Lenses for Architectural Photography

Perspective Corrected Photograph
by fotofacade

Architectural Photography is a specialised branch of photography that not many people master. One of the reasons is that very often, the architectural photographer needs equipment that is beyond the reach of the average photo enthusiast. Other reasons include: needing a good aesthetic sense, and (as with all photographic subjects) a true appreciation of the architecture being photographed.

An understanding of composition and elements of design, and an eye for spotting them helps too… However, we’re not doing a class on how to take Architectural photographs, though that may come later. So, on to the lenses…

Tilt-Shift Lenses
A tilt-shift (abbreviated to TS and also called a Perspective Correction lens) lens enables your SLR camera to operate like a bellows or view camera (in a restricted sense though…). Essentially, the problem with taking pictures of tall buildings from the ground is that as their height increases, the top of the building gets further away from the camera, introducing ‘perspective’ into the photograph. Illustration of how Tilt shift or perspective correction lenses workThe work around is to keep the camera pointed parallel to the ground; but the problem with doing this is that you more of the ground into your photograph and you may end up cutting off the top of the building. The TS lens, helps by allowing you to keep the camera perfectly horizontal but ‘shifting’ the view of the lens upwards… Take a look a the illustration…

Here are some more interesting photographs taken with Tilt-Shift lenses: Charminar by Sabir, CIS building by fotofacade and Full Shift Boogie by iso100.

Here are a couple of TS lenses that I’d want to own (if I could afford them)

Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L Tilt Shift Lens
Canon TS-E 45mm f/2.8 Tilt Shift Lens
Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt Shift Lens

Nikon 28mm f/3.5 PC-Nikkor
Nikon 85mm f/2.8 PC Micro Nikkor

Ultra Wide-Angle lenses

Ultra Wide-Angle Photograph of InteriorsBy Cuellar

Now, Architectural photography also includes pictures of interiors… Often the areas that need to be photographed are narrow or small, but need to be shown in their entirety. This calls for another breed of special lenses. Ultra Wide-Angle lenses, like TS lenses are expensive play things for people who have no need for them, but a necessity for those who do… 14-21mm prime lenses fit the bill for professional photographers who make a living out of photographing interiors. However, for the enthusiast who prefers to have a more usable range of focal lengths and does not ‘need’ the ultra-high quality that the prime lenses offer, the ultra-wide zoom lenses that various companies have on offer are a good option. Canon, Nikon, Sigma and Tamron have some really good zoom lenses for any Digital or Film SLR that you may have.

Here are some Ultra-Wide Prime and Zoom lenses for Canon and Nikon cameras. Sigma and Tamron lenses have not been mentioned as they come in either Canon or Nikon mounts; however, here is a list of all sigma lenses and Tamron’s lenses page.

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L USM – Unique for its absolutely straight lines in spite of wide view.
Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED IF DX – Meant for DX format cameras
Nikon 14mm f/2.8D ED AF – Similar to Canon’s 14mm lens
Nikon 18mm f/2.8D AF
Nikon 18mm – 70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX – Meant for DX format cameras
Nikon 20mm f/2.8D AF

Special Effects lenses
Fisheye Lenses bring a very different view to any photograph. A fisheye lens brings in a totally different aspect when it comes to architecture. It enables the photographer to explore architecture as patterns and shapes, distorting them – sometimes beyond recognition – so that the viewer is also forced to look at architecture in a new way.

Here are some Fisheye lenses.
Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye
Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye – Meant for DX format cameras
Nikon 16mm F/2.8D AF Fisheye
Sigma 8mm f/3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye (for Canon) – Circular Fisheye! – WOW!
Sigma 8mm f/3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye (for Nikon) – Circular Fisheye! – WOW!
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye (for Canon)
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye (for Nikon)

I hope that this list and explanation of some of the lenses that can be used for Architectural photography is of some use. This is by no means an extensive list. Rather, I intend it as a list that will help you get a fair idea of the kinds of lenses that can be used profitably, to get pictures that bring a viewer back for a second look. If you’re interested in improving your photography, look at our Photo Projects series.

Find out more about lenses for different kinds of photography at The Lens Resource index post.