Friday, July 31, 2009

How do I improve my photography?

With the advent of affordable digital cameras, it seems everyone has a camera these days. And so I often get asked "How can I improve my photography?"

Years ago, the response might have been "join a photo club". What is funny is that answer sounds so nerdy to me! Who goes to photo clubs?!? Certainly not soccer moms who just want to take pictures of their kids. In fact, you are probably imagining right now some hard core techno geek with a camera.

But wait a minute!

Have you ever heard of Photowalking? As mentioned on wikipedia, it is "the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that the photographer may find interesting." What better way to learn to take pictures than by ... doing! And better yet, Photowalks are generally organized by groups of photographers who are willing to share their time and knowledge and talents with anyone who wants to learn. Does that sound like a photo club? Sure does ... but I can guarantee you, it's a lot less nerdy than you are thinking!

We have, right here in Salt Lake City, Utah, a very strong group of photowalkers known as Photowalking Utah. Click the link to see the group calendar. Tomorrow morning they are heading up to Albion Basin, being led by Ann Torrence, who is well known for her work in photographically documenting Highway 89.

What better way to learn about nature photography, than from an expert photographer such as Ann Torrence herself, or the myriad of other photographers who will be there?

Worldwide Photowalk

There are Photowalking groups all around the world. In fact, just a few weeks ago, Scott Kelby promoted the 2nd Annual World Wide Photowalk. On July 18th, 2009 people from all over the world gathered around various cities around the world to participate in the photowalk.

Here is the local Utah group gathering in downtown Salt Lake City:

Some of the images captured by the various photographers who participated on that day can be seen here:

My own images from the photowalk can be found here:

The ever talented Jeremy Hall put together a wrap-up video illustrating the event:

Just this week, a group of photographers (Utah Strobist) interested specifically in using off-camera flash photography, commonly known as Strobist, met together at the Great Salt Lake to take pictures of models at the lake as well as in the lake.

Ealier this year we met up at Cactus and Tropicals in Draper for a photowalk:

Another time we went to the Hill Air Force Base Museum, early in the morning, before the the museum was open to the public where we were treated to up close and personal views of the air planes:

Or how about the trip to the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah led by Brian Jones? How often do you get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at an eye institute and research center?

The point is, Photowalking involves a wide range of locations and opportunities. There is literally, something for everyone!

Some questions and answers to help get you started:

Q. How do I get involved with Photowalking?
A. Honestly, it's as easy as just showing up!

Take a look at the Photowalking Utah Calendar. Check out the forums. Including the Utah Strobist forums. And just join in.

Q. Do you have to be an expert to join Photowalking Utah?
A. No.

There are members from all walks of life with all levels of skill, from the brand new Point and Shoot toting grandma, to the young entrepeneur looking to strike out in wedding photography, to the seasoned pros such as Rich Legg who shoots stock photography for a living.

Q. Does it cost any money to join?
A. No.

In fact, most events are free. Though there may be occasion where the location may require a small entrance fee or some other cost. But in general, photowalks are the greatest value I've found, costing only your time and willingness to participate.

Q. Do you have attend all of the photowalks?
A. No.

There are two schools of thought here: 1) you can simply attend those photowalks that interest you, or 2) you can attend the photowalks where you have the most to learn.

Choosing photowalks that interest you are probably the most "guaranteed" fun. If your thing is architecture, then watch for a photowalk that involves architecture. If your thing is portraiture, then watch for a photowalk that involves models.

But in my opinion, the greatest benefit of photowalking is to pick those photowalks that will teach you the most. If you're nervous about photographing people, then try it. Pick a photowalk that involves people. You'll be surrounded by other photographers that know what they are doing. Watch and learn. Better yet, ask questions. Funner still, team up with someone that is learning just like you and learn together.

Two of my friends, Stephanie Jorgensen of Flash Jorgensen Photography and Suzanne Plant of Lookie Loo Photography got into photography only just last year and did so by coming to various photowalks. Click their links to see their blogs. Look how far they have come!

Photowalking Utah is amazingly composed of people who aren't afraid to share their "secrets". So don't be afraid to come. And certainly, don't be afraid to ask questions.

Q. Are there any other groups?
A. Yes,

Check out the Provo Area Photography Meetup Group. Quite similar to Photowalking Utah, but based in Provo and generally run by Pete Hansen.

Pete has another group, East Bay Studios. This one is much more diverse (including actors, filmmakers, comedians, etc). But includes a subset group of models and photographers who get together once a month for a photo shoot or learning session.

So go ahead, join a photowalking group today!


Suzanne Plant said...

I absolutely owe most of everything I have learned from Photowalks and the amazing people I have met that have taught me so much, you being one of the major ones David. Thank you!!

Parker said...

I am pretty envious of all the stuff you guys do together. I've been following you on your blog and Twitter for a while now. I live in Cedar City, otherwise, I would totally come to all of this stuff. Still, I think I have learned a few things just by observing some of you online and admiring the photos you take. Thanks for sharing.

Flash Jorgensen said...

What an incredible post. I have people ask me all the time about things and I always tell them the best way to learn is to join up with Photowalking Utah. Rather than answer all their questions, I can give them this link to your blog. You outlined what it is so well and gave some great information there.

Where would I be today if you hadn't told me about the Photowalking groups last year while shooting my brothers wedding? Certainly not where I'm at today that is for sure! You're a great friend and mentor and I appreciate all the things you've helped me with along the way. I can think of so many specific things you've answered and helped me with. You are so kind and generous with your time and talent and it is truly appreciated. Thank you!