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Selecting the right architectural photographer can make your structure or property do more than just make it recognizable to the public; it can project and image or an impression.

Panoramic Photo of Manassas Court House

Full photo of Manassas Judicial Center after photography, stitching, HDR, color correction and photo retouching.

I was recently contracted to provide photography and SEO services to the Prince William County Bar Association (PWCBA) for a website redesign that Sherri Arnaiz was constructing for them. The photography was to include photos of the old and new courthouse for use on the website.

2013 website redesign by Sherri Arnaiz of Prince William County Bar Association website with panoramic masthead photograph by Mark Gilvey. Click for enlargement.

2013 website redesign by Sherri Arnaiz of Prince William County Bar Association website with panoramic masthead photograph by Mark Gilvey.
Click for enlargement.

Typically, the photography I see for businesses can tend to look good enough for a potential customer to be able to recognize the location when they get to it. It is a visual reference to help them get to their destination and there is nothing wrong with that. For this project, I wanted something more. I wanted to capture the full breadth of the campus and some of the history. A snapshot on a sunny afternoon just would not suffice.

For the photo of the Court House, I decided to take the photograph in early evening as oppose to the morning. Shooting in low light has the advantages of not having harsh shadows to compete with like a sun-lit building would have and there is almost no car or pedestrian traffic to have to remove from the photo later. Using some specialized photographic techniques (outlined below) I was able to bring out more detail, more color and that helps project an impression on the viewer.

Photography

This photograph is a composite of 9 stitched photos that were shot on a tripod using a panoramic head. Since the sky was very bright and the shadows dark, I decided to photograph at each camera position 3-times to capture light, medium and dark bracketed exposures. These exposures (9 photos total) were then combined using a high dynamic range (HDR) technique. HDR is a technique for combining the best of each bracketed exposure into one single image giving it a full tonal scale appearance that a single frame in a digital camera cannot produce.

Post Processing

The next steps required color correction and retouching. HDR images can require additional adjustments and this image was no exception. I am a firm believer that just because it comes out of the camera, doesn’t mean the photo is completed. The camera, no matter if you believe you can “get it” in-camera or not, is just the starting point. The building and the trees needed to be masked and have color and texture adjusted.

Retouching

Manassas Justice Center

This is a section of the original panorama showing the signs that needed to be removed. Click for enlargement.

The last step and the most difficult is retouching. Most people shy away from this phase but with my background in photo retouching, it’s just another step for me. For the retouching of this image, I decided to remove the many signs, clean up the driveway, grass and remove the garbage cans. To look at it as you see it now, you might think it was a click of a shutter and some image filtering buttons but it’s not. You might not even notice how clean the photo is, well it’s kind of hard to tell in the website banner to be fair but if you look at the full photo (top of page), you’ll see how clean the full image is.

Project Time

The photography took about an hour for just this one shot because I shot several versions of it. The post processing, stitching, HDR, and retouching hocus pocus took about 4 hours.

Conclusion

With the right tools, the right light, the right time and the skill to bring it altogether, I was able to bring an impression out of a very important building on a historic piece of land.MGIW-blogpost-end-icon