Working the Angles

For architectural photographer Jim Brady, it’s all about light and framing the shot.


When Jim Brady’s childhood dream of becoming an architect fizzled his sophomore year of college, he turned to Plan B. Having realized architecture wasn’t the right fit for him, he developed an affinity for photography and transferred to the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Shortly after graduation, Brady found himself perusing the aisles of an architectural bookstore. He bought a book on architectural photography. It changed his world.

In the years since then, Brady has made a name for himself as one of San Diego’s most notable architectural photographers. He runs his own business, and for the past three years has been an important contributor to SDAF’s Orchids & Onions program. Here’s a look at Brady’s career, his perspective, and what he brings to the table as an Orchids & Onions committee member.


A Deeply Instilled Appreciation for Architecture

After leaving the architectural bookstore all those years ago, Brady immediately started looking into a career as an architectural photographer. Until then, it was an industry he didn’t even know existed. But by the time Brady moved to San Diego in 1987 to work as an assistant in the field, he was one step closer to starting his business, Brady Architectural Photography. He launched it two years later, in 1989.

“Buildings and the built environment have always been my favorite thing,” Brady says. “The built environment is about creating a stage for the world we live in, a backdrop to life.”

Brady’s shot of Studio E Architects

Brady is committed to understanding each client’s visual needs and delivering high quality images that bring spaces to life. His work has appeared in several architectural publications, such as Dwell, Custom Home and Big Ideas for Small Spaces.

As a kid, Brady enjoyed touring historic homes with his parents. Something about it excited him. He’d find a point in the room where everything seemed exactly right. It made him feel balanced. “I still love that,” he says. “I love moving through spaces, the way the light hits a room or angles work together.”

Brady especially finds inspiration in navigating a project’s framework. “Boundaries,” he says, “give me a goal.”

Orchids & Onions A Special Tradition to Be Part of

As the lead sponsorship volunteer for SDAF’s Orchids & Onions program, Brady works closely with sponsors, acting as a facilitator between them and the Orchids & Onions committee. The role is especially useful in the lead-up to the annual people’s choice awards, taking place Oct. 1. Serving on the Orchids & Onions committee adds a new dimension to Brady’s career as an architectural photographer.

“It’s invigorating being around people who talk about and look at architecture in the same way I do,” he says. “There’s an element of being back at art school again. You get the energy of the discussion, the interest, the passion, the commonality.”

As an Orchids & Onions committee member, Brady enjoys the jury discussion and touring nominated sites with jurors who are experts in their field.

“A lot of the people in my life are not heavily involved with architecture and design,” Brady says. “So for me, connecting with an organization such as SDAF, where people are thinking and talking about architecture, it fills a void.”

Check out more of Brady’s photos here.

Nominations for Orchids & Onions are now open, so be sure to nominate a project and have your voice heard!

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