Light and shadow on the façade of the Royal National Theatre in London

Motif search for architecture and urban photography

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Architecture and city photography provide a variety of interesting and unique motifs. Skyscrapers, old buildings, residential buildings, or modern office complexes – Every city has a multitude of interesting buildings to offer, from classic to modern, which can be photographed well. Different architectural styles can be captured in a variety of ways, although not every motif is visible at first glance.

These interesting subjects have to be found first of all. Not all attractive buildings lie along the usual tourist spots and many exciting motifs can only be found on closer inspection and exploration. After a suitable object has been found, the image has to be captured skillfully, but there are a few things you should keep in mind.

We would like to help you find exciting motifs and capture them in attractive photographs.

Sources of inspiration

Perhaps you already have one or two motifs in mind while reading this article. On walks or city tours you will often find architecturally exciting buildings from different eras. However, inspiration can also be gained comfortably from the sofa. In order to find a suitable motif, it can be worthwhile to take a look at social media. On Instagram you can find a flood of pictures by searching for the hashtag of the city you are in or by a style you are interested in. They often include a location, making them easy to locate. But also photography websites like offer a variety of professional photos, which can serve as inspiration for motifs and camera angles.

Suitable camera equipment

Precise alignment of the camera is the key to linear, but also consciously asymmetrical architecture. Therefore, the use of a tripod is almost indispensable. The use of a grid screen or a corresponding adjustment of the digital camera can also lead to better shots. Further tips on camera settings and equipment can be found in the Architectural Photography Guide.

You found the building, and now what?

Once you have found a possible motif, it is best to pick up a tripod and camera and visit the object of your choice. Bring enough time with you and look at the building from all possible angles. You have the big advantage that your motif cannot run away! So it can be worthwhile to visit the building at different times of the day in order to adjust the perfect lighting conditions.
You can already take a look through the camera lens and identify 1-2 elements that are particularly eye-catching without pressing the shutter button. This first tour of the building is about getting a feel for the architecture and making sure you don’t miss any interesting corners of the building. In some cases, appealing motifs and building elements hide on the back of the property, for example, and only catch the eye when walking to the less visible corners.

The right picture detail

Architectural and urban photography does not necessarily have to depict buildings in their entirety. Detail shots of individual elements such as the façade or an architecturally interesting staircase can also present exciting motifs. Be creative when selecting your image detail and dare to try something new. However, the building’s recognition value should not be lost.

Treppenhaus von unten fotografiert

Once you have decided on a subject, you have to fine-tune the image detail. When the tripod is up and the camera is pointing at the subject, the image is aligned from the outside to the inside. This means that you first focus your attention on the edges of the image and align them exactly as you want. For example, if you want a line to run out in exactly one corner of the image, align it exactly the same way. It may be necessary to take a step to the side or forward or backward.
If the edges of the image are aligned, you can “work your way up” to the center of the image and adjust the distance to the object again if necessary.

Black and white photography or colour?

Not all motifs are at their best in colour. Some façades and architectural elements benefit from a black and white presentation, as the increased contrast can give the building a completely new appearance. By omitting colour, the shapes in the picture come to the fore and achieve exciting effects that simply remain invisible in colour photography.

Gebäudefassade in Schwarz-Weiss


Inspiration for architectural and urban photography can be found every step of the way, both during a walk through the city and online. The challenge is to choose the right motif and an interesting detail. Try to think beyond the usual and obvious motifs in order to take exciting and unique photographs. With our tips, enough time and the right camera equipment, nothing stands in the way of a successful shot.