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Tips for Photographing Shopping Malls and Retail Stores

In majority cases professional architectural photographers are hired to shoot large shopping malls and retail stores with the intent to generate material required for marketing those properties. From the stand point of the photographer this means is a whole new game.

Tips for Photographing Shopping Malls and Retail Stores
Photo by: William Cho

The fundamental requirements of architecture photography like getting exposure, focus and depth of field right, getting verticals straight etc. are still relevant but in addition to the technical details, now there is an added objective; to convey an impression of the function of the building. To create an atmosphere that shouts success, of thriving business, trading, commerce etc. all in the backdrop of the building that is being photographed. The need to reproduce the structure in the best way possible now becomes secondary to the need to convey the function of the building.

Though some exterior shots showing the whole building, its surroundings (the setting/ immediate environment) and also close up detail shots will be required, most of the work will be inside of the mall as it is where the bulk of the activity actually takes place. To make the place look lively the photographer should pay attention that each of his frames show as much signage of major international brands as possible and is filled with plenty of attractive people. Young men and women, middle aged couples, parents with children all well dressed and who look like regular shoppers who spend a lot of money. Such a setting serves to shift the focus of attention from the building to the activity that is taking place. Make sure the setting of the building is also well captured coz that is what the viewers will pay attention to once their minds register the activity that is happening.

Tips for Photographing Shopping Malls
Photo by: Mononc' Paul

Most malls are lit with a combination of daylight and artificial lighting, light levels are more often than not adequate for photographic work. However using a tripod is highly recommended, so is the use of diffused fill in flash for detail shots.

Since you have a situation that has both stationary and moving elements present in the frame, there are many creative possibilities that you could use to further enhance the appeal of your images. The options are:

  1. Shoot at higher shutter speeds and completely freeze all movement.
  2. Shoot at slower shutter speeds to register movement of people while other fixed elements stay stationary.
  3. Use technique called dragging the shutter with flash to both register movement and freeze action at the time of image capture. Using second curtain sync will generally produce better results than standard first curtain sync.

The three options given above produce very different results, do give them all a try as it could add a lot of variety to your pictures. Remember the slower the shutter, the greater the movement captured and vice versa. Fill in flash if used also serves the purpose of removing any color casts caused by the artificial lights illuminating the interiors.

Tips for Photographing Retail Stores

Now comes the trick to exaggerate the crowd, to create a busy feel to the picture. By using longer focal length lenses one could effectively compress the foreground, middle ground and background. Though this does have the effect of flattening perspective, the compression helps make people in the foreground, middle ground and background look as if they are a unified group. It also enhances any signage in the background because they are reproduced in a larger scale. The important thing to remember when shooting with longer focal length lenses is the depth of field; make sure you stop down the lens enough to render objects from the foreground to the background acceptably sharp.

Related Reading

  1. How to Photograph Buildings Situated In Narrow Streets
  2. Creative Architecture Photography Compositions - Shooting Upwards - Deliberate convergence of verticals
  3. Architecture Photography Tips for Getting Great Results in Adverse Weather Conditions
  4. Infrared Architectural Photography
  5. Panoramic Architectural Photography

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