10 Essential Design Elements To Improve Your iPhone Architecture Photography

Do you struggle to take great photos of architecture? Buildings often look impressive in real life, but it’s more difficult to capture this in an image. When photographing architecture, the best approach is to make use of classic elements of design such as shape, line, color, pattern, texture and space. And that’s exactly what you’re going to learn in this tutorial. Read on to discover how to use ten different design elements to capture stunning iPhone photos of architecture.

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Lloyd Callaway Jr. – iPhone Photo Masters Student

1. Shapes

Geometric shapes are very pleasing to the eye, and they help you to create bold and striking compositions.

Circles, ovals, squares, rectangles, triangles and diamond shapes are all commonly found in architectural structures, and they can be used to create really strong focal points in your images.

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Sherry Manners – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Look out for windows, door frames, arches and other shapes that would create an interesting design element in your photo.

If you’re shooting indoors, don’t forget to look up above you. You’ll often find amazing shapes on ceilings, especially in large buildings.

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Chris Baird – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Once you’ve found a shape that you want to include in your photo, experiment with different compositions until you achieve a balanced image that’s pleasing to the eye.

Some shapes suit symmetrical compositions, while others might look better with a diagonal or off-center placement.

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Leslie Baker – iPhone Photo Masters Student

You can even create shapes from empty space. In the photo above, Leslie has used the blue sky to create interesting shapes in conjunction with this piece of architecture.

And in the photo below, Evelyne has created an incredible look-up shot of four buildings. Not only do the buildings create strong shapes, but the empty blue sky in between them forms a striking cross shape.

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Evelyne Sieber – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Whenever you’re shooting architecture, train your eye to notice shapes on buildings and in the spaces around them. With a bit of practice you’ll start to notice all sorts of shapes in these environments.

2. Lines

Lines are one of the most powerful design elements that you can use in photography. Lines are everywhere around us, especially in buildings and architecture.

There are so many ways to use lines in your compositions that you’ll never run out of ways to create incredible images.

One of the easiest ways to use lines in architecture photography is to take a classic look-up shot of a tall building that has vertical lines in its structure.

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Luis Fernandez – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Simply stand close to the bottom of the building and point your iPhone upwards. The lines will draw your eye from the bottom of the frame right up to the top of the structure.

Shooting from this perspective makes the lines converge toward the top of the building, creating amazing depth and emphasizing the height of the building.

Be sure to experiment with your shooting angle as this will make a big difference to the final impact of the image.

Decide whether you want to create a symmetrical composition like the photo by Luis above, or an off-center composition like John’s photo below.

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John Scala – iPhone Photo Masters Student

If you’re shooting indoors, long corridors or tunnels can be used as powerful leading lines. The sense of perspective will draw your eye deep into the image and toward your focal point.

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Evelyne Sieber – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Always think carefully about the best way to compose the shot, and experiment with different viewpoints until you find the best angle.

In many cases, lines look best if they run diagonally through the scene, starting from the corners of the frame.

3. Curves & Spirals

As well as using straight lines in your compositions, keep your eye out for curves and spirals. These types of line create beautiful and elegant images.

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Evelyne Sieber – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Spiral staircases are the perfect subject for this kind of shot. Their sweeping curves draw your eye gently down to the bottom of the scene, creating a wonderful sense of depth.

Including a person in the scene will add a focal point and sense of scale to the image, as well as an interesting storytelling element.

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Lloyd Callaway Jr. – iPhone Photo Masters Student

For a different perspective, try shooting a spiral staircases from below, like Lloyd Callaway Jr. did in this photo.

You can also find curves on the exteriors of buildings, and you can use these lines in a similar way to create a sense of flow in your photos.

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Mim Keo – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Just as you do when photographing straight lines, think about where you want the lines to start and end, then adjust your shooting angle to achieve the desired effect.

Your aim should be to create a balanced composition that gently draws the viewer’s eye into and around the scene.

4. Angles

Architecture is full of interesting angles and corners that can be used as powerful design elements in your compositions.

Try exploring a building with the sole purpose of finding angles that form strong geometric shapes or draw the eye to a particular point in the scene.

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Agneta Andersson – iPhone Photo Masters Student

If you’re shooting outdoors, look up and notice the angles formed by the buildings above you. Including plain sky as a background will ensure these shapes and lines have maximum visual impact.

When shooting indoors, look out for corners where two walls meet, or where a wall meets the ground. You’ll also find great angles on staircases.

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Evelyne Sieber – iPhone Photo Masters Student

In the photo above, Evelyne has made use of the angle of the sloped wall to create a fantastic triangle shape that draws the eye deep into the image toward the person in the distance.

5. Symmetry

Symmetry creates a strong element of graphic design in a photo. It will instantly catch the viewer’s eye, even from a distance or when viewing the image as a small thumbnail on Instagram.

Buildings and other architectural structures such as bridges and pylons are often designed and built to be symmetrical, so they’re the perfect subject for creating symmetry in your shots.

