How to Photograph Architecture with a 35mm Camera

The ability to capture an image is now instantaneous and spontaneous. Mobile photography retains its quality but it lacks the traditional ritual of taking a photograph. While walking through a new place, or imagining the framing options for a building from your perspective, you might think about how to capture an image. Each image is the product of its focus, aperture, exposure, and the particulars of the space. A 35mm camera is the best lens for traveling. Some say it is the closest to the human eye. Others say it is too narrow for capturing a building from the exterior. However, it all depends on how you judge the situation and the capabilities of your equipment.

Casa de Vidrio / Lina Bo Bardi

Lina Bo Bardi, an architect, designed the ‘Casa de Vidrio (Glass House) without walls. It also has electrical outlets at ground level. This allows for a panoramic view over the garden. This is why control of light in this instance is crucial if you want to achieve a great result.

These photos of Latin American modern art were taken on Fuji film 200 ISO 35mm film with a Canon Prima Point-and-Shoot and a fixed 35mm lens. Because it is “look and shoot”, everything is automatically done except for the focal distance. This means that if you want something close up or to photograph it (in this case, a modern work in Latin America), you have to move closer or further away.

Edificio Copacabana / Larraín + Larraín

Focus on the details when you’re walking around Vina del Mar. Sometimes it is better to include a whole building in the frame. For example, the Copacabana Building with its facade in perspective. This works like Lygia Clark’s work.

If you don’t get a good picture, it is because you were not close enough. Robert capa.

Edificio Montecarlo I / Schapira Eskenazi Arquitectos

The Montecarlo Buildings I & II are on the other side, and the Montecarlo Buildings I & II steal the show. They use facades as unitary elements to experiment with. On each floor, the first is interspersed with a concave-convex concrete ribbon running along the curve. Because it is entirely glazed, the second, which can be accessed by climbing balconies, contrasts completely with the first. Both buildings offer different volumetric and compositional games.

Edificio Montecarlo II / Schapira Eskenazi Arquitectos

The Italia Building is a repeating and interspersed abstract composition. Its balconies, which are reminiscent of Josef Albers’ compositions, create a dialogue between empty and full. These details add rhythm and tension to this image.

Edificio Italia / Jaime Kulczewski, Larrain + Larrain

When you start analogue photography, another important aspect is light. This is how sensitive the film is to light. ISO is a measure of how photosensitive a film is. This means that it requires less light to achieve optimum exposure. The Ciccillo Mattarazzo Pavilion and Oscar Niemeyer Biennial Pavilion are examples of this. They were located in the Ibirapuera Park, a Sao Paulo exhibition space that hosted the SP-Arte 2019 festival, its 15th edition. You can only use artificial light in galleries and museums. A film with 200 ISO will not allow you to capture strong lights. Your photo will therefore be overexposed. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve. In the Caracol de Vina del Mar however, the lighting is controlled and the enclosed space is prominent while the details of the perimeter ramp disappear.

Pabellón Ciccillo Matarazzo / Oscar Niemeyer
El Caracol / Melvin Villaroel

Cloudy days can be used to experiment, as Enrique Gebhard demonstrated during his visit to the Centre for Ocean Studies. Clouds act as natural diffusers of sunlight, reducing harsh shadows and evenly distributing light.

Centro de Estudio Oceánicos / Enrique Gebhard
Centro de Estudio Oceánicos / Enrique Gebhard
Centro de Estudio Oceánicos / Enrique Gebhard
Centro de Estudio Oceánicos / Enrique Gebhard

These conditions lower contrast and allow areas that would normally be in shadow to become visible. They also bring out colours in this case, Eugenio Brito’s exterior murals which are captured in this image.

It is important that you consider the spatiality of a photograph and how perspective can be altered to add depth and interest. The Marquez Neighbourhood of Valparaiso is a great place to practice framing using linear perspective.

Población Márquez de Valparaíso / Pedro Goldsack
Población Márquez de Valparaíso / Pedro Goldsack
Centro de Estudio Oceánicos / Enrique Gebhard
Centro de Estudio Oceánicos / Enrique Gebhard

Three basic rules help make an image attractive. One of these is the horizon rule. This involves visualising the image in three equal sections. There are many possible horizons at the Sao Paulo Museum of Art (MASP). The interior photograph has depth because it focuses attention on the paintings. In the exterior, the MASP is the negative space and gives prominence to the city.

MASP / Lina Bo Bardi
MASP / Lina Bo Bardi
MASP / Lina Bo Bardi
MASP / Lina Bo Bardi

Point-and-Shoot cameras are not able to make decisions. Each photograph is the result a personal interpretation of current space and the available light. Although analogue cameras can’t match the speed of digital cameras, they require the photographer to be able to comprehend the subject in order for them capture it properly.