We’ve been writing about compositional tools (like Negative Space, Triangles or Leading Lines) that can help you improve your architectural images. Today’s theme is layers! It’s a common element of photography, think foreground/background in landscape images. With architecture, you don’t always see what’s between the different layers, as oftentimes one building is hiding part of the building behind it.
In the example below, the Petersen Museum’s sculptural facade partially hides the residential building across the street. The red/blue contrast helps make the composition even more compelling.
You can go beyond the simple two-layer composition. In the example below, the Louvre’s pyramids are stacked in front of the historic building in the background. Here, symmetry and layers work together, with the pyramids being perfectly aligned. See some of the historic building through the glass provide yet another layer.
Sometimes, you can layer different parts of the same building, like the railing of the bridge below:
You can combine the two options like in this example: there are at least 5 layers, with the two escalators, the round opening, the back wall and another building through the window.
Shooting through a fence can add depth to an otherwise simple composition.
Reflections are a great way to add layers! In the first image, you have two layered patterns: the glass building and the reflected building.
In this second example, you have multiple layers: the pattern of the facade, the interiors of the building, the reflected trees, and the reflected building. The viewer can keep exploring the image and finding new elements!
Layering is closely linked to framing: in the image below, the pillars are a foreground layer, which frames the main area of Union Station in Chicago.
It also works with wider shots. In the image below, you have the bridge layered onto itself (first metal layer, second metal layer and bridge house) and then several buildings.
The iconic view of the Painted Ladies in San Francisco is a great example of layering in a cityscape: the trees, the houses, the skyline, and the clouds.