Striking angles are accented by glowing windows at dusk. 1650 Arch Street, Philadelphia.
Striking angles are accented by glowing windows at dusk. 1650 Arch Street, Philadelphia.

Timing is everything when you’re shooting a building at twilight. That perfect moment — when the sky darkens to a gorgeous indigo and the artificial lights start to glow through the darkness — appears during a tiny window of just 10-30 minutes. Blink and you might miss it!

If you shoot too early, the bright sunlight will overpower the artificial lights and you’ll lose that wonderful glow. If you shoot too late, you lose the definition of the structure and will only see windows and other bright lights set against a dull black sky.

A vibrant indigo sky illuminates Endo Pharmaceuticals in Malvern, PA.
A vibrant indigo sky illuminates Endo Pharmaceuticals in Malvern, PA.

When you get a twilight shot just right, the results are truly special, providing energy and drama to a shot. The effect is amplified in an urban setting where the many hard surfaces reflect light all around.

Twilight photography can also be a great strategy when a building — such as the L2 Partridge designed office building for Endo pharmaceuticals — faces north and lacks direct sunlight for most of the year. In order to get the best photographs of this building right away, I chose to shoot primarily at twilight.

A darkened sky draws your eye to the entryway connecting these two buildings.
A darkened sky draws your eye to the entryway connecting these two buildings.

Because dusk is so fleeting, my assistant and son, Paul Benson, and I set up two cameras to maximize the number of photos we could shoot in a brief window of time. There’s no way we could set up and break down the same set of equipment for this many shots on that cold and windy night.

To ensure that we captured the perfect twilight images, we shot many frames of each scene. Light moves so quickly at twilight that two pictures shot just a minute apart can appear drastically different!

During a fleeting moment, the sun has sunk just low enough for the artificial lights to glow, but not so low as to obscure this exterior covered walkway.
During a fleeting moment, the sun has sunk just low enough for the artificial lights to glow, but not so low as to obscure this exterior covered walkway.

Twilight shots are even more dramatic when a building’s windows are uniformly lit by interior lighting. During this shoot, one section of the building had all the blinds closed — not a great look! The security staff helped us open and close dozens of blinds on five stories.

It takes a great team to get great twilight images.

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