How to Create a Potluck Photography Party


It’s always great to meet up with friends, and as photographers, it’s great to meet with fellow photographers. A lot of people’s photography style is to go it alone, which can be good for many things. But, even if you like to photograph alone there are times when meeting other photographers, and bouncing ideas off them will help you. Those meetings are often in the form of photo walks, where most people photograph by themselves. A progression of this type of photography meet up is the potluck photography party.

As you probably know potluck parties are about food. This is such a great idea that we photographers should also use it too. So what does a photography potluck party look like? It’s all about collaborating as a team, and trying everyone’s stuff!

How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

It’s great to collaborate with others and work on photos together. Here two cell phones are used as light sources.

What is a potluck photography party?

The idea of a potluck party is you bring different food dishes to a party, so how can this be applied to photography? Well if you substitute food dishes for photographic equipment then you have the basis of how this idea works. The equipment each participant can bring with them is as follows.

  1. A camera body: This can be a DSLR, a point and shoot camera, or a Smartphone.
  2. A camera lens: This is applicable to those bringing a camera body with interchangeable lenses. Bring just one lens with you to the photography potluck party.
  3. Additional equipment: You can bring one other piece of equipment with you. This can be anything from a tripod, to an additional lens, or even a glass ball.
How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

The gear used in a potluck photography party.

The above parameters form part of a creative exercise, one where the equipment you have is deliberately constrained. In order to realize more complex photography ideas, collaboration and sharing of equipment will be necessary. If the group size is around five, hope at least one person brings a tripod, but not everyone.

If you like to take portraits then equipment for off-camera flash would be great, and working in a team allows the stronger photographers to help those learning this type of photography. The equipment could be as simple as an umbrella that could be used as a prop with a model, or an interesting way of framing a photo. The last variable is where you really should look to push that creative potential, another good piece of additional equipment is the Smartphone!

How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

This photo shows how the flashlight from Smartphones can be used to light the face in a portrait.

Will you go blind?

No, we’re not talking about blind dates here, but equipment. Will you organize your event so that nobody knows what the others will bring? This is the purest form of a potluck photography party, but sometimes you need to engineer what everyone brings a little. Think of those potluck parties where everyone brought cheesecake, that would be awesome but didn’t you want a salad as well?

Letting other people know what you’ll bring can give you a much more balanced set of equipment, and with that comes more creative photos. So the type of potluck photography party you decide to have is important. There are three main types to choose from, they are:

  1. Blind: In this type of party, nobody knows what others will bring, so results will vary. This is the purest form of a potluck party, you will have to use the tools given to you and come up with the best results.
  2. Early bird: In this type of event, you share with other people what you’ll bring through social media or e-mail. This means those people deciding what equipment to bring later can choose based on what other people say they’ll be bringing.
  3. Listed: This form of potluck is highly engineered as you list the items people can bring. In this case, a list is posted on your event page or e-mail invitation. Once people can see the list they can choose which item they’ll bring, and once taken nobody else can bring that same thing. This list may only apply to item #3, the additional equipment.
How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

In this photo, the phone is used to create a second image, with the Smartphone being used creatively.

Make an event on social media

The best way to share your potluck photography party is through social media, with Facebook the best placed to deliver on this. Creating an event on Facebook is a straightforward task. To grow the potluck photography community, and share the results of your party, joining this Facebook group is encouraged. In addition to the resource of this article, you’d be welcome to use this document to explain the concept to other people.

Why not create some country, or city-specific, potluck photography party groups, and host your events through these groups? Instagram is also a great platform to promote your event. Create a new account just for the potluck party photos.

How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

You don’t have to collaborate, some photos don’t need it. In this photo, simple composition and moment of capture were used.

Sharing your equipment

The collaborative nature of this type of event means you’ll be sharing equipment with others. You’re not likely to share your camera body, but other equipment can be shared. If you have a camera body that’s compatible with other people’s lenses, why not see if you can try them out? This way you can increase the pool of lenses available for your shot.

Tripods, Smartphones, and off-camera strobes can be used by almost everyone, regardless of the camera. Take care with speedlights, these are specific to the camera brand they’re designed for and may damage other cameras. Using other people’s expensive equipment does carry some risk, so asking people to sign an agreement to replace damaged items is an option to consider.

How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

Some photographers carry so much gear, it looks like they’re checking in for a flight! Potluck photography parties aim to reduce how much each person carries, but by pooling gear, you still get to experiment.

The potluck photography party group

The idea with the party is that each person has a chance to create their own concept for a photo. In turn, you allow each photographer time to use the available equipment to make their concept happen.

You will need to split larger groups into several smaller groups of around five to seven people. The most sensible way to divide is by camera brand, this will make it easier for people to share lenses. If you have a large group finish the day with something social, where everyone can mix together.

How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

This is the group for a potluck photography party.

Share your potluck photography party experience!

The types of photos that can come out of these events can be conceptual or spontaneous. As with all meetups like this, it’s great to share the results with everyone after you have had an event. This will give you feedback on what you did and will give other people fresh ideas about how they could do something new.

If you go out and try a potluck photography party be sure to come back here and post your work, or a link to your Facebook event page. Those posting to Instagram can use #potluckphotographyparty and #PPP to share on that platform. So now all you have to do is go out and party!

How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

In this photo, no extra gear was needed, but collaborating with one of the other photographers who would model for the shot.

How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

In this photo, a Jinbei 600 flash unit, a pixelstick for the light painting, and a tripod for long exposure were used fro the items that were brought for the party.

How to Create a Potluck Photography Party

The most important thing about parties is to keep it fun and spontaneous!

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  • Vinod Vinu

    thank you very much for sharing valuable information here.keep going like this with many more updates FILMYWAP

  • Karen Garay

    This sounds like it could be really fun as long as you trust everyone to not try to steal the equipment. I’m not sure I’d be willing to do this with people I didn’t know.

  • Simon Bond

    Hi Karen. That’s true you need to trust people with your gear a bit. There are different ways to approach this though. You could decide to make the potluck element only extend to inexpensive props for instance, and decide not to share lens and other expensive equipment. If you meet up with other photographers on a regular basis you could decide to share equipment more once your level of trust is higher. I hope you give this idea a try one day.

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