I am not the most social person, especially when it comes to meeting new people. However, there is just something about a photowalk that decreases the awkwardness of social interaction and allows you to meet people on a different level.
Recently, I hosted a photowalk here in Ulsan, South Korea. This is sort of training for an upcoming project that I have in the works. Photowalks in this area are a hit and a miss at times. However, this one was great as it brought together some great people and it was a great time.
I never really understood it until I started looking back on all the years that I hosted the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk. People came out not because they wanted to be a part of a worldwide photography event but rather because they wanted to be a part of a group of photographers in (usually) a great place.
Photowalks allow you to focus on photography with a group of likeminded people (rather than your friend or significant other who just stands there looking bored). When you are out with a group of photographers, you feed off their energy and motivate yourself to try a little harder.
1. Get Out and Do Something!
One of the common things that I heard from a lot of people is that they normally don’t get out. Photowalks are a great way to lessen the intimidation that a lot of beginner photographers have about venturing out to get photos. On more than one occasion, people have talked to me about how they never get the urge to go out and shoot alone. However, when a photowalk gets planned in their area, they dust off their camera and have a great time.
Photowalks are great as you get to spend a day in a wonderful location with a good group of people. There is a group up in Seoul (check out FIS: FLickr in Seoul here), that meets every week and I hear so many great things about that group. What better way to spend a day than to explore a new area with a group of fellow photographers.
2. Meet Other Photographers
As I said before, I am really not a social butterfly. I’m not a jerk but I am also not the guy that will run up to you in real life for no reason. However, going on a photowalk allows me to break away from my old habits and meet other photographers. The past weekend’s event was great and while I knew most of the photographers that came, it was the first time that we all had met up in the same location for a while.
It is not just about the photography either. It was a time to talk shop, grab some food and coffee and just geek out on photography. This is something rare when most people don’t really get why anyone would wake up at 3 am to capture a sunrise and thus, can’t relate in some ways to your adventures. As photographers, we cherish these moments.
During larger meetups, I met people that I had only met online in the past. Photographers that I had known for years but never met in real life. I have also met new photographers who quickly became friends and people that I can count on to meet me on those early mornings.
3. Try Different Styles of Photography
One of the misconceptions of these photowalks is that they are about one particular style. However, I have found that when you get a group of photographers together, everyone tries out different styles. It is great fun and the experimentation will make you a better photographer.
I typically shoot landscapes and cityscapes. Often, we will end up shooting portraits, cinemagraphs, lightpainting, etc. For many of the participants, it is their first time experimenting with these styles of photography. During the walk they get a little coaching and encouragement too.
During the last photowalk we had an impromptu modelling session with one of our members. I don’t normally shoot this style but it was great testing it out. A funny story, but as we were setting up, a Korean guy who was just walking by, helped us light the scene with his phone. It was a great moment!
4. Go to New Locations
I have been living in this area for a while. However, most photographers that I meet in Korea, know very little about Ulsan. So being able to take people around and show them some new places is great. Likewise, when I am traveling I like meeting up with local photographers as I have the insider knowledge that can get better shots than if I was on my own.
Whenever I plan photowalks, I try to add in unique places that not everyone would know about but also have some photographic value. On the weekend, I took the group into the bamboo forest to photograph the lights projected onto the bamboo trews at night. This is something that many people had only seen in the photographs that I have taken before. So they were delighted to get the chance to photograph there as the location is not clearly marked and not even in English.
The same goes when I am up in Seoul. I have found myself in locations that only the local photographers really know about. These shots were some of my best and I would have never have found them without that local insight.
5. Build a Stronger Community
One of the things that I struggle with is simply getting out of my head when I shoot. Often, I just want to be alone in my thoughts. However, photowalks are a great way to get out of that headspace and come together in real life.
These photowalks can build a stronger community through real life connections and support. Rather than being a distant avatar that dumps photos in a group for virtual hugs, when you attend a photowalk, you become a real person. People see your passion, instead of the JUST the numerous photos that you dump into a facebook group, pining for attention.
While I am not a fan of ALWAYS going out as a group, every couple of weeks they are a great way to spend some time with people who like photography. I have also noticed that the groups that have more frequent photowalks also seem to be more active online too. People actually care about the photos that are being posted because they were either there or have a deeper connection with the person.
The bottomline here is that in many ways we need a group of like-minded individuals. We need a tribe or a crew or whatever you want to call it. It opens us up to new ways of shooting, support and just being around other creatives.
Wherever you are, check out the local photoclubs and see about participating in a photowalk. Around October 5th, Scott Kelby will be doing another one of his Worldwide Photowalks. So, look into that. There should be some in your area. I know I will be planning one for around Busan this year.