A Simple Way to Improve Architectural Photography

Architectural photography is an art form in itself. It takes a photographer with a keen eye to capture the beauty and showcase the architect’s design in a single photo. Photographer Julius Shulman was one of the most well-known architectural photographers. He prided himself in not only creating an incredible image of a building, but also incorporating people into his photographs so the viewer could visually experience the functionality of the architecture.

In one of his last interviews, 98-year-old Shulman talked about his enthusiasm for his profession and explained what set him apart from other architectural photographers:

Setting Himself Apart As An Architectural Photographer

Julius Shulman photographed modern American architecture for over 70 years, specializing in the development of the greater Los Angeles area. While architectural photography may seem rather mundane, Shulman recognized an untapped angle to shooting architecture that made his photographs stand out from the rest.

One of Shulman’s icons is the Edward Kaufman House built by Richard Neutra.

house photography

“Gosh! Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a house like this?”

Those were the words spoken by Julius Shulman when photographing Kaufman’s home. Shulman used this thought to develop his signature style of architectural photography–adding people to the scene. He wanted the viewers of his photos to not only see the architecture, but also experience the functionality of the building. By incorporating people into the scene, Shulman added another dimension to the architecture. He showed the architecture from the perspective of the person living or working in it, making the photograph more enticing to the viewer.

Shulman recognized that other architectural photographers focused only on the structures; very few incorporated people in their pictures. Once he realized this was an untapped aspect  of architectural photography, he embraced it as his own, unique style.

pool photography

This case study house photograph is one of Shulman’s best pieces. He claimed the success of this picture was due to the fact that he placed people in the scene. Some of the people were very natural in the scene, while others required more specific placement or direction from Shulman.

“The young lady had a cocktail glass in her hand. I had her raise that glass. It makes all the difference in the world where her hand was placed.”

In another case study house in the Hollywood Hills, Shulman planted a man looking out at the view with a pair of binoculars:

house architecture photography

He said the addition of that person added to the scale of the scene. The positioning of the man puts the size of the home into perspective, while his use of binoculars focuses the viewer’s attention on the luxurious sights that can be seen from this balcony.

Julius Shulman spent 77 years crafting images that could have been simple photographs of homes but became works of art instead. His key was finding an aspect of architectural photography that wasn’t fully explored and using it to mold his signature style. He continued to work until he died at age 98, saying:

“There’s no limit to what you can do with photography.”

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