Abandoned Building Photography Tutorial: 11 Tips

Abandoned buildings can be a great source of images that portray broken emotional connection and also the power of time. However, there is a certain level of preparation and precautionary measures to take into consideration. Photographer James Kerwin with COOPH presents 11 useful tips and tricks to photograph abandoned buildings in the following video:

Before starting out with photographing abandoned building, please be cautioned that urban exploration can be dangerous. Be sure to exercise caution and only enter at your own risk.

1. Go Prepared

Preparation is the key. Kerwin suggests the following points to prepare yourself for photographing abandoned buildings:

  • Make use of satellite maps to find locations. Google Maps is often the best source.
  • Bring a sturdy tripod with you in case you need to take low light shots.
  • Have a flash light or headlamp ready.
  • Bring a friend. Who knows what kind of danger might be lurking around.
  • Have a lens cloth handy. Abandoned buildings can be dirty, causing dust to settle on the front element of your lens.

abandoned building photography

2. Capture Neglect

As mentioned earlier, photographing abandoned buildings is a perfect way to show broken connection—a connection that now seems like neglect. You can use this as an opportunity to document the impact that time has had on the building.

  • Shoot abandoned dining tables that previously represented family union.
  • Portray how cracks and fissures have developed around the house with the passage of time.
  • See if any ceilings have fallen and created a void.

neglected builings

3. Seek Natural Light

Natural light can be the best source to portray the mood in an abandoned building. Artificial light may not allow you to really capture the feeling that an abandoned building possesses. Find a soft, natural light source with some penetrating sunbeams. Such light adds ethereal vibes to your images.

abandoned building natural light

4. Look for Symmetry

Human beings are “programmed” to love symmetry. A symmetrical distribution of elements in your frame can draw the viewer’s attention to your image. Try shooting down the center point for a near mirror mage.

symmetry in photography

5. Capture Nature

Nature often starts taking over abandoned buildings. Use this as an opportunity and choose to shoot in heavily overgrown locations. This way, you can illustrate that mother nature is the one who is in charge. This also allows you to convey the message that the abandoned building has been long forgotten.

nature in abandoned structures

6. Find Shadows

Shadows are other important elements that add drama to your images. Try to incorporate shadows as much as possibles. However, if the lighting conditions are challenging, you can make use of external flashes to brighten up certain images. If done properly, it allows you to create strong contrast and capture dramatic and gloomy aesthetics.

shadows add drama to abandoned building photos

7. Include Staircases

Stairs form compelling leading lines. Keep and eye out for staircases and shoot square on. To further add interest, you can also use staircases to add geometric elements to your image.

staircase photography

8. Add Shapes and Patterns

Look around the struture and try to find some appealing shapes and patterns. We tend to perceive regular patterns as calming effect and are naturally attracted to them. On the other hand, asymmetrical patterns create busy and chaotic visuals and can still draw attention. Try to play around and find out what your viewers prefer.

shapes and patterns abandoned buildings

9. Shoot in Black and White

Shooting in black and white can be a great method to flatten contrast and give the image an aged look.

using black and white

10. Look for Vibrancy

The building might have fallen apart, but there can still be areas inside that are vibrant and colorful. Spend some time to look around and find some vibrant scenes and capture the beauty of abandonment. Make the colors in your images pop during your edit.

abandoned building photography vibrance

11. Use a Tilt Shift Lens

If the ceilings are high, you might have a difficult time getting an image with straight walls and pillars. They help you in getting images without perspective distortion. Using tilt shift lenses, you can also experiment with panoramas and ultra wide shots. To give a sense of how high the ceiling really is, you can even add a person to the scene.

tilt shift lenses abandoned structures

Photographing abandoned buildings can be a great exercise to push your creative limits. I hope that you can make use of some of the tips and tricks discussed in the article on your next outing.

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