Q&A with Adobe
Paris-based architecture photographer Ludwig Favre is known for his pastel-infused images of California and the desert that often draw comparison to a Wes Anderson film.
Favre shares how he achieves his signature style and why for him, a photo never feels finished.
How did you get into photography and what drew you to architecture in particular?
When I was 6 my father showed me how to create a photo using film and a chemical bath. I started doing it professionally about six years ago. Before that I was at an agency doing art direction, and before that I worked for French TV. Picture and motion are a part of my life. When I was at the agency I started selling my photos to galleries, and that made it easier for me to leave my job and do photography full time. In Paris we have a lot of monuments, so when I was a child my father showed me a lot of monuments and took me to exhibitions. It was a part of me. I need to discover new things and experiment with different points of view.
Where do you find inspiration?
From the movies. As a child I watched a lot of films, like the original Blade Runner, and films from Stanley Kubrick. This obsession with the center line shows up a lot in my photos. I also find inspiration from painting and music. I listen to a lot of American music like The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. I lost my father when I was very young and it’s something that reminds me of when he was here.
What do you think makes a great architecture photo and what excites you about a shot?
It’s a good subject combined with good light (not overexposed) and a good moment. I try to have good symmetry and a point of view. When I discover a new place it’s always exciting. My heart beats a lot because I want to capture what I feel in that moment. It’s difficult sometimes for people with me because I run immediately to take what I see. It’s because I’m afraid of losing this moment which matters to me in terms of photography — a certain light or a person may enter the framework of my camera and make the perfect scene.
How would you describe your style and how do you achieve it?
I think it’s about my colors. I have a particular color palette with softer pastels. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s a representation of my feelings about that moment, place, and time. I want to embellish reality, which can sometimes be very hard — it’s kind of like a dream world. It’s something I create after the shoot in both Lightroom and Photoshop. I prefer shooting in the summer and in the morning. Sometimes I like to take a picture at noon when the light is very harsh. A lot of photographers don’t like to shoot at noon, but the colors are interesting at this time. In terms of the sky, the blue is more electric then.
What are the biggest challenges in shooting architecture photography?
Sometimes I get to a location that I’ve seen on Google Maps and it’s not the same. It can be totally different because of construction, or you don’t have the good weather, or the light is not the same in June as in December. What I see and what I want is not always the same, so it’s difficult.
What’s inside your camera bag?
I have two lenses, a 16–35mm and a 24–70mm. I have two camera bodies, an ND-10 filter for long exposure, a remote, a tripod, a MacBook Pro, two hard drives, four to six SD cards, a DJI drone, a little light (because when I shoot at night I need to see what I’m doing), my iPhone, and my iPad Pro that I use the most when traveling for retouching. My favorite lens is the 24–70mm, because it’s the most versatile for street or landscape photography. But when I’m inside I always use the 16–35mm because I have a wide angle with this one.
What would you suggest as a starter kit?I recommend above all a good lens — a 16–35mm or a 24–70mm to start. This allows you to be versatile and to capture not only architecture, but also landscape or street photography. The camera should be 24mp minimum to be able to make enlargements of good quality. The more millions of pixels, the more details you will have. Phone cameras now have algorithms to improve your images, and you can use them to capture street photography in a very spontaneous way or even landscapes. It’s a tool that you always have in your pocket, and it makes for a very good backup camera.
What are some common beginner mistakes you can learn from?
I’d say it would be not looking for original angles or grasping the way to build a photo, and also using the automatic mode of your camera. I think when you don’t know the basics of photography and don’t play with the aperture, for example, you lose the creativity of the composition.
What are your favorite Lightroom tools? Do you have any tips for using presets?
My favorites are for color adjustment because my pictures are about the colors. And the Geometry tool. I think it’s very important for me to have a good perspective and to place my principal subject in the center of my photo. I use the Contrast, Highlight, and the Black adjustment presets every time. I use them to create something different in my images. In terms of presets, it’s necessary that your settings reflect your creativity — you need to find a good adjustment between reality and your vision. I adjust enormously the cyan of my photographs to give them a very past dimension. By playing with the red, yellow, and the blue you will create your own photographic style.
How do you use Photoshop for editing?
I use the Curve tool and I use Photoshop for color correction. When I work on an image I always use Lightroom first (and sometimes only Lightroom), but I often use Photoshop to correct my colors and remove what I don’t like. And I like to save my work in Photoshop because I export in 300dpi, so it’s good for large-format images.
How do you choose what to edit and how do you know when it’s finished?
When I do a shoot, I always have a photo that‘s talking to me more than the other ones — because of symmetry, cropping, or even the light because of that moment. A picture is never finished for me. I never like what I do. I always think I can do better. When I come back to it after, I say “No, it’s not what I want.” But sometimes I see my photo and think okay, stop, it’s finished. You can’t do any better.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you work?
It’s very difficult for a photographer like me who wants to travel. I have a road trip to California, New Mexico, and Utah planned, but due to the pandemic I don’t know when I can leave. And I want to go to Greenland to do a project with the white polar bears. Not being able to find a new place to shoot right now is very frustrating. I have to think differently and find another place because I can’t stay here and wait to see what’s happening.
What has photography brought to your life?
It’s a big change. I feel free because I can do what I want, when I want. I can’t stay in the same place for a week without moving. It’s a real liberty to do what you love the most and earn money for it, so it’s just incredible. And it’s just wonderful to be able to share my work with everyone because photography is also a testimony to the world around us.
I’m very lucky.
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