Architectural photography by James Krause
Welcome to a self-guided tour through a sampling of photos that I’ve shot for my architectural clients during the past fifteen years. It’s worth noting that this tour is about twice as long as one of my usual portfolio presentations, and that’s simply because this presentation has been specifically designed for people who are looking for a relatively complete description of my approach to architectural photography.
I’ve included a brief bio just below all the photos, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you’d like to meet and talk about a potential project! Click here to send an email.
The BOGA medical center in Bellingham, Washington. A beautiful structure that looks especially nice just after sunset on an autumn evening under cloud-speckled skies. I keep an eye on both weather forecasts and the sun’s position in the sky whenever I’m planning an architectural photoshoot.
Here, and below, are interior shots of the BOGA medical building. The interiors are modern, relaxing, and lit with a quiet mix of natural and electric lighting. Unlike many photographers, I very rarely add lights of my own when shooting beautifully designed interiors. Especially when I can clearly see that the ambiance of a space has already been beautifully pinpointed by the people who designed it.
A translucent, curving, and beautifully decorated privacy screen nicely separates the BOGA check-in counter from the rest of the waiting area. I made sure to capture at least a dozen shots of this stand-out feature, and then left it to my client to choose their favorites.
This, and the sixteen images that follow, present a nice case-study of my work. Here, I was given the opportunity to shoot a project all the way from beginning to end. This massive renovation and repurposing project converted a gigantic abandoned building in historic Lynden, Washington, into a vibrant collection of businesses, including the destination-worthy Inn At Lynden.
Two of my clients, RMC Architects and Dawson Construction (both based in Bellingham, Washington) did an amazing job retaining and refurbishing key elements of the historic building. Sunrise was the perfect time to shoot on this day since the dramatic lighting did a great job illuminating the structure’s interior network of massive wooden support beams.
I keep my eyes open for photo opportunities that include one or more people whenever I’m taking shots of a client’s project. My clients tell me that photos like this pair nicely with the more typical architectural photos and renderings featured in their brochures, on project sheets, and on Web pages.
I’ve developed a pretty good knack for stalking photo opportunities while also staying out of the way at busy construction sites. Here, the actual planners of the project served perfectly (and unknowingly) as models for an on-the-job photo.
The structure is coming along nicely at this point. And, as you can see, the city of Lynden saw fit to give Main Street a complete makeover in preparation for the expected—and later realized—boost in downtown activity that this project brought to the city.
The finished exterior at daybreak on a clear summer morning.
I was invited to bring my camera to a July parade that passed in front of the finished Inn At Lynden. My clients had a group of bicyclists join the parade with appropriate banners attached to their bikes. All I had to do was jog along with the cyclists for a few blocks and watch for photo opportunities.
Another terrific photo opportunity arose when this group of high school students paraded their town banner directly in front of the newly opened Inn At Lynden. Photos like this have proven very useful—both to my clients and to the actual owners of the new building—as promotional and public-relations images.
Even though I’d been hired to take exterior shots of the Inn At Lynden during a downtown parade, I kept my eyes open for other kinds of photo opportunities as well. The double appearance of the Inn’s logo in this scene—and the inclusion of the Inn’s rentable bicycles—was too good to pass up. I’ve been privileged to work with clients who are openly appreciative of these kinds of useful photographic extras.
The building that hosts the Inn At Lynden also provides space for at least a half-dozen local merchants, including the region’s favorite bookseller, Village Books. The dynamic diagonals and the sense of depth in this photo made it a favorite of mine. My background as a graphic designer often leads me to seek interesting and attractive compositional solutions within the scenes I’m photographing.
The multi-floor design of the building’s interior made for great photo opportunities. Here, I’m shooting downward through a conference-room window on the third floor while aiming the camera toward spaces on both the first and second levels.
I make sure to bring along my highest quality wide-angle lenses when shooting indoors—lenses that enable me to capture richly colored and distortion-free shots of tight—and often dimly lit—interior spaces.
Among many other perspectives, I made sure to capture this downward-looking view of Avenue Bakery’s space inside the Inn At Lynden building. This POV highlights the openness of the space’s bright and airy floorplan, gave centerstage to its rustic and original plank flooring and wooden pillars, and also hinted at retro-modern touches like its hanging aluminum light fixtures.
Utilitarian photos like this might not count as typical “beauty shots.” Still, I make sure to capture loads of them when shooting interiors. My architectural and construction clients often use images like these to showcase specific aspects of their work when making presentations to prospective clients of their own.
And, finally, the Inn At Lynden itself (or at least its lobby): a gorgeous open-space design that doesn’t shy away from its lumber-based heritage.
Large quantities of valuable and rare wood were recovered from the historic building during the project’s semi-demolition phase. Select pieces of lumber were refinished and repurposed throughout the building for uses such as the hotel’s check-in counter. I very much enjoy using a 50mm lens with an extremely shallow depth-of-focus for visuals like this.
