The Best Networking Events for Nature Photographers in the UK

Regardless as to whether you are starting a business related to nature photography or simply enjoy photographing nature in your spare time, the events featured here offer brilliant opportunities to connect with others who share your interest in the natural world and to gain creative inspiration. Networking is an important part of any photographer’s journey, and it can lead to some amazing opportunities. Maybe that could be access to an elusive species, or an opportunity to shoot for a new client – whatever the case, read on to find out where to be in the coming year!

Wildscreen Festival

Next Event: 15-19 October 2018

Location: Bristol, United Kingdom

Bristol has become known as the global capital for wildlife and conservation media. The city is home to the famous BBC Natural History Unit and numerous nature-related film-making production companies, making it the perfect location for a festival that celebrates the art of natural world storytelling. 

Since the first festival in 1982, the Wildscreen Festival has become one of the world’s largest environmental film-making events. At the heart of this festival sits the Wildscreen Panda Awards, the highest accolade in the wildlife film and TV industry. The week also consists of master classes, keynotes, screenings, photography exhibitions and ample opportunities to engage with like-minded people.

I attended my first Wildscreen event in 2017 and I was not disappointed. Although the Wildscreen Festival occurs once every two years, the Wildscreen team organises an array of smaller events that run on alternate years. Symbiotic Stories was a one-off event in Manchester, but one that gave me an insight into what I might expect to see at a Wildscreen Festival. 

Symbiotic Stories encouraged collaboration between conservationists, film-makers and photographers. A keynote presented by photojournalist Adrian Steirn was a highlight, and without a doubt one of the most eye-opening and inspirational presentations I have seen to date. Although the key focus for the Wildscreen festival is film-making, the event remains a brilliant opportunity for nature photographers to be inspired, with some aspects tailored for those working with still images.

The only downside for the event is the price of the ticket, with a ticket for the full week costing over £300 and concession tickets costing £250 plus VAT. If you can afford the price tag and are serious about breaking into the video side of nature photography, this is certainly one not to be missed. If you are solely interested in still photography it is cheaper to buy a one-day ticket for the photography-related day.

WEEK – Concession £250+VAT
WEEK – Early bird £400 +VAT (1 May – 31 July)
WEEK – Full price £500+VAT (from 1 August)

“Films and photographs are major elements in the battle to protect our imperilled natural world. Wildscreen work with the best photographers and film-makers to help promote conservation. They are the best at what they do, and all their initiatives reflect this,” says Sir David Attenborough, a Wildscreen Patron.

The Bird Fair

Next Event: 17-19 August 2018

Location: Rutland Water, United Kingdom

The British Birdwatching Fair, commonly known as the Bird Fair, is an annual event that has been described as the birders’ ‘Glastonbury’. The fair is held at Rutland Water Nature Reserve and now features over 450 exhibitors and receives around 24,000 visitors. Despite being named the Bird Fair, this event has a focus on a whole range of species and is more like a wildlife festival.

Each year the event has a different fundraising theme, and this year money raised will support the creation of Argentina’s largest national park to provide a safe haven for nearly a million flamingos and shorebirds.

I have attended the Bird Fair a few times over the years and it has always provided great opportunities to chat with photographers, artists, presenters, BBC producers, editors, biologists, tour company operators and wildlife enthusiasts. If you are looking to learn about organised wildlife photography trips, meet like-minded people or engage with conservation organisations this event is worth attending!

An adult three-day ticket costs £35, making it one of the most affordable of the events featured here. The Bird Fair has become increasingly commercial over the years and some talks are basically advertisements for organised trips abroad. That being said, it remains a brilliant few days for networking and, if you can make it, I strongly recommend attending it.  

EXPLORE The Expedition and Fieldwork Planning Weekend

Next Event: 9-11 November 2018 

Location: The Royal Geographic Society, London, United Kingdom

It is wise to avoid confining yourself to industry-specific gatherings, and to attend anything that is indirectly connected to your work where possible. Although EXPLORE is not a specific event for nature photographers, it is an incredible event for anyone with a passion for adventure and the great outdoors. The event attracts geographers, field researchers, writers, expedition leaders and biologists. There is a noticeboard upon entering the event where people advertise spaces on research expeditions or offer their services for collaborative research projects. 

