Ottawa City Hall Area

The making of architectural photographs that fit the entire height and width of the building, with straight lines while having a blue sky and depth in the image.

Find a spot as far back from the building as possible and plant a tripod on firm ground - in the case of this head-on picture, be centred on the middle of the building.

Level the tripod using the tripod gear head levels.

Using tilt-shift (perspective control) 24 mm lens on Nikon D850 , shift lens up to max and tilt camera upwards to be sure enough sky is showing in the frame. Shift lens to  bottom to make sure enough ground is showing. Shift lens to middle and manually focus on contrasted window or door edges found in middle of image. 

Attach ND FILTER, in this case I am using the ND1000 by Kenko for maximum light reduction so that I can have a long exposure at a low ISO.

Manually set exposure settings then make a series of at least six images at the same exposure in RAW (for Nikon this is call NEF). 

Repeat at different exposures.

When done…

Upload into Adobe Lightroom. Photo merge in Panorama form, adjust the keystone effect out of the image, and adjust lighting on different parts of the image using masking tools. Export to an external hard drive as a high-resolution JPG (how high a resolution will depend on final use, in this case the final image was set at 5,000 pixels on long edge by 300 PPI).

Open Adobe Photoshop and, to make the image clean but natural, edit out any unwanted pylons, signs, people, licence plates etc.

Upload to online gallery for sharing and use, I use a service called Format for my Architectural and branding photography websites.

Final edited photographs below.

The Merit on Lisgar Ottawa by Frank Fenn IDEA3 Architectural Photography
Ottawa City Hall Summer 2023 by Frank Fenn IDEA3
Ottawa City Hall Summer 2023 by Frank Fenn IDEA3
Drill Hall Summer 2023 by Frank Fenn IDEA3

Smiths Falls VIA Train in motion at rail yards

I had some time to myself on Sunday afternoon so thought it would be good to make some pictures at the Smiths Falls Train Yards of Via Trains passing through.

Made with a perspective control lens each of these pictures is made up of 3 individual frames composited together as single panoramics.

I also experimented with some AI

and black and white versions

IKEA - Ottawa

IKEA Ottawa photographed at blue hour by Frank Fenn IDEA3 July 2023

IKEA in Ottawa photographed July 14, 2023 - made during blue hour and uploaded onto Google Maps July 15 and is now IKEA’s Google Maps cover image

A more edited version below.

IKEA OTTAWA photographed and edited by Frank Fenn IDEA3 Architectural Photographer

What are Property Managers looking for in pictures of their properties?

Strategic Property Branding Photography Plan Part 2

Having been the Marketing Director for several Property Management companies I wanted to know what ChatGPT would come up with. They ring true so I’m sharing them here; the first three are from ChatGPT, and I’ve added 4 and 5 to make it a little more complete.

1. Accuracy and Representation: 

Property managers want the pictures to accurately represent the property. This includes capturing the essential features, layout, and condition of the property as truthfully as possible. The photos should provide a clear understanding of the property’s size, layout, and overall appearance. Misleading or heavily edited pictures can create false expectations, leading to dissatisfaction among potential tenants or buyers.

* We’ve all seen the perfectly plated picture of food in a menu and have then been surprised by what it presented at our table. Being genuine matters but not as simple “as shot” images, lines still need to be straight, and some (less sightly) features do not need to be shown.

2. Cleanliness and Maintenance: 

Property managers typically seek pictures that showcase a clean and well-maintained property. This includes tidiness, proper organization, and cleanliness of both the interior and exterior spaces. They want to present the property in its best light to attract potential tenants or buyers, so pictures featuring clean and well-groomed spaces are usually preferred.

* People responsible for property maintenance need to be aware of when pictures will be made on-site so that they can work to the deadline in fixing potholes, replacing broken signs, and performing cleaning duties. 

Customers/Visitors aren’t always very cooperative, so we will photoshop out errant shopping carts, and garbage and (on request) smooth out road work that has not been completed.

3. Highlighting Key Features: 

Property managers also look for pictures that highlight the property’s key features and selling points. These may include unique architectural elements, spacious rooms, updated amenities, attractive landscaping, or any other aspects that make the property stand out. By emphasizing these features, property managers can draw attention to the property’s strengths and generate more interest.

* Each property has something unique that separates itself from its local environment or competitors. This could be a choice tenant, a grand entrance, public art, seating areas, landscaping, or architectural features that visitors and potential tenants will remember the property by.  

4. Pictures that “pop” to get attention:

Pictures that stand out are a combination of composition, focus, and colours. When making the pictures all angles need to be examined with an emphasis on getting the property (or individual tenants) “good side”. After that, the image needs to feel 3-dimensional through 10% whites and 90% blacks with a sharp focus on the subject area and blurred people and cars. Colours matter in this respect that they need to be accurate while also bringing the viewer’s focus on the subject. 

