In January I declared this a Year of Learning, and photography was right up there as one of the main things I wanted to improve. So you can probably imagine how delighted I was to get a place on one of the Blogtacular photowalks, which were held in London last week. My walk, hosted by Kristabel and Natasha, was one of many highlights from the weekend (more on the others to follow). Not only did I take enough photos to keep my Instagram feed going for weeks, but it was a whole lot of fun and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. The good news is that a photowalk is something anyone can do - and you don't have to wait until Blogtacular 2017! If it's something you fancy trying, I've compiled a few tips so you can do-it-yourself!
What is a photowalk?First I will confirm that a photowalk is exactly what it sounds like - quite simply, a group of people go on a walk and take photographs. Following a pre-designated route, it's a fun way to practice your photography and to socialise. Take it from me, it's much less daunting to take a photo of someone's front door, or their windows, when it's clear you're part of an organised walk, than feeling like a random solo-stalker!
|The 'Photowalk West' gang - photo courtesy of Mollie Makes ©️Will Ireland|
1. Location, location, location
You can plan a photowalk anywhere - in the countryside, along the coast, in a city - however a great location with lots of beautiful things to photograph will make for a fun and interesting experience, and will mean that everyone can get some really good shots, whatever their skills or equipment. We went around Notting Hill, Westbourne Grove and Portobello Road in West London where there are lots of great things to photograph including pastel-painted houses, street art and market stalls.
|Our walk included Hillgate Place, London W8|
If you're planning a walk, an online search should provide you with plenty of suggested routes for London and other major cities, or you can make your own. Be sure to visit the location in advance if you're inviting other people - think about the light (and shade) and anything that might be going on at the time of the planned event. Do you want lots of people or quiet streets? What mood do you hope to capture? Will the streets be in shade? etc. We were expecting lots of rain and cloud (which had been forecast) and so the bright sunlight made it much more tricky to photograph the first few roads than it should have been.
2. Don't be shy
Those who know me will laugh because I hate being in front of the camera, but being on a photowalk involves being in photos. You can't really expect other people to pose for you if you're not willing to be in any of their photos. On our photowalk I had no choice as the whole thing was being photographed by Mollie Makes - I had to get used to it pretty quickly. There are many photos that made me shudder (I look so much older and more rotund than I feel!) but lots of them - captured without my knowledge - show how much fun I was having, and that makes a nice change as I usually hide behind the camera.
|Looking like an escapee from an asylum - photo courtesy of Mollie Makes ©️Will Ireland|
The worst photos by far are those where I look self-conscious and uncomfortable and so my tip is to try to relax. If possible wear something bright or in-keeping with a theme too - heavy rain had been forecast, which meant lots of my fellow-walkers were carrying colourful raincoats and umbrellas - this gave plenty of lovely colour-coordinated shots like this, and I regretted my usual 'all-black uniform'...
|The gorgeous Yellow-Raincoaters|
It's much easier to pose as part of a group than to stand alone, feeling awkward - don't ask me how I know!
3. Try something different
I'm getting better at taking photos of the things I like - namely flowers, knitwear and flat-lays. But don't often have willing models, so it was lovely to be able to practice photographing other people. Some of my favourite shots are of the other bloggers that I didn't know before the walk. "Strangers" are easier to photograph as you don't have pre-conceived notions of how they would like to look.
|Check out The Happy Flat - as well as being a wonderful model, she is a fabulous blogger!|
This little bit of practice has made me want to take lots more photos of people! My advice is to use a photowalk to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
4. You don't have to follow the crowd, even though you're part of oneEven though we were in the same location, the photos taken on our walk were quite different. The 'official' shot below illustrates why - I was planning a photo of Karen (whose hair and bag co-ordinated with the wall) while others were taking pictures of the art, or the opposite side of the street.
|Photo courtesy of Mollie Makes ©️Will Ireland|
We all used a designated hashtag which meant we could immediately see what others were posting on Instagram. Not only did that help the less experienced (like me) to check out what the more experienced photographers could 'see' but it also kept everything together in one place to view later. You can find our hashtag here, if you'd like to take a look.
5. It's more fun with friendsIt was sheer coincidence that my friend Kate happened to be on the same walk as me (as the names had been drawn by lottery) but it made it much easier to arrive and settle in knowing someone. She's a great photographer so that also meant that for the first few streets, I took my lead from Kate - watching what she was shooting (although she has a 'proper' camera and I only use my phone) and feeling more confident by starting off with some photos of her.
|Selfie with Kate aka 'A Playful Day'|
If you're not confident to attend or organise a walk by yourself, grab a friend and take comfort from one another. It's a lot more fun and you can also go to the pub together afterwards!
I still have so much to digest from my weekend at Blogtacular and will be back with more over the next week or so when I've had chance to get my thoughts in order. In the meantime I'll just say that it was AMAZING, and inspiring, and that I got to meet Lisa Congdon and attended a great photo workshop with Sara Tasker! Come back soon to read the rest.