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The Art of Photographing Spiral Staircases

Updated on May 4, 2015

"Spiral stairs wind around a newel (also the central pole). They typically have a handrail on the outer side only, and on the inner side just the central pole. A squared spiral stair assumes a square stairwell and expands the steps and railing to a square, resulting in unequal steps (larger where they extend into a corner of the square). A pure spiral assumes a circular stairwell and the steps and handrail are equal and positioned screw-symmetrically. A tight spiral stair with a central pole is very space efficient in the use of floor area. Spiral stairs have the disadvantage of being very steep." Wikipedia

Spiral Staircases have been around for some time and they have also been photographed extensively.

However being a common source of inspiration they can be used photographically to create surreal imagery by simply changing one's perspective and the angles used to capture their images.

Basically these stairs can be photographed as one sees them from the ground or at the base of each stair, as one sees them from above and directly from below.

Look for angles that present an unlikely view of the stairs. In other words capture images that would normally not be part of a normal image repertoire.

Most of us just see a stairs and perhaps look up towards its end. Your intention should be to present other alternate ways of visually exploring these beautiful staircases.

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

By far that majority of images will mostly feature views looking up and views looking up but nevertheless these can be made great images by utilizing the light to your advantage. Try to include pictures that show shadows, and light spots alongside dark spots.

Using flash or several photo floods can work if you work them appropriately to create the desired effects. Again the light, the perspectives as well as the angles are your best options to create out of the ordinary images.

If the stairs have a "history" like tear and wear areas, fading paint, scratches, and other signs of being used then you should include them at some point. These extra nuances give the total image a character and "life" all of their own plus they can make the photographs more interesting to look at.

There are many styles as well as many modern and antique specimens. It is always a good idea to incorporate several time periods in your collection of images or you can focus solely on a specific time frame.

Public Domain
Public Domain | Source

Have you ever been intrigued and moved to photograph one of these type of stairs?

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Public Domain
Public Domain | Source

With some creativity and careful inspection of these stairs some images can be rendered in ways that almost appear to be something else besides what they really are.

Clever angles may present these subjects as if they were forms usually found in nature such as the nautilus shell and some plant formations or particular specimens like the spiral aloe plant.

There are many locations that have these stairs and photographing them should not be an issue. However some of the best samples that also contain an element of decay thus a "history" can be found in abandoned structures.

But you must do your research and explore often in order to find them since it is highly unlikely that they will just advertise themselves to you.

Many historical societies can help you find records of places where you may still find suitable subjects. It is worth it to get in touch with any of these societies and seek their help in locating them.

Don't be afraid to experiment but also be responsible. Many of your subjects will be found in areas that are still in use. Always be polite and if need be, ask for permission.

I have taken some of the these images in the past by asking the owners of the buildings or its administrators for permission.

I have gotten quite a few puzzled looks but have always been granted access to take photographs when the building was not in use thus making my work that much easier and allowed to explore my subject at leisure.

Don't forget that many new projects will welcome the opportunity of having a part of their structure featured in photographs.

Perhaps approaching them and offering some sample prints may encourage them to grant you the right of capturing these images, plus you may even gain a new client which may use other photographs for advertising purposes.

Public Domain
Public Domain | Source

© 2015 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 2 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Blackspaniel1: Thank you very much . Glad you liked it

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

      This one has such a great intro image I had to see the rest of the hub.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

      I had no idea a staircase could be so photogenic.