and coach spontaneity out of them. Before I even pick the camera up, I’ll engage them in conversation to get them relaxed. After taking some time, I’ll pick up the camera and seamlessly begin to take pictures. More than once, I’ve heard people say, “I didn’t even realize you were shooting!”
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