One- and two-point perspective in architectural photography

Discussing this type of perspective might seem dry and technical but working on the slides for this post helped me to understand it. Something related to perspective has always bothered me in pictures and now I have a clear understanding of what causes it. I try to avoid it but haven’t had the language to communicate it to my clients.  In the past I’ve always relied on pointing out strange angles that misrepresent the space that we’re trying to render. These photos weren’t taken for this post; they are test shots taken when figuring out how to show this room.

You can click on each photo to enlarge or after reading through this you might want to click on the photo at the top of the article to view the slideshow larger.
11) This shows the room in one-point perspective—it’s very square with the front edge of the rug being parallel to the bottom of the frame (note the green lines) and all the perspective rushing toward the red dot. This room is too deep for this type of perspective. It also puts too much emphasis on the back wall.

22) An example of two-point perspective for explanation. Other than the vertical lines, all the edges of anything sitting squarely in this room head toward either the green or red dot. It is much less head-on than one-point.

33) A closer look at the same. In this example the perspective points are outside or at the very edge of the frame. This is important.

44) Back to our example room. You’ll notice that one of the points has moved into our frame. It feels basically OK except for the upper right edge of the ceiling detail between the vanishing point and the edge of the picture. This is the important part—in two-point perspective when one of the points is in the picture the part between the point and the nearer edge is the section where things can go wrong. This view didn’t really work because so much of the custom-made sofa is lost to the back of the bar.

55) This is where what we need to show in the photo and perspective butt heads. The geometry has become very distorted on the right side between the vanishing point and the edge of the photo. Some is OK but the geometry becomes very distorted. The trick is this shows what my client needs to show so I need to make this work better.

66) Essentially the same view with the camera moved a little to the right and backed up just a bit to soften some of the distortion.

77) Final image. This very closely matches the rendering my client did for his client. As you see I couldn’t completely avoid the distortion on the right side but I did all I could to lessen it while showing what I needed to show. That’s basically what this boils down to—being aware of situations and working to take control of them.

Project by David Robinson Design