Shot on Film...

We have been taking some time this year to revisit some of our past photo shoots, particularly ones that were shot with film.  Yes ... film.  While most output these days from professional photographers is digital, there are still compelling reasons left for shooting film.

When digital cameras arrived, film cameras were at their pinnacle. Leica, Minolta, Nikon, Contax, and Canon had been manufacturing film cameras for decades and had thus mastered the process. In addition to the above 35mm favorites, there were the medium format giants as well. Bronica, Hasselblad, Mamiya, Pentax, Fuji, and Rolleiflex gave us some of the finest images of our lifetime.

We all had our favorites, although camera preference was very much a Chevy vs. Ford thing among photographers. I will dig up some of my very well-used film cameras and do a separate post on the ones I preferred. Truthfully, it was hard to go wrong with any of the above-mentioned makes.

I am a huge fan of old lenses, those that were designed and built by master craftsmen. No, they are not nearly as accurate as today's glass, but they had character, a certain quality that could make the images look incredible.

I always get a thrill out of turning on the light table and then placing a transparency on it. The back-lit images look absolutely fabulous. Words can't describe the expression on the faces of those who were raised on digital when they grab a loupe and look at them. 'Shock' would be a good word to begin with. Then the jaws drop and you hear "Wow!" I don't ever remember a single time when that didn't happen.

The reason? Because film is perfect, film is analog, film has a forgiving nature to it, whereas digital tends to accentuate flaws and artifacts.  Film is natural, realistic, beautiful, and in some ways romantic. It has a captivating appeal that will never be equaled by digital. It is also somehow more "legitimate" than digital because when we look at a film strip we know it hasn't been altered. It is truly "as shot".  Film is still the widely recognized benchmark as a true art form in photography. Film also has longevity, the ability to last decades and decades. I have family negatives that are from the 1930s that will scan, print, and display as if they were shot yesterday. All of my personal work is done in film for all of the above reasons.

We had a great time firing up the light table and viewing transparencies. After doing some quick scans, I thought I would share some of them with you. This might become a semi-regular feature here as we found quite a few projects of spaces and people that will soon be integrated into our website.

For now here are just a few:

What To Look For When Hiring an Architectural Photographer

Choosing the right professional to photograph your project is so important, yet it can be overwhelming when you're not sure what to look for.  Should you only consider the financial aspect?  Maybe hire a friend with an 'amazing' camera?  There are many factors to consider when choosing an architectural photographer.  Today I will highlight some points that can help you know what to look for and what to avoid.  As I'm sure you've heard, a picture is worth a thousand words.  So start by viewing photographers' portfolios and keep in mind some of the following points to look for.


Composition in a photograph is so important, and should not be underestimated. A skilled architectural photographer can look at a space and quickly frame up the best shots in their mind's eye. They know instinctively how many views it will take to capture the given space in the most complimentary way.  This not only saves time, but also avoids the pattern of some who simply take many "snapshots" of a room and hope for the best.  Do the photographer's pictures look "intentional" and highlight the space in an appealing yet effective manner, or are you unsure of what you're supposed to be seeing? 


Many photographers today like to highlight the type of camera they use.  While the camera is certainly important, in many situations the types of lenses used are even more so. Proper architectural lenses allow the photographer to capture a view with minimal distortion while maintaining complete perspective control over the image. This is critical because it means that all vertical and horizontal lines will be straight.  Pay attention to pictures in photographers' portfolios – walls should be straight, not distorted; in exterior images, buildings should not appear to be "leaning" forward or backward.  Vertical elements such as doorways and pillars should not be curved like bananas. 



There are many instances when natural light can cause deep, unsightly shadows; these can hide details in furnishings and design.  In most circumstances, determining the best time of day to photograph will prevent these lighting challenges; however, supplemental lighting will sometimes be necessary.  Choose a photographer who is skilled at manipulating light to achieve optimum results, whether it be on-location at the time of the shoot, or in post-production.  What you do NOT want is a photographer whose solution to low light is to over-expose the image.  This results in windows and light fixtures that become virtually unrecognizable, completely blown out and devoid of any detail.  Many times people call these shots "airy"; in reality they are incorrectly exposed and indicative of a photographer with very low standards and technical abilities.  Look for pictures that show the room evenly exposed and windows that you can see through.


More often than not, this is necessary in order to deliver the highest quality product possible.  If the photographer hands you a DVD or flash drive right after the photo shoot, then what they are delivering are essentially ‘snapshots’.   Professional images should almost always go through post-processing, eliminating even slight imperfections and editing the images to the absolute best captures.  Unsightly cords and cables, excessive wall switches, etc, can be distracting in an image.  In many cases, removing these elements can enhance the viewing experience and leave the focus on the beautiful architectural and design elements. 


During the image viewing and selection process, you should see only those images that best flatter and highlight the spaces photographed.  The photographer should NOT waste your time by shooting images haphazardly hoping some "turn out", and then making you sift through the mass during a viewing.  I have heard of photographers who will shoot thousands of images during a single architectural shoot (yes – one location), and then upload ALL of the work for the client to view.  This is an unnecessary use of your time, especially once you realize the unprocessed work is the final product.  It also suggests a lack of confidence by the photographer in his ability to compose well and create quality images in a decisive and well thought out manner. In the end, this style of shooting wastes time – both yours and the photographer's – and therefore money.


The final image should be captivating, accurate and beautiful.  I say this all the time: quality is more important than quantity. It is far better to use one stunning photograph than dozens of mediocre ones in your marketing materials.  A talented architectural photographer will create beautiful photographs that can be used effectively for years.

There are so many high-quality architectural photographers today and one should keep in mind that a higher price doesn't always mean better photography. Therefore good architectural photography doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. Finding someone that will meet your marketing needs and work within your budget should not be difficult.  We encourage to keep these points in mind when seeking a professional photographer for your next photo shoot. See what a difference it can make!