An interview with architectural photographer Martina Govindraj

Architectural expert Martina Govindraj talks light, shade & symmetry…

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You specialise in architecture – what do you find so fascinating about the built environment?
I’m attracted to good design and clean lines and how light interacts with the space around it. Most people will ignore their surroundings as they’re focused on something else like their commute to work. It’s easy to get distracted and miss the details of the world around you, especially when you’re glued to your mobile phone.

What are the key ingredients to successful architectural photography?
Composition and light. If you’re not sure about what angle to take your photo, try several different options. I like to use scale by including a person in a number of my photos to give the shot some perspective, but focusing on details and shooting a façade of a building can work just as well. I like to take photos with lead-in lines such as spiral staircases that draw the eye.

Do you have a preferred style of architecture or environment?
I enjoy taking photos in metro stations mainly because of the symmetry, lighting and the industrial feel that I can produce in my photos. I’m also drawn to modern architecture and how the architects have applied their vision into an urban landscape. 

How important is light and shade?
Light and shade give you an opportunity to be more creative with your shots. It can be used to provide definition, texture or add drama. Lots of people like to stick to shooting in auto mode, but shooting in full manual gives you control of the light in your photo. 

Talk us through your compositional process – where do you start?
More often than not I’m drawn to light when I’m out shooting. I also think about what I’m going out to shoot and choose my lens accordingly. Often, I like to take minimal shots focusing on a specific detail and utilising the negative space. On the flip side, I also enjoy creating a sense of scale to put the building or structure into perspective for the viewer.

What’s your best piece of architectural advice?
There are purists who will tell you to follow the ‘rules’ of photography. However, breaking these rules can result in great photos. Think about negative space and don’t try too hard, just keep shooting and don’t give up. It will take a while for you to find your own style.

Are there are any rookie mistakes or common misconceptions to avoid?
Sometimes it’s easy to try too hard to capture every aspect of a place. Instead, try to focus on details rather than trying to fit everything into one shot if you don’t have a wide-angle lens. You have to work with the equipment that you’ve got. 

Are there any technique ‘secrets’ you’ve learned over the years that could help our Camera School students?
I don’t think it’s a secret, but having patience is essential for the style of photos that I take. You may need to accept that you just have to come back to a place because the light isn’t right, or the building is closed. It happens, and when it does, you just have to accept it and be flexible. Whatever you shoot, make sure you like it because ultimately that’s what counts.

Martina Govindraj is an architectural and urban photographer who has been exhibited internationally. She has collaborated with many brands, shooting everything from cars to London Fashion Week, as well as being the in-house photographer for Mondo Brewing. See more of her work here