This post is also available in: Deutsch
Castles, palaces, and even ruins of old buildings take us back in time and fascinate us with their mystical charm. Photographers are therefore drawn to these places almost magically to capture the special atmosphere in their pictures. We will give you tips on how you can best succeed in taking such architectural photos, provide inspiration for possible motifs, and inform you about the legal basics.
Freedom of panorama – image rights
Copyright law in Switzerland determines which works of art, buildings, documents, etc. may be photographed and subsequently published. Since many castles, palaces and ruins are subject to copyright law, you should check in advance whether and where you are allowed to take photographs on the premises. Freedom of panorama is an exception to this rule. It allows photographers to photograph a building that is protected by copyright, subject to compliance with certain guidelines.
Your photo is subject to freedom of panorama if shot from a public square. An area is considered public if it is freely accessible. As soon as you have to pass a gate or a barrier or pay admission, you enter the private area and the privilege no longer applies. In this case, you must observe the house rules of the building which are established by the owner. The owner can object to the publication of your photos at any time.
Freedom of panorama also applies to objects which are not freely accessible, but which can be seen with the naked eye from public ground. In this case you may still take photos of the castle or the ruins from this area.
Preparations and technical requirements
As soon as all legal questions have been answered, further preparations for the photo excursion can be made. Many castles have a calendar of events. Here you can inform yourself about events and festivities. Of course you can use these for your pictures and include costumed actors. In order not to violate the right to one’ s own image, you should always ask people who are clearly recognisable in the image for permission. However, if you want to take pictures undisturbed, it is advisable to leave in the early morning hours or use the late evening hours to avoid the crowds of tourists.
In order to show castles and ruins in their full width, you should use a wide-angle lens. This allows you to use the full image width and take panoramic pictures. To ensure that the castle is displayed sharply throughout your photo, you should work with the smallest possible aperture value. To do this, select a high f-number and adjust the exposure according to the weather/light conditions.
If you want to take pictures indoors or at night, the exposure time must be set to the appropriate length. A tripod is required here. Please inform yourself in advance if you are allowed to set up a tripod inside the castle.
Motif and photo ideas
When photographing castles and ruins, be sure to keep the motifs as historical as possible to capture the special atmosphere of the place and take the viewer back in time. Therefore, try to keep all disturbing elements and modern aspects out of your pictures and concentrate on the buildings and the surrounding landscape.
Do not photograph the castle frontally, but in the bleed to create more depth in the image and make it more interesting. Try to create additional image layers or natural frames by using your surroundings. Leaves, branches, tendrils, but also doors and windows can create an interesting frame in the picture and direct the eye to the important picture elements. In general, you should observe the basic rules of architectural photography in order to capture the castle impressively.
Light and shadow
Play with the natural light and pay attention to shadow effects on the walls and windows. This is where interesting natural contrasts are created that can make the building look impressive. Especially at sunrise and sunset, a castle is bathed in a completely different light, which creates beautiful effects. Many castles are also artificially lit at night. This is particularly impressive when you photograph an illuminated castle surrounded by a dark landscape. The viewer’s attention is automatically drawn to the imposing castle. But also detailed pictures of illuminated battlements or interiors can fascinate the viewer. Keep an eye out for special lighting effects, whether day or night.
An eye for detail and perspectives
Of course, not only the castle or the ruin itself is a great motif, but there are often many playful details on the grounds, which are also good subjects. Many castles are surrounded by beautiful gardens and woods where you can find picturesque plants, ornaments on a fence, or a romantic garden gate. There are also often inscriptions, pictures, or small ornaments along the wall that can be used as eye-catchers in the picture.
Ruins, on the other hand, often do not offer much space for photography. Especially here it is important to pay attention to details. Look for exciting textures and patterns on the damaged walls, or watch nature slowly taking back over.
Reflections occur not only in water or puddles, but also in windows and other glass objects such as lamps. You can use these to get a new perspective on the building. Don’t just photograph frontally, but look up or climb the towers and battlements to take a different perspective. The more unique your photo becomes, the more interesting it will be to the viewer.
Castles and ruins challenge a photographer and present them with exciting challenges. Here you can not only prove your skill for the whole scenery, but also revive your love for detail. Enchant the viewer and let old walls shine in a new light.