Last week we were kindly invited by Ryan Walker from Banter & Brews to take part in a panel talk about our Wellington Photography Meetup group along with other creative meetup groups. It is not a secret that Wellington is proud to be a creative hub for art & culture and of course photography is a big part of it! There were some really good questions raised on the night so we thought we should share them with all our readers and those who couldn't make it to the event.
What is the Wellington Photography Meetup group?
Our part in running Wellington Photography Meetup group as well as groups in Auckland and Christchurch started when we met Richard Young and realised that our dreams of creating a photography community in New Zealand matched. However, it has never been about creating "just another" photo club - we always wanted to bring people together who share our love for photography and our vision for building a new generation photo community where there is no hierarchy, no judges, where people feel welcome in a family-like environment and where we can try and bring the power back to photography helping amateurs find their own style and get exposure to a wider audience.
With Richard running New Zealand Photography Workshops and us managing the Excio & NZPhotographer community, the meetup groups were the last piece of a puzzle where we could bring people together in the offline world! The group is run voluntarily in collaboration with other photographers and 99% of the events are free of charge to attend.
What does a typical event look like?
We have different types of events:
Let's Shoot – where we usually meet up at a location for a shoot, e.g. practising sunset photos at Oriental Bay or trying to improve our photography at Light Festivals.
Photo Walk – a hosted photo walk in Wellington where we meet everyone at a particular location (most of the time this is Wellington Photographic Supplies stores), decide on the route and then all (we try our best to stay together!) walk along the same path taking photos and end up at a bar just having a pint of beer or discussing the photos we took on the day. You won't believe how different everyone sees this world! Even walking together there are rarely similar shots!
Talk – expert talk on photography, most are free but some require a small fee to cover venue hire.
Event – a photography event being held in Wellington like Photival.
Workshop/course – a paid for workshop/course run by one of the group's sponsors.
Social – where taking photos is not the primary objective!
Photo Competitions and Challenges - these do not require you to come to a particular place or meet up with others as it may happen over a few days or even weeks.
Because the group is organised and managed voluntarily the frequency of events mostly depends on the availability of the organisers. However, we have some exciting photo challenges and walks planned for the rest of the year. Make sure you join the group: it is free so you have no excuses!
I'm an introvert and talking to strangers scare me. What if I don't have anyone to talk to?
Meetups are a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who share your passion / interest in photography so you can easily find common ground which can lead to bouncing your ideas off of others or potentially even meeting someone for your next project or discovering a job opportunity. But we know that it can feel uncomfortable approaching others, starting a conversation, and even responding when someone more extroverted comes up to us to say Hi.
At the panel talk we discussed some great tips:
1) Start the conversation with general phrases - "How are you?" "Are you here for the first time?" "Great T-shirt!" "What kind of photography do you like?". Keep in mind that other people may well be at the meetup for the first time too so be nice, polite and genuinely curious.
2) If you see a group of other people talking - quietly drift closer and wait until they finish their conversation or if they notice you it's a great chance to participate in some interesting talks.
3) Prepare in advance - think of why are you going to the event, what would you like to learn from people? Photography tips? Links to courses? Communities to join? Gear discounts? You can easily save the list on your phone so if you forget something or suddenly go blank you always have somewhere to check and it will just look like you are checking a super important message!
4) Our (very biased) advice - use Excio as a conversation starter. It is free to download and by non-intrusively having images running on your homescreen or widget it's a great way to spark a conversation! "Oh what's that on your screen?! Is it your photo? Do you know where this place is?"
5) Meetups are meant to be for fun, collaboration and making new friends! Don't stress too much! At the end of the day it is just about you being comfortable and enjoying the event so if you don't want to talk too much you don't have to!
I'm only a uni student, is this relevant for me? What's in it for me?
Meetups provide a friendly atmosphere to understand what is that you are most passionate about and what you (might) want to do without any obligations. You can attend as many meetups in your area as you want, see whether this is something you would like to do after graduating and you can even add it to your CV as social activities you took a part in. Talking about photography can be as simple as understanding whether you would like to become a professional photographer, hearing first hand from other people what communities they belong to, what style and genre they prefer, all the pros and cons and their opinion, who they know in the industry and so on.
Huge thanks to Ryan Walker for organising the panel talk for meetups!