Just because my clients don’t necessarily ask for photos of their buildings’ window logos, that doesn’t mean I’m going to avoid shooting a few good-looking pictures of details like these. After all, images like this might be perfect for the photo-album covers and Webpage banners they’ll want to produce in the months ahead.
Moving on to different projects. Here, I’ve allowed the autumn foliage of a maple tree to crowd the camera’s view of the newly built Taylor Street Condominiums. It’s a view that lends color, context, and even a touch of drama to the scene. Later, I took shots that showed a lot more building and a lot less tree. The point being, in the end, that I make the effort to shoot from a huge range of perspectives to give my clients plenty of options to consider.
I often look for intriguing viewpoints of architectural features such as this trellis in the courtyard next to the condominiums. Many of my clients enjoy the look of perspective-bending shots like this, while others prefer their images straight and neat. I adapt accordingly when I’m out shooting, but always try to throw in a few surprises as well.
I was just about finished shooting exteriors of the Taylor Street Condominiums when I noticed a small flowerbed of colorful blooms nearby. Luckily, I never wear my best clothes when I’m out taking pictures, and this allowed me to get flat down on my belly in the freshly watered soil, attach a closeup lens to my camera, and snap some photos. And I’m glad I did. My client liked this shot enough to build an entire ad campaign around it. Their headline was something along the lines of, We Build Beautiful Backdrops For Flowers.
Directly across from the Taylor Street Condominiums is the brilliant Taylor Street dock and over-water walkway. The condos, the dock, and the walkway were all designed by my client, RMC Architects. A gorgeous sunset garnished with dramatic clouds provided ideal conditions for this photoshoot—conditions that I had to “earn” by watching the weather forecast closely for a couple weeks during the often gray and rainy Pacific Northwest autumn.
I’ve worked on a wide range of architectural photoshoots, and will begin wrapping things up here with a varied collection of exteriors. In this shot, sunlight and shadow do a nice job of enhancing the look of this new student-dwelling structure near Western Washington University.
Both this shot and the previous were snapped while record-setting forest fires were burning about a hundred miles to the north and south. This meant that the entire photoshoot took place under a sooty blend of brown and gray skies. So, what’s up with the blue skies in these two images? Well, I do know my way around Photoshop, and with any given project, I seem to spend more or less equal time behind the camera shooting, and behind a computer beautifying.
Do I do shoot residential photography as well? Sure do.
As most any experienced outdoor photographer will tell you, it’s all about timing. That said, I try to make one or two quick “recon” trips to a project site to discover the best time(s) to take pictures. Shortly before sunset worked well here since it allowed the sun’s deepening light to warm the structure from both above and below a curtain of maple leaves hanging nearby.
A sunrise shot of The Woods Cafe at Barkley Village. I try to arrive well ahead of sunup for morning photoshoots. That way, I can preselect 5–10 of the most promising perspectives in preparation for the all-too-brief period of time when sun and sky are putting my architectural subjects in their most flattering light.
No project is too small for me to approach it with full measures of attention and enthusiasm.
My roots as a graphic designer often lead me to seek opportunities for compositional “framing” within a scene. Here, the trunk and pink blossoms of a cherry tree, a tall cedar, and a sidewalk do a nice job of visually enclosing the whitewashed facade of a freshly refurbished historic library.
When out taking pictures for a client, I tend to shoot way more photos than they could possibly use. Here, a historic fire station near downtown Seattle has been shot head-on during a break in traffic…
… and here’s the same building from a slightly different angle and with traffic zooming past. The client was presented at least a couple dozen choices taken from around the firehouse, and I let them make the call on which one(s) I should bring into the computer for finalization.
What better way to wrap up a photoshoot of a refurbished historical fire station than with a shot of its new inhabitants? I can’t help myself when it comes to giving my clients “extra” images like this to consider— images with strong potential for a wide range of promotional and public-relations uses.
I have to admit, if there’s anything I enjoy photographing even more than great works of architecture, it’s the great people who create those works. I’ve shot extensive sets of portraits for multiple architectural firms. And, as someone who isn’t crazy about being photographed myself, I go out of my way to make the experience as comfortable as possible while striving for natural and pleasantly expressive portraits.
In addition to shooting “official” portraits of individuals, I also enjoy capturing group shots of principals and project teams; unposed “action” photos of people at work; and casual shots that connect with both work and play.
In case we haven’t met, I’m James Krause, and I work under the business name, PixelFly Creative. I’ve been a graphic designer, a photographer, and an author for over thirty years and have worked for clients as large as Microsoft and as small as a one-person jewelry shop. I’ve also written seventeen books about design and photography, all of which are available around the world, and a few of which are bestsellers. I live in Boise, Idaho, love what I do for a living, and can usually be found riding a bicycle, hiking, doing art projects, reading, and/or drinking really good coffee when I’m not working.
Click on the PixelFly logo at top if you want to visit the rest of my site and learn more. Also, as I mentioned at the top of this page, feel free to send me an email if you’d like to meet up in person. Thank you!