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Architectural Details
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Architectural Details

Looking for eye-catching details in architecture can be fun when you're traveling, and capturing them in pictures can insert a whimsical theme into your photo album. Very often, too, the architectural style of a building is revealed in its smallest details: Elaborate woodwork immediately betrays the Victorian period just as splashy neon and glass shapes scream Art Deco.

One of the keys to capturing strong images of architectural detailing is tight composition. You must fill the frame with just your subject so there is no question about what you are photographing. If your subject is nearby, you can often isolate details with a normal lens or moderate telephoto. For more distant subjects—a stone griffin peering down from a bell tower, for instance—you'll need a long telephoto of around 200mm. Sometimes you can use a very long lens to compress several repeating details into a pattern.

Pay particular attention to lighting as well. Light coming from the side is ideal because it provides the interplay of shadow and highlight that you need to give your subjects three-dimensional form and surface texture. If color is an important part of the composition (a pattern of mosaic tiles, for example), the soft, diffuse light of a hazy day will provide the most saturated hues.

The secret to getting good detail shots, though, is simply being aware: pausing long enough to notice the myriad parts that make the whole. Cathedrals and palaces are probably the first subjects that come to mind when you're looking for details, but remember even a barn has intriguing shapes and patterns when they are dramatized by good lighting and observed by a scrutinizing eye.

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