Shooting Challenge #8 -- Modern Architecture

By Martin Snelling on at

I was sitting outside my office in Portsmouth (a lovely place with views over the Solent) thinking about this week’s challenge; flicking through my little black book of ideas wondering what fiendish photographic challenge to set. My original plan was to do something Halloween themed, but given that it’s Design Week, I thought it would be more fitting to do something more designer-y. But what?

The answer was looming down on me from overhead - Spinnaker Tower. More than just a tower with a broken lift that’s never worked since the tower opened in 2005 (and never will); Spinny Tower is a lovely piece of architecture shaped like a billowing sail (perfectly reflecting Portsmouth’s maritime history).


The Brief

This week’s Shooting Challenge is all about modern design and architecture. Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to get out there and photograph a piece of modern architecture; whether it be a local government building, some weird towery thing or a multi-million pound wobbly bridge.

The main rule is; it has to be modern. How you chose to photograph it is entirely up to you. Along with your photo submission, you will need to tell us what it is you’ve photographed.


The Technique

Photographing architecture is all about light and form; a building as a whole can look striking, but often you’ll find that as you get closer you’ll notice other things; stairways, glass, steel, shapes and reflections. Combine those elements with some good composition and you can create some fantastic abstract photographs.

Walk around your chosen subject; look at it from all sides, get up close, stand back, visit it at different times of day to see how light falls on it. The same building in the morning can look completely different in the late afternoon. If your chosen subject is a public building, find out if photography is permitted inside and go look around. There may be an amazing staircase just waiting for you.

But PLEASE!! NO fake HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. I’ll be covering HDR in a future Shooting Challenge; but for this one -- let’s leave it out! And please; read the rules and stick to them.


Extra Notes

If you’re worried about photographing public/government buildings and the potential ‘hassle’ from overzealous security guards, please read the UK Government’s recently guidelines issued to private security firms on photography.

It’s worth remembering that "If an individual is in a public place photographing or filming a private building, security guards have no right to prevent the individual from taking photographs." So if you’re on a public street, security guards have no right to stop you photographing.

If you’re worried about shooting a building/structure, speak to the security guards beforehand, telling them what you’re doing. You never know, they may be a Giz reader.

Always be polite, and explain you are within your rights to photograph there; even with a tripod. If you’re shooting on private land, ask if photography without a tripod is permitted. If you’re having no luck, give up and find another building; sometimes it just isn’t worth the agro.


The Rules

- Submissions MUST be your own work.
- Submit up to five images.
- Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
- Minimal image post-processing is allowed (global changes to levels, brightness, contrast and cropping are permitted).
- Explain, briefly in your submission email, the equipment, settings, technique used and more importantly for this challenge, where the image was taken. Please ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
- Email submissions to, not me.
- Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
- Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnameArchitecture.jpg
- Don’t forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
- Send your best photos by Monday, 29th October at 6pm UK time with “Architecture” in the subject line.
- Anyone can enter, regardless of location.
- The most important rule — HAVE FUN.

Martin Snelling is a Hampshire-based man about town who works in the videogame industry. A keen photographer, Martin shoots on film and digital; he blogs here, and tweets here.

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