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Chris Baird – iPhone Photo Masters Student

To create a perfectly symmetrical image, make sure the line of symmetry is absolutely central. Stand in the middle of the structure so that each side of your frame is a mirror image of the other.

Use lines and other elements within the architecture to help you line up the shot. Using the grid in the camera app (Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid) will help you align everything perfectly.

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Evelyne Sieber – iPhone Photo Masters Student

6. Color

While many architecture pictures look great in black and white, you should definitely think about using color to make your photos stand out.

If you’re shooting outdoors under a beautiful blue sky, this is the perfect opportunity to look out for colorful buildings that will contrast with the vivid blue sky above it.

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Deena Berton – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Oranges and yellows work particularly well with blue, and this photo by Deena definitely proves that! Her painterly edit with saturated colors was a great choice for this image as it emphasizes the vibrancy of the colors.

Another great technique is to fill the frame with a colorful element of the building, such as these stunning turquoise floor tiles.

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Paula Danner – iPhone Photo Masters Student

By filling the entire frame with a particular color, you’re drawing the viewer’s attention to the color itself. It’s a great way of telling the viewer that it’s the color that found most compelling about this scene.

7. Contrast

Contrast refers to the difference in brightness between the dark and light areas of an image. In photography, contrast is an excellent way of grabbing the viewer’s attention.

We’re naturally drawn toward ares of high contrast, so emphasizing this in your photos helps to create more interesting shots that will hold the eye of the viewer.

When photographing architecture, look out for buildings that have both dark and light areas. It might be a white building with dark window frames, or it could be contrasting areas of bright light and dark shadow.

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Phillipa Frederiksen – iPhone Photo Masters Student

You can further emphasize contrast in post-processing. Use your favorite editing app to experiment with the contrast and brightness levels to create a high contrast image like the one above.

Contrast can also be used to draw your eye to a particular part of the image. For example, in the photo below, the contrast between the bright window and the dark shadows draws your eye to the detail in the window.

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Susan Margulies Kalish – iPhone Photo Masters Student

What makes this image even more inviting is the contrasting light that’s been captured on the railing at the bottom right. It adds an extra element of visual interest and creates balance in the composition.

If you want to draw attention to a brighter area of the photo, try darkening the shadows in post-processing so that the detail in these darker areas doesn’t compete for attention.

8. Pattern

Patterns and repetition are all around us, and it’s especially prominent in buildings and architecture.

Patterns allow you to create mesmerizing abstract images with strong visual appeal. Shapes, lines, color and contrast all contribute toward creating repetitive and eye-catching patterns.

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Luis Fernandez – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Buildings are great places to find repeating patterns such as brick walls, roof tiles, rows of windows, stacks of balconies, etc.

When photographing patterns, it’s best to fill the entire frame with your subject. This places maximum emphasis on the pattern and helps to create an abstract image.

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Evelyne Sieber – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Patterns will often look very different depending on where you view them from. So experiment with shooting from different angles and perspectives to capture the pattern in a variety of ways.

When you’ve taken your pattern photo, you might want to try converting the image to black and white. This can emphasize the pattern and abstract quality by removing any colorful distractions.

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Chris Baird – iPhone Photo Masters Student

9. Texture

Capturing texture in your photos can evoke strong emotions in the viewer. They bring out different feelings depending on whether the texture is rough, smooth, shiny, etc.

Textures make your photos more tactile and engaging, inviting the viewer to reach out and interact with the picture.

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Jennifer Fink – iPhone Photo Masters Student

You can use texture in your photography to emphasize a certain mood or atmosphere.

For example, the rough texture of the wood in the old building above creates a completely different mood to the smooth shiny exterior of the modern building below.

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James F. Heck III – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Don’t be afraid to get really close when capturing textures. Rusty metal, peeling paint and rough wood make wonderful close-up abstracts.

10. Empty Space

Simplicity is the key to creating well-designed compositions. The fewer distractions you have in your photo, the better the subject will stand out.

One of the easiest ways to create a clean and simple minimalist composition is to leave lots of negative (empty) space in your photo.

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Leslie Baker – iPhone Photo Masters Student

This is actually a really easy technique to apply in architecture photography because you can use the sky as a large empty space in your image.

Simply point your camera upwards, including nothing but the part of the building you want to capture and the empty sky above it.

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Shelley Kennedy – iPhone Photo Masters Student

Don’t be afraid to include only a small part of the building in the frame. Leaving something to the imagination will create a wonderful sense of mystery and intrigue in your photos.

Curiosity is always desirable in photography, so if your photo leaves the viewer wanting to know more about the building you’ve photographed, this is a good thing!

How You Too Can Take Stunning iPhone Photos

Would you like to start composing incredible iPhone photos of architecture like these? Join our online iPhone Photo Masters course where you’ll receive in-depth tuition from a different world-class iPhone photographer every single month.

Discover insider tips and techniques on a wide range of topics and photography genres, put these skills into practice for the photo assignments, then get feedback and advice from our experts in the monthly photo review sessions.

Plus you’ll get to be part of the incredible iPhone Photography School community where you can interact with other members of the course, as well as our photography experts.

Start improving your iPhone photography today…