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HDR Architectural Photography with People

By August 17, 2010May 25th, 2018Photoshop, Tutorial
image of Salk Hallway original frame without person

These images were taken at the Salk Institute in La Jolla on an overcast day. It wasn’t a typical high contrast HDR kind of day. Everything was gray. Surrounded by concrete walls, marble ground and a gray sky, I found solace in two things, textures and people.

image of final Salk Size It photo

I caught this curious pose while I was setting up for a shot of the buildings in the background. I saw the two guys before I was ready to take the picture. I hadn’t centered and squared up the buildings, but I took the picture anyway.

Here is the first shot I took.

image of original with gesturing guy

When the scene was clear of people I squared up the buildings and fired off three bracketed frames. I didn’t have to worry about moving subjects for the HDR processing and I knew how easy it would be to drop the shot of the two guys back into the HDR image.

The lesson learned from this image is to not hesitate. If you see something interesting take the picture even if you’re not completely ready. Know what your Photoshop skills are and make plans to perfect your shot with subsequent frames.

This image of the hallway came about in the opposite manner.

image of final Salk Hallway

I really liked the light filtering in and the variety of textures. I knew with HDR that I could retain the full range of the detail from the brightest areas, to the darkest area of the chalkboard on the right side of the image. I composed my image and shot off five bracketed frames.

Here’s what the scene originally looked like.

image of Salk Hallway original frame without person

I liked the composition, yet I knew something was missing. So I left my camera on the tripod and just waited, and looked around, and thought about the scene. After a couple of minutes this guy just wandered into my picture. He was exactly what it needed. I kept shooting the entire time he walked down the hallway. I knew one of the frames would be perfect.

I processed the HDR image from the original frames and dropped the walking guy in for the final touch.

The lessons learned from this image are patience and planning. Architectural HDR photography is easiest without moving objects. Plan for this. Shoot your bracketed frames without people when you can. Shoot it again when someone enters the scene.

image of original chair without a person

I originally shot this image early in the afternoon. I found the chair and placed it next to the staircase. This set up a strong composition with interesting textures and lines, but I wasn’t really happy with the image. Everything felt gray and lifeless. The gray was getting me down. I fought against the lifeless feeling while I continued to photograph.

About an hour later, after taking the first two pictures above, I came back to the scene with a friend in a red shirt. I asked him to sit in the chair. His presence changed everything.

image of Final Salk Modern Technology Photo

The lesson learned from this image is perseverance. Return to a scene with a fresh perspective and you might discover something completely new.

I struggled all day with the gray and the cold, but fought through it and ended up with some great images. I learned that I like architectural photography best with the presence of someone. I also learned to take my time, work with the environment and to shoot with my post editing skills in mind.