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Ten tips for successful landscape architecture photography

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If you’re a landscape architect or landscape design professional, photographs of your work are critical to marketing your business and obtaining recognition of expertise through awards. Images serve different purposes, such as:

  • providing a visual “wow factor” to leads and prospects
  • demonstrating environmentally conscious decisions
  • showing how risks were mitigated on the property
  • how technical challenges like continuing an existing design, historic preservation, and negotiating a tight space were resolved

    Residential landscape architecture photo.
    Residential landscape architecture photo.

If you decide to produce the images yourself, these are my 10 tips for successful landscape architecture photography to help get you started:

  1. Define your goal: Defining a goal for each image produces a natural benchmark against which to measure an image’s value. An image with a well defined goal is more engaging and helps prioritize images if budget is a concern (as it always is).
  2. Less is more: Better to get a few high quality images than race around trying to get many. While the obvious benefit is quality over quantity, it’s also a simpler and less stressful shoot.
  3. If slow, then steady: If using a slow shutter speed, use a sturdy tripod, enable your SLR’s mirror lock up feature (if you have an SLR with the feature), and use a remote shutter release system. This approach helps reduce the likelihood of the blurry images.
  4. Where’s the light?: Residential and corporate properties have various kinds of artificial lighting. Some may compliment and some may detract from your composition. Identify what lighting is present, its effect, and, if not desired, how it can be disabled. You may need to coordinate with home owners or property management to do this.
  5. There’s always one light: Even if there’s no artificial lighting on site, always consider the sun an option. Determine where the sun will be at various times of day and its effect on your design. Be aware how the sun reflects off objects like paver stones, water, or concrete and creates up-lighting on your design. The effect may or may not be desirable.

    Commercial landscape architecture photo.
    Commercial landscape architecture photo.
  6. Seek balance: If your design includes artificial lighting, you’ll need to determine the best time to balance the color cast and strength of your lighting with the color cast and strength of any artificial and natural light already present in the composition. Balance will change through the day and can also be influenced by shade from buildings, trees, awnings, etc.
  7. Check the weather: Rain is the obvious concern, but windy days can create problems too. Wind can shake the camera (even on a tripod), trees, and other objects. Be mindful that even occasional gusts or breeze can move objects, creating unexpected and distracting blurs on the image.
  8. Wide angle isn’t always the best angle: Wide angle lenses can introduce complex distortion of straight lines on objects like buildings, doors, windows, light poles, etc. and can be expensive to fix.  Wide angle can also distort scale and generally increases the perceived distance between objects. This effect may introduce undesired voids of dead space between objects, making an image look more empty and lifeless.
  9. Take out the trash: Nothing ruins a photo faster than trash. Before a shoot, walk the area to be photographed and remove trash, leaves, and mulch, sweep sidewalks, hide or tidy up hoses, and dry up water.
  10. Take the stage: Staging can be a useful means to provide visual clues to the flow and use of the design and provide visual interest for things like fireplaces. For particularly complex staging, consider professional staging services. A professional stager has the experience to cost effectively stage your design for maximum impact.

If you decide to outsource your photography needs, trust an experienced landscape architecture photographer like Federal Hill Photography, LLC.  An experienced landscape architecture photographer will be mindful of these and many more aspects of planning, preparing, and executing a successful shoot.

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