Dan Brackenbury                                                            

Contemporary photographic surveying techniques 

The development of urban sites is usually preceded by a thorough photographic surveying exercise. These topographic records of the city are traditionally taken from an elevated perspective and focus on the material forms of built environments, as well the activities that take place within them. New photographic technologies cast a view from even further aloft. Whilst essential to the design process, it has been noted that these perspectives are problematic because “the aerial view, which arose under modernism, for all of its objective, literal stance, brings with it a series of ideological associations”1. These are some commonly used aerial surveying methods currently applied by architects, planners and developers today:

Satellite imaging. These are satellite photographs taken from space and are produced through similar processes to those used by Google and surveillance agencies in order to map and observe large geographical topologies.

Large volume metrology / 3D scanning. These technologies can now offer views into the interior and exterior dimensions of structures and how they sit within urban landscapes in meticulous detail. Precise three-dimensional imaging renders can then be navigated in a similar manner to computer games and explored through virtual reality headsets.   

Drone photography. Aerial photography is now used more frequently because of readily available and affordable access to drones. In the past hiring a helicopter or light-aircraft to capture an aerial image would have been costlier and more logistically impractical.


1. Last, N. (2010). Reimag(in)ing the Urban. Visual Resources, 26:1, 72.