* You will notice that skies in our pictures may not always be blue but they will be darker than the subject property - the viewers’ eye is drawn to the brightest part of the picture, by having a darkened sky and a neutral floor/sidewalk/parking lot they act as a frame to direct attention to the property,


5. Signs of Life (Traffic):

Just like a mall feels empty without music a property without visible people (or their proxies) animating the public spaces, and stores open for business, in pictures the property is lifeless. Pictures need to be made when everything is open and when traffic is in motion.

* We make it obvious that we are on-site doing official business. By wearing high-visibility clothing, carrying credentials, and using camera gear on tripods we tend to “hide in plain sight” and get natural pictures of the property and traffic flow. 

All pictures are made with long exposures, which blurs most people (if they fail to move in the 3-second exposure then we blur them in Photoshop). We also change the numbers on all visible license plates (blurred license plates draw too much attention to the cars).

Architectural Landscapes along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa

Last night (after meeting with two Santas to plan 2023’s Holiday season, it’s only 4 months away!) I went into downtown Ottawa to drop a package off for my youngest (how is it possible they are 21 already?).

Wanting fresh ideas I asked if there were any interesting buildings worth photographing in their area - I was looking for unusual and got “the canal, embassies and churches”.

On my way back to my car I mumbled to myself “Been there done that”, so I packed up my Nikon with perspective control lens & tripod and went for a walk along the canal to see if I could find the unusual. It was not quite twilight but the smoke from local fires, overcast skies, and calm waters on the Canal were the perfect (unique) ingredients for long-exposure architectural landscapes.

There are no sky replacements or AI involved in these pictures - just composited shift lens files and some Photoshop lighting and contrast augmentations to make buildings stand out more.

Sometimes it’s good to revisit the “been-there-done-that” locations.

Strategic Property Branding Photography Plan Part 1

The 3-Step Audit: Start with where you are 

(aka Situational Analysis)

To position your property owner/management company as professionally operated your visual assets need to be in focus with straight lines while being consistent in their colour palette, ratios, and sizing.

Step #1 - What is Your Current Intended Branding?

What are your company, and individual property, mission/tagline, and objectives?

Mission/Tag line: your company and property’s “why”

Objectives: are measurable results and can be leasing, traffic, awareness, and brand position recognition

  • Create a one-page document brief
    • Company Mission or your Company Tag line: Type it out
    • Company Objectives: Type it out
    • Property Mission or Tag line: Type it out
    • Property Objectives: Type it out 

Step #2 - How do your current visual assets match your Intended Branding?

Analyze your current visual assets to determine if they align with those objectives. 

  • Create an Excel Document
    • Column #1
      • Company/Corporate
      • Individual Property Names
    • Column #2
      • Website home page URL
    • Column #3
      • Tenant/Unit Image URL
    • Column #4
      • Google Maps URL
    • Column #5
      • Social Media URLs
    • Column #6
      • Printed Assets
    • Column #7
      • On-Brand:
        • Are all Assets Consistent with the Mission 
        • Yes/No

Step #3: How Getting On-Brand Should look like

The Ideal Visual Representation of your company and Properties *you can have tiers, for example, you can have a community shopping centre whose “look” would not match up with a strip mall or office tower’s “look”

  • List your individual properties into lifestyles
    • List how each property’s visual assets should look as represented by a URL, screen capture, or direct images
      • This imagery can be from another company or from within your own company - the idea is to give an example of the gold standard that your properties assets need to follow in line with

Note: This can be a time-consuming process, if you would like to save time I offer consulting services to complete the process for you; pricing is available by quote.

AI Fun

Looking back at that time I photographed old cars in the desert with the snowcap mountains in the background.

But I didn’t.

Adobe recently released their Beta AI in Photoshop and, like almost every photographer on the planet, I began experimenting to see if I could augment reality in a believable way.

The original picture is one I made of a Hotwheel MG sitting on a granite block on the lock outside the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Photographed with a 24mm perspective control lens using the tilt function (see original below) the blurriness on top and bottom was created in-camera so that focus was on the car’s front end.

Bringing the picture into Photoshop AI I added puddles, then mountains, and then made a very wide panoramic. To give a stronger balance I then added more sky and, after touching up rough edges, and about two hours of tweaking this is what I got.

While Adobe AI use is not available for commercial use - especially so for architecture photographers, where truth is imperative - it is good to know what is out there and to practice and play with the latest.

Note, I could have made this same picture without AI - if I had pictures of mountains and more time - this picture was playtime.

Using Format