Walking around with my camera, particularly in the city, I inevitably spot many people like myself taking photos, sometimes solitary, sometimes not. Occasionally you bump into a friendly or chatty one, but many are somewhat aloof, guarded and in world of their own. Perhaps they are fully immersed in their craft, or perhaps they don’t feel confident in sharing their photography with total strangers.
That’s absolutely fine of course, and far be it from me to disturb anyone in their creative process, but one way to improve both one’s photography and one’s confidence is to go on a photowalk. It can be with just one other person or a crowd of many, but sharing your excursion with other like-minded photographers can enhance not only the pleasure you get from it, but also the quality of your work. I say this from my own experience on copious photowalks around my hometown.
Of course, some photographers enjoy their craft as a solitary pursuit; a means of getting away from the stress of work or even other people in their lives, be it their colleagues or their spouse. It’s their ‘me’ time where they can lose themselves in their own creative process and do something that is singularly for their own pleasure. I get that and I respect that, and I sometimes shoot alone for the same reasons.
But joining a photowalk can also be a perfect excuse for many people to actually get out and do some shooting, rather than sitting in front of screen looking at everyone else’s work and wondering. It’s a very effective way to build confidence and stimulate creative juices among people who share your passion. And it’s one way to justify all that expensive gear you bought and thought would improve your photography. It doesn’t have to be in a city, of course; combine it with a hike in the country or a visit to a place of interest.
There’s much to be gained from having more than one perspective on any given scene. Each person will inevitably have a different take on it, providing each other with a multitude of potential shots, which can be far more rewarding than simply shooting it from one perspective by oneself. I’ve shot in the same location many times, wondering what else I can possibly extract from it, and yet the person I’m shooting with will have a completely different take on it that I hadn’t thought to see myself.
You may well be inspired watching someone else shoot, but you may yourself be a source of inspiration, if not just a reassuring presence, to someone else. Perhaps you’ve reached a momentary impasse in your photography, unable to envision anything new. Perhaps you need to set yourself a new challenge to re-ignite your passion. Being around the creative minds of others may be just the medicine you need. Indeed the idea to write this little article was not my own, but that of a friend whom I invited to join me on a photowalk.
Furthermore, sharing each other’s results can yield some honest and interesting critique, away from the vitriol and spite of the Internet, and instead amongst friendly and genuine photographers who are all in the same scenario together. This type of dynamic interaction and positive reinforcement becomes the social element to the exercise too, as you might all decide to dine together after a long walk and compare images.
Photographers often feel there is a tacit competition between them, and that they need to be clandestine in their work to avoid being intimidated by the images, opinions or even gear of others. While a little competitiveness can be a good thing in encouraging you to think and work harder for the shot, the shared company of others may actually help you relax into focusing on making the image itself, rather than on what others may think of it. The irony is that many such shy and guarded, albeit excellent, photographers spare no hesitation in sharing their images online for the world to see and critique.
Both these images above were taken on the photowalk with Nasim in May.
We can all make excuses about how hard we work and how busy our lives are with families and so on. But I happen to believe if something is important to you then you make time for it. A photowalk or excursion doesn’t have to happen only by day. There are twenty-four hours in each day. Surely it’s possible to use one of them to dedicate to something that you’re passionate about and that gives you pleasure? And if not, then you may need to rethink your work-life balance before resentment and scorn kicks in.
So, I would say be bold and find a photographer friend, or even an online contact, and invite them to a photowalk. There are plenty of dedicated photowalking groups in cities and areas around the world that you could join. Not only will your photography be more enjoyable, but it’s also bound to improve too. All of my photos presented in this article were taken on photowalks.