Want to Improve Your 3D Visualisation? Travel with a Photographer

start here: A Designer's Viewpoint

Standing atop of one of the hills in Lisbon near Barrio Alto with an old point and shoot camera, munching the last of my Pastel de Nata (my third of the day) I’m lost. But that’s when you find the best parts of a city. It might seem like an odd place to improve my 3D Visualisation, but I’m doing some intense studying.

The camera in truth, is old, and not in the fun vintage way. It does provide more options than an iPhone lens. With 7.2 mega pixels and a Leica lens you really have to think about the composition and light in the scene before you take the shot. I’m learning to train my eye and not rely solely on the quality of the camera.

Design and research trips are a great way of feeding your inspiration and excitement

I’m beginning to take a camera on mini adventures. Shooting on the road is a great way of practicing and improving your skills. It helps me see the details and take in more of the city than I would if I didn’t have a camera. 

Finding Inspiration in Architecture

Deciding to walk in a city can be a double edged blade depending on where you are. After the first 10 minutes we managed to cross from one district into another. I can proudly say we walked the entirety of central Lisbon. Because of this we discovered some amazing hidden streets.

I decided to concentrate on improving my framing this trip. I also want to improve this aspect in my renderings. The focus for this, I decided, was going to be the Lisbon Trams. 

Something became clear during this trip. Due to the cramped nature in the maze of streets, it was impossible to capture the architecture in it’s entirety. This changed my eye and how I saw the city.

I played with the space and explored ways of putting the same dynamic energy of a hero shot into my camera lens 

I concentrated on the features of the streets and buildings. I looked at the parts that I felt held the energy in the scene, and I was able to capture much more compelling images. The same was true from the city's high points. My lens has an optical zoom, so I decided to concentrate on the patterns and lines of the city. I looked at the city as a whole instead of trying to capture smaller details and I was able to create much more drama in the scenes.

Lisbon is full of amazing colour palettes. Painted exterior walls line the streets and an array of new and faded textures greet the eye. There is an infinite number of complimentary and clashing colours. They mix together to create a brilliant vibrancy in the newer and older parts of the city.

Details and Flourishes

 So here we are. Staring down at the worst menu in the history of food, on an uncomfortable plastic chair in a back ally in Portugal.

‘I don’t think we should eat here’ Elle said to me cautiously

‘It’s fine’ I heard myself say, privately thinking it was an abomination. But it was my idea and I was committed.

‘1,000 Excellent reviews on Trip Adviser don’t lie’ I really hope they don’t…

Long story short, we had the best fried chicken E.V.E.R. probably in the whole of Europe, from the original inventors of Peri Peri.

And then the Architectural Photography ensued.

Some of the greatest parts of architectural photography are the tiny details we don’t recreate in a visualisation scene. Sometimes we make a scene stylised and perfect.

We forego the distressed textures that make up reality

The buildings in Lisbon are densely packed with wrought iron balconies and cracked paint. But the faded textures and cracked tiles only add to it’s charm. It’s what gives the city it’s character and makes the streets so vibrant.

Capturing Excitement in the Frame

The entirety of Lisbon is packed with makeshift coffee stands. Some in the form of ornate kiosks and others tiny cafes. These stands have such a great energy about them, and amazing espresso as well. People gather around them to enjoy their holidays or lunch breaks in the heat and sun. Capturing these moments proved to be an effective way of putting energy into the scenes.

Lisbon particularly, is a city of angles. The hills in the city provide great contrasts in the street and the exterior walls. Finding dynamic angles in the city streets is easy. Trying to capture these on screen is a challenge.

There is an energy in the contrasting lines that creates a powerful negative space

Over time the streets have warped and nothing stands straight. I found the trick is to embrace these subtle differences. Not to pick a 90’ vertical shot but try and capture each scene in a way that makes sense to the eye.

One of the more Portuguese styled contrasts is their own brand of old colourful terraces next to grey brutalism. In some instances it can effect a whole city block and is usually on a slope causing an interesting intersecting angle from the street.

These concrete fortresses seem to be completely at odds with the surrounding delicate and colourful architecture

But at the same time also appear to prop up some of the more crumbling, ancient structures.


We finally made it back to the UK after an epic last night in Lisbon. We feasted at the Timeout Market on Croquettes, Portuguese burgers and pastry. We eventually made it back to the UK after a whopping 25 hours awake and slept like the dead to wake up refreshed and excited.

Lisbon is a fantastic city for travellers and a gift for anyone with an interest in photography.

For anyone considering taking a trip soon, I can say this, dust off that old point and shoot or charge up your smartphone and see what you find. I saw this trip as a chance to train my eye and gain more experience capturing the life and energy in a scene. You will learn so much and see way more of the city. I have a renewed excitement for 3D Visualisation and can’t wait to put these lessons into practice , stay tuned, epic viz coming… 

finish here:

If you found this useful check out our other blog posts below.