If any apology were necessary for the introduction of this chapter we might find it in the words of Ruskin. He says: "The greatest service which can at present be rendered to architecture is the careful delineation of its details from the beginning of the twelfth to the close of the fourteenth century, by means of photography. I would particularly desire to direct the attention of amateur photographers to this task; earnestly requesting them to bear in mind that while a photograph of landscape is merely an amusing toy, one of early architecture is a precious historical document; and that this architecture should be taken, not merely when it presents itself under picturesque general forms, but stone by stone and sculpture by sculpture." On the other hand, the modern student might dissent from the insinuation that architecture ceased to be worthy of record at the end of the fourteenth century.

The Study Of Architecture

There is, unfortunately, a widespread notion, among people who have never studied the subject of architecture, that it is dry and uninteresting; and the fact that it cannot be understood and enjoyed without a certain amount of preliminary study is probably the reason why the number of architectural photographers is small, compared with the many who devote their attentions to some more popular branch, such as landscape work. Instances of this lack of appreciation are sometimes met with in postal photographic portfolios, the remark, "uninteresting subject," on an architectural print being by no means uncommon; and we remember hearing, in reference to a successful photograph of one of the finest Norman churches in France, the following offhand expression of opinion: "Oh, that's quite ordinary, isn't it?"

Cottage With Pargework, Newnham, Kent.

Cottage With Pargework, Newnham, Kent.

Some knowledge of the history of architecture, the sequence of its various periods, and its artistic and scientific evolution, is most desirable, if not essential, for any one wishing to deal intelligently with this particular branch of photography. Good books by well-known authorities on the subject should be read, which, besides affording insight into the development of the art, will help one to distinguish good architecture from bad, and to decide what is worth photographing and what is not. There are two kinds of architectural photograph - "the picture," and "the record" - the former naturally being favoured by the photographer with a good eye for composition, and the latter by the worker of an archaeological turn of mind; but the photographic apparatus necessary for either style of work does not materially differ.

Photographic Apparatus

A stand camera is undoubtedly the most suitable type, as, although good work can often be done with hand cameras, they are usually more limited in movements, and less adapted for use with lenses of various foci. In deciding the question as to what size of camera and plate is best for this class of work, many points have to be considered. The chief advantage of the big camera is, of course, that a large negative enables one to make prints of an effective size direct in any process; perhaps also the composition of pictures on the focussing-screen is easier, and defects such as halation, pinholes, and other flaws are less noticeable in contact-prints than in enlargements. On the other hand, if the worker is content with a small negative, and does not mind the trouble of making enlargements, we think the small camera is far preferable. Points in its favour are, less initial expense on outfit, less expenditure on plates, and greater portability, also the greater depth of field given by the shorter-focus lenses permits of their being used at comparatively large apertures - a great advantage when poorly lighted interiors are to be photographed.

It is essential that the camera be provided with ample rise and axial swing of front, or a swing back. The front movement is much to be preferred, as it does not necessitate an alteration in the position of the tripod after it has once been placed at the correct level, and final adjustments can easily be made with the head under the focussing-cloth.

When the lens is of sufficient covering power, it is better to simply raise the front rather than swing it, and with a first-class lens this can be done to a considerable extent without showing appreciable falling off in equality of illumination. A larger stop, too, can be used than that necessary if the front of the camera be swung, and the lens stopped down to correct the effect of the axis of the lens not being at right angles to the plate. The swing-front, however, is useful when the lens is of small covering power, and a long exposure is not inconvenient.


It is always advisable to carry two or three lenses of different foci, so as to have a choice in the matter of what to include on the plate from a chosen view-point. Although the rule of "use the longest focus lens you can" holds good in architectural photography, it will be found that generally for interiors a lens of what some pictorial workers would consider short focus is the most useful, for example, 4 to 5 in. for a quarter plate. For this size of plate a battery of lenses of 4, 5, and 6 in. equivalent focus would meet most requirements, and for larger plates lenses of proportionately longer foci. Many lenses are convertibles, and the separate components may be useful for detail work, or when a narrow-angle lens is required; but this is seldom, except with distant general views. For this branch of photography anastigmat lenses are to be strongly recommended on account of their covering power and large field of critical definition.

Levels And Tripods