In this article I'll explain a technique you can use to photograph a large building up close. Why up close? Because when you stand back too far, unwanted foreground objects like cars, trees, and power lines get in the picture. By shooting near to the building you can avoid those kinds of distracting elements and get a nicer image.
As an example I'm using the Clay Brook complex at Vermont's Sugarbush Resort. This four story building sits at the edge of an expansive parking lot that is populated with cars and trees. The only way to prevent those objects from appearing in the photo would be to shoot far back in the lot from a high platform. Since that wasn't an option, we set up our tripod in the parking lot between the first row of cars and the front entrance of the building.
Shoot Multiple Images Up Close
Being this close to the building even a wide angle lens would not capture the entire structure in a single image. So we took three overlapping images with the camera mounted on a panoramic head that is designed just for this kind of photography. The "pano head" prevents parallax error when shooting a series of adjacent images that will be joined together later.
For each of the three camera positions in the series, we took three shots each at different shutter speeds to make sure that we got good exposures for the midtones as well as the darker and lighter parts of the scene. Thus we took a total of nine pictures. The three shots from the middle exposure are shown below.
Create a Single Image with Proper Perspective
Back at the studio we joined the three images into one using special software. Once we had a single image, we had to adjust the building's perspective to make it look normal. By normal I mean the way your eyes and brain would see it if you were standing in the parking lot. The result is shown below.
Correct the Exposure and Retouch
At this stage the picture is looking pretty good, but there are still some signage and trash cans that simply could not be avoided. You can hardly see them in the small image here in this blog so I have pointed them out with yellow dots. But if this picture were printed at a larger size (think poster in the airport), they would be unsightly. Also, the overall image is kind of blah and the gray sky looks more menacing than inviting.
To improve the image, we corrected the overall exposure and did some retouching. You'll recall that we shot multiple exposures of the three images that make up this picture. That made it possible for us to blend differently exposed parts of the scene together to create a composite that has a lot more punch than we could have gotten from any single exposure.
We also did some retouching. First we removed the signage and the trash cans so that nothing detracts from the architecture. Then we carefully masked out the gray sky and replaced it with sky from an image that had been taken on a nicer day. The final result appears below. To see a larger version click here.
The process described in this article takes extra time both to photograph and during post-processing, but sometimes that's what you need to do to make a picture that accurately depicts the subject and makes it look its best.