The Many Ways To Photograph Staircases

Staircases are always a favorite architectural subject. Especially those spiral staircases. So, let’s dive right in with examples on how to approach photographing various types of staircases, starting with everyone’s favorite style.

One of my recent favorites to photograph, and one I wish I would have had more time with and ability to explore, is this great spiral in Dubai’s Etihad Museum designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects based out of Toronto. I was lucky enough to be selected to be here for a delegation trip with the UAE Embassy so we got to explore so much great architecture. This was definitely a favorite stop.

Anyway, here’s an example of approaching a staircase from wide to detail to abstract.

One more example closer to home, the Josef Paul Kleihues staircase at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. I’d still consider this a spiral but on the more geometric side as opposed to the usual curves.

mca, museum of contemporary art chicago, josef paul kleihues
mca, museum of contemporary art chicago, josef paul kleihues

I also wanted to show this example because another way to abstract a staircase is to use intentional camera movement. Here, I simply moved the camera to the left during a longer exposure of 1 second.

mca, museum of contemporary art chicago, josef paul kleihues

Another way to approach showcasing a staircase is exploring the view from the the bottom up and top down. They can offer such different perspectives of the same space. First, a couple of wider more contextual shots at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Next, a bit more detailed at the Carnavalet Museum in Paris. From the top down, the staircase feels busier with all the steps visible. From the bottom up, there’s a more calming feeling because of the negative space of the underside of those stairs.

Still sticking with top down and bottom up but showing a much smaller portion of each staircase allows for a more abstract interpretation of the space. This time at the Stadshuis Nieuwegein, which is the City Hall and cultural center in the Dutch city of Nieuwegein.

Then there’s adding people for scale. Both images are from different areas in the Art Institute of Chicago.

One more example, the staircase as secondary subject. Here, River City in Chicago by Bertrand Goldberg. I’ve already seen a number of examples from all of you on social of things like fire escapes that work well in this category.

While these last examples aren’t necessarily about specific compositional ideas, I thought they were fun to end on because of how colorful they are!

How about this for a parking garage staircase?! And the cleanest parking garage I’ve ever seen, which was in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

One final colorful stop, this staircase sculpture titled Double Ascension by Herbert Bayer in downtown Los Angeles. Plus, a reflection to boot!

Stay tuned on Instagram and Facebook to see many other staircases over the month. Plus, all the great shots I’m sure you’ll all share!



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