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Nuts + Bolts #18: More Than Meets the Eye: The Value of Architectural Photography

When you have a great project with equally great photography, the possibilities - and the pay-offs - can be endless.

By Brad Feinknopf
June 19, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the 18th installment of Nuts+Bolts, an exclusive ArchNewsNow series to provide A/E professionals with practical tips for a more successful, profitable practice.



Perhaps more than anyone, architects are acutely aware of the power of imagery. Throughout their education and into their practice, it informs, shapes, and influences the way they experience the world, as well as their work. Short of physically visiting a site, photography – in all its contemporary formats – is really the optimal way to experience a structure.


So, it is perplexing that many architecture firms view documenting their work more as an indulgent expense or afterthought, rather than a necessary part of the design process. A plausible explanation for this may be due to confusing advertising with marketing. The former conjures anxious feelings at some firms; a likely holdover from the days when studios were forbidden to promote their services. The latter, however, is an essential piece of a modern business plan.


While hiring a photographer can be expensive, there are four persuasive reasons why the cost should be factored into the project budget – and not added on later:


·        Good photography can help generate new commissions. No surprise here: Potential clients use the web as a means of scanning and screening architects for their projects. When someone visits your website, you have one chance to grab their attention. It’s the first handful of images – and these images alone – that will either compel the viewer to delve deeper into your portfolio or click to someone else.

·        Good photography can help your firm win design awards. Jurors for AIA and other major competitions make their initial evaluations solely on visual material. When compiling entries, jpg and tif files offer great (and economical) adaptability, as they can be easily cropped and manipulated to show a project to its best advantage.

·        Good photography can help get your work published. Over the years, I’ve spoken about the importance of imagery to numerous editors at prominent architecture and design publications. They all say the same thing about reviewing story submissions: “The first cut is made entirely based upon photography. If the photography isn’t good, we move on. If the photography is good and the project looks interesting, we look deeper.”

·        Good photography can help tell your story to the right people. Depending on the audience you are trying to reach, different photographic formats can give extra impact to your work. Where still photos capture a moment, videos can tell a tale that unfolds in time and space. Drone footage, which can traverse large sites from multiple angles, can be a convincing medium with developers. Stop-motion photos, with their visible, yet abstracted depiction of people moving through a building, can appeal to owners and operators of commercial, office, hospitality, and even healthcare facilities who love to see plenty of foot-traffic activity in their properties.


These four points convincingly converge in a brand-building return on your investment. A good project with great photography will often go much farther than a great project with poor photography. And if you have a great project with equally great photography, the possibilities – and the pay-offs – may be endless.



Brad Feinknopf heads Feinknopf Photography, an internationally recognized architectural, interior, and commercial photography studio based in Columbus, Ohio.


See also:


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(click on pictures to enlarge)

Johnathan Ward

Photography ©Brad Feinknopf/OTTO

Shot after dark, the screen-like façade assumes new detail and dimension (Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroupJJR: Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC).

Photography ©Brad Feinknopf/OTTO

A single pedestrian introduces scale, action, and angularity to the composition (Zaha Hadid Architects: Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI).

Photography ©Brad Feinknopf/OTTO

Siting and context become clear from the vantage point of a drone (ikon.5 architects: Collegetown Terrace Apartment Buildings, Ithaca, NY).