My favourite talk at last year’s event was a presentation about a biological assessment of Mozambique’s forgotten sky islands, but there were also themes ranging from health and safety in extreme environments to paddle boarding the length of the Ganges in India. 

You can sign up for a series of workshops to learn from experts. I attended a Polar workshop and a biological sciences workshop; both were incredibly informative. Another workshop assisted attendees in travel writing and editors from various popular magazines advised on the best ways to get your work published. 

I left the EXPLORE weekend feeling inspired to take my own ideas as a conservation photojournalist forward and produce photographs with the aim of making a meaningful difference for conservation projects. But I also felt informed with a greater understanding of fieldwork grants available and budgeting. Furthermore, many of the people I met took time to provide me with advice and support in the weeks afterwards. If you are interested in taking part in expeditions, this weekend is not to be missed! Ticket price is fairly high, around £75, but this includes lunch and free hot drinks, in addition to the talks and workshops. 

The Photography Show

Next Event: 16-19 March 2019

Location: National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, United Kingdom

I have attended The Photography Show twice now and whether you are a professional, an amateur or just starting out, the show has something for everyone. This event does not have a specific focus on nature but it is a great place to engage with the photography industry as a whole and, since 2018, the show has introduced ‘The Great Outdoors’, a fantastic range of talks focusing on animal, landscape and outdoor photography. 

The Photography Show provides you with the opportunity to learn about editing software and kit from over 200 exhibitors, including global brands such as Canon, Nikon, Sony and Manfrotto. Attendees have the chance to try out the latest camera bodies and lenses, allowing them to make informed decisions when investing in new camera equipment. You can speak to insurance providers, printing experts, gear specialists, photographic societies and fellow photographers. The Show thus gives you a diverse range of networking opportunities. 

You can pick and choose which presentations or workshops catch your eye and attend those. At this year’s event I treated myself to a ticket for the Super Stage, where I watched Ami Vitale speak about her journey as a conservation photojournalist and that talk was more than worth the journey to Birmingham.

Show entry is reasonable, with a regular ticket costing £18 and concessions costing £15. The venue is very accessible, with close proximity to Birmingham International Railway Station. The only downside to the show is that at times it can feel like one giant sales pitch. You can expect to be bombarded by exhibitors hoping to sell you the latest kit or software, but if you are confident about what you hope to get from the show and focus on the talks and presentations, you can gain a lot without too many additional costs. Alternatively, if you are already planning on buying some kit, it is worth checking out any special event discounts!

Remembering Wildlife Book Launches

Next Event: 18 October 2018

Location: The Royal Geographic Society, London, United Kingdom

I attended the Remembering Rhinos book launch in 2017 and it is a great evening to gain inspiration from some of the world’s best wildlife photographers who are actively working to support wildlife conservation through their camera work. A drinks reception provides the opportunity to speak with editors and photographers. This year their book turns to the conservation of the world’s great apes, including gorillas, orang-utans, chimpanzees and bonobos. The 2018 book launch will include a talk by 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Tim Laman. This is a smaller event than the others I have mentioned, but one which is well worth attending for those with an interest in wildlife photography, especially if you live near London.  

Events Outside the United Kingdom

In this article I have touched on a few of the best events for nature photographers in the United Kingdom, but the opportunities do not end there! Below I have listed a further collection of nature photography events that are held internationally. I have not yet had the chance to attend these events myself, so I cannot provide first-hand reviews, however I have heard some great things about the following events…

Conclusion

By meeting people in person, you gain an opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level than via online communication alone. If you have a true passion for nature photography, let that genuine attitude shine through in what you talk about. Exchange contact details and try to keep in touch with those you meet at networking events. Communicate with them and find ways to support their work. Think ‘what can I do to help you’ not ‘what can they do for me’! If you leave an event with just one meaningful connection or new friendship, then I would say you have had a success.

I hope the information provided in this article proves useful to you and allows you to make an informed decision about what events would be most relevant to your interests.

Stephanie Foote is a wildlife photographer and videographer with a first class degree in Natural History Photography. She is currently based in the historic city of Cambridge (UK). Time spent in rural France exploring her relatives farm as a child inspired her love for wild adventures.

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