The Importance of Great Storytelling

Why Architects and Designers Need Storytellers

I've spent a big chunk of my life being a creative person. But I've been a marketer a lot longer than I have been an architectural photographer and cinematographer.

I picked up the camera because I knew that the skill of creating visuals was going to help my efforts to be a more effective marketer.

I started my photo and video journey by making social media content. Before everyone was doing all the trendy transitions and doing everything on their phones, I was one of those creators that would shoot everything on my DSLR camera, edit it down in Adobe Premiere Pro, and get it up on Instagram.

I'm a YouTube University student under Professor Peter McKinnon's tutelage. ğŸ˜Ž

My posts caught the attention of some friends in the real estate industry, and they asked me to help make them some visuals. They wanted something different than what other real estate agents were doing.

All those trendy transitions were already getting "played out" then. They were overused in the YouTube community, so I borrowed them and took them to real estate.

They thought it was the most creative thing ever, lol. I thought that it was cheesy. I wasn't a fan. I liked that they liked it, though.

After a while, creating these visuals started to get dull. I had clients paying me to create all these "cool" visuals, but I hated the content I was making.

There was a better way to create a connection with an audience. So, I decided to go back to basics, the foundation of great creatives and marketers. Storytelling.

Because of the story, we can binge-watch eight seasons of Game of Thrones or watch the entire Euphoria series on the weekend.

When you finish watching an intense psychological thriller, you don't turn to your friends and talk about the shot composition, the color grading, the types of cameras they used, well maybe if you're a filmmaker or if you're really into film… but you talk about and sometimes argue about the details of the story.

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Stories connect us all.

Stories create bridges between people, whether they be told live, through film, photos, or text.

Architecture and design aren't any different.

Every line, every curve, every deliberate choice of material, they all come together to tell a story. A story of the architect's vision, the story of the space, and the story of the people who will eventually inhabit that space.

It's a narrative that unfolds in three dimensions. As architectural photographers and cinematographers, we translate that into a two-dimensional medium. It's a challenge, but I enjoy finding ways to tell that story.

So, why is storytelling so important in architecture? Why do architects need us, the storytellers, to bring their creations to life? Well, let's dive into that, shall we?

THE POWER OF STORYTELLING IN ARCHITECTURE

We all love a good story, don't we? They have this unique power to connect and move us. They can make us laugh, cry, think, dream.

In architecture, stories are no different. They can transform cold, lifeless structures into living, breathing entities with a soul and a purpose.

Think about it. When you look at a building, what do you see? A collection of bricks, glass, and steel? Or do you see the architect's vision, the history of the place, the potential of what it could become?

Louvre Museum - Paris, France

That's the power of storytelling in architecture. It adds depth, context, and meaning to our built environment. It makes us see beyond the physical and delve into the emotional and the experiential.

Take, for instance, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Sure, it's a stunning piece of architecture, but it's also a story of transformation, of how a single building can revitalize an entire city.

Guggenheim Museum - Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain

Or consider the Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyd Wright. It's not just a house; it's a love letter to nature, a testament to the idea that architecture can live in harmony with its surroundings.

Fallingwater House - Laurel Highlands Pennsylvania, USA

As architectural photographers and cinematographers, our role is to capture these stories. We use our lenses to focus on the details that matter, the angles that reveal the essence of the design, and the moments that bring the architecture to life.

It's like composing a song or choreographing a dance. It's about finding the rhythm, the harmony, the emotion in the architecture and sharing it with the world.

THE ROLE OF THE ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHER AND CINEMATOGRAPHER

Now, let's shift our focus a bit and talk about us, the storytellers—the architectural photographers and cinematographers.

We're like the conductors of an orchestra. We take the raw music—the architecture—and shape it, mold it, and direct it into something that can be experienced and appreciated by others.

Our role is not just to document the architecture. It's to interpret it, understand the architect's vision, and translate it into a visual narrative with which others can understand and connect.

It's about capturing not just the physical structure but the spirit of the place. The emotions it evokes, the experiences it offers, the memories it creates.

Last week's featured project was one of my favorites. A big thing about that home was the lighting. The way the sun moved throughout the day and cast shadows from the surrounding trees, the large windows throughout the home that brought in the natural light, and finally, how the home looked when lit up at night.

I wanted to showcase those highlights because it was part of the bigger story that the architect was building. So, I integrated time-lapses to show the movement of the sun and simple stop-motion tricks with the lights at night to show the lighting features of the home.

I'm always searching for ways to tell stories, whether shaping voice-over narratives, on-camera interviews with the project team, or creative visual tricks like time lapses and stop motion.

I only use those trendy transitions if they're tastefully done. Some editors randomly throw transitions between scenes just because it looks cool, with no regard to style. The mindset is "eh… I couldn't come up with anything else, so let's throw a zoom transition in there."

How can I communicate the thought process and framework of these architects and designers in a way that their audience will find engaging and valuable?

That, my friend, is a question I'm constantly trying to answer with new ideas.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

So, why do architects need storytellers? Why not just let the architecture speak for itself? That's like asking why a song needs a singer or a dance needs a dancer. The notes and steps are there, but without someone to bring them to life, they remain just that—notes and steps.

Architects are visionaries. They dream up these incredible structures, these spaces that have the potential to transform, inspire, and uplift. But with someone to communicate that vision, to translate it into a language that others can understand and appreciate, that vision remains open to blueprints and models.

South Ave. - Photo by Mike Calpito

Architects design with a vision in mind, a story they want to tell. It could be a story of innovation, of sustainability, of community. But telling that story and communicating that vision to the world is a different ball game. It requires a different set of skills, a different perspective. It requires an understanding of not just architecture but of people, culture, and of society.

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Stick to what you do best and hire out the rest.

But it's not just about telling the architect's story. It's also about adding to it, enriching it. It's about bringing our perspective, creativity, and interpretation. It's about creating a dialogue, a conversation between the architect, the architecture, and the audience.

SHARE YOUR STORIES WITH US!

Lilac Ridge - Photo by Mike Calpito

I want to leave you with a thought—a challenge. Whether you're an architect, a student, an enthusiast, or someone who appreciates good design, I want you to think about the stories around you. The stories that our built environment is teeming with. The stories that are waiting to be told.

And then, go out and tell those stories. Capture them in photographs, in films, in words. Please share them with the world. Because every building, every space has a story. And those stories deserve to be heard.

But don't just tell the stories. Add to them. Enrich them. Bring your perspective, your creativity, and your interpretation to the table. Because that's what storytelling is all about. It's not just about recounting; it's about creating. It's about transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. It's about seeing the world in a new light.

And remember, you don't have to be a professional photographer or cinematographer to tell these stories. All you need is a keen eye, an open mind, and a willingness to explore. So go ahead, pick up that camera, that pen, that paintbrush. Start telling your stories. Start making your mark.

And while you're at it, why not share your stories with us? We'd love to see the world through your lens, hear your perspective, and be a part of your journey.

If you have a unique project in the California area, let us know! We're always looking for content. I'd love to travel further, but that's a little more.

We're all storytellers. We're all architects of our narratives. And together, we can create a world that's not just full of buildings but full of stories.

Get in touch with us at: [email protected] 

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