Commercial Real Estate Photography is a bit more challenging than residential real estate photography. A commercial real estate photographer has many more aspects of a building to consider while photographing it. Take this client for instance, that I selected from a photo session I shot of a new Biotech Science building that was recently constructed. The entire building is made up of glass exterior walls used for solar heat generation with a 3-story atrium at its center. From the aerial drone view above, you can see that this makes the design of the building resemble a cloverleaf. The entire idea behind the design of this particular building is that form follow function. It was built to be extremely energy efficient, artistically aesthetic, and promote collaboration between the various science wings. A three-foot wide gap between the outside walls and the inner walls traps solar heat and radiates it during the night to the interior. Solar panels on the roof and a geothermal well provide additional solar heat. The very design that makes this building so unique is also what made it a photography nightmare. This wasn’t just a building, it was designed to be an architectural work of art.
Dealing with all the extraneous natural light coming through the exterior glass walls and exterior windows was a real challenge. To add insult to injury, there were also a lot of interior glass walls and windows to deal with, 3 stories of them, and the unwanted reflections and stray light bouncing off of and through them. I shot this building at 3 different times during the day in order to see what the light would do with all of these obstacles. This involved 3 separate photo sessions: one in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. Each time of day gave the interior of the building a completely different look and feel.
The unique architecture of this particular building was a huge challenge. For one thing, its sheer size – 250,000 sq. ft. – made capturing the vast interior with all of it’s architectural nuances a distortion nightmare. Keeping walls and lines straight, level, and without curvature was nearly impossible to do while trying to capture an enormous area such as the atrium and show all of it’s features, such as the very interesting suspension bridge walkways that crisscrossed the space. A wide-angle lens had to be used due to the building’s expanse and in order to showcase the spectacular interior architecture and unique features. Every shot was a logistical battle between capturing the entire area knowing there would be a degree of lineal distortion, or just photographing it in sections in order to avoid the distortions but sacrificing the inclusion of the vastness and its features.
My Most Challenging Real Estate Photography Yet.
This was without a doubt the most challenging and difficult commercial architecture I have shot to date. That said, it was also a blast to photograph. I loved the extra challenges because they forced me to really stretch my photography skills to the max. I had to not only use my lens and camera – which after 30 years has become so second nature I don’t even think about them anymore – but I had to use my brain as well. Even though I was using a digital camera and could proof my shots as I took them, I had to think about each and every shot to evaluate the challenges and determine the best outcome.
Each different time of day presented its own unique challenges. You would think shooting this building at night would have helped to eliminate all the stray light problems, but the night shots were almost as difficult due to the enormous size of this building and all the glass walls making it nearly impossible to set up lights or use a flash effectively. It would be like trying to use lights or flash to photograph a glass football stadium: they would just be ineffective at lighting such a large space and causing flare all over the place. In the end, I decided not to even try to light it artificially and just go with the built-in interior lighting, which was another intentionally unique feature designed by the architect anyway, so using it was an additional means to show off his work in the photos.
Working with what You’ve Got.
At other times, I used all that stray light to my advantage to highlight certain features of the building. Such as with the photo below. It was tremendously fun to play with all that light, the reflective surfaces, the unique architectural features, and the built-in curved walls and glass to find the right solutions to conquer each challenge thrown at me. And there were a lot. I probably experienced more architecture photography challenges within this one building than all the architecture and commercial real estate I have shot in my entire life all put together. This photo session is one for my portfolio for sure. I feel that if I can conquer this architecture photography Goliath, I can photograph anything commercial real estate photography and architecture can throw at me.