How and Why a Photoshoot has been Scheduled for May of Next Year based on the Solar Path

This post discusses how and why an architectural photoshoot ordered in October has been scheduled to take place in May. The background is an enquiry from a prospect wanting a very specific high resolution image to print on a large sheet of glass. The client’s requirements are that the image shows his two prestigious commercial buildings and an external sign against a blue sky. The image will be printed on a very large sheet of glass and hung in his lobby where it will remain for many years. Due to size and cost of the finished print and required longevity, only the best will do. Thus the photoshoot has been scheduled for when the solar path predicts the best illumination on the development.

Project Synopsis

Since the development is predominantly north facing, the sun will only shine on the facade during the summer months. As an ethical business with a reputation, it was clear the client needed this information. It felt wrong to take the client’s money now knowing a much better image is possible by waiting without at least empowering him to make a decision. If this were a press image, it would be shot immediately with confidence it will be in the bin tomorrow. The shear cost and expected shelf life of the final printed image dictate the best possible image is required.

Naturally, I felt a little apprehensive advising a six month delay. To win the client’s trust and understanding, solar prediction was used to show the client how the sun moves around his building in May and October. This all paid off when he called and thanked me for the explanation and took the decision to wait until May to proceed with the Photoshoot.

Solar Path Prediction

The solar path is plotted on maps and satellite images anywhere in the world, at any time of day and any day of the year using computerised technology.

Solar path prediction

Solar path prediction at both equinoxes and solstices in four different locations. Click on image to enlarge.








The four diagrams above provide all the information needed for scheduling a photoshoot based on the solar path. Each diagram shows the sunrise and sunset positions (when the sun’s elevation is 0°). A slider is used to show the sun’s changing elevation throughout the day. Note, the near vertical elevation of the midday sun in Singapore, this is because Singapore’s latitude is around 1° north. Midday elevations in central England are around 14° winter solstice, 38° spring and vernal equinoxes and 61° summer equinox.

The sun’s elevation can predict when a building will shadow it’s neighbours and how much shadow under projecting features. The tall building bottom left of the Birmingham image will cast a long shadow toward the library on winter afternoons. Generally, the higher the sun’s elevation, the more contrasty and less interesting the light.