UK Shooters: creating a thriving global community

January 16, 2022

Jessica Miller speaks with Mike Will to learn more about the concept, philosophy and global expansion of the growing creative community, UK Shooters


Founded by mike goes in 2016, British shooters started as a small group on social media, hosting unique meetups and creative events across the UK. Today, thanks to Mike and his team, UK Shooters has grown into a popular community and a recognizable brand with photographers, videographers and content creators around the world.

Where British shooters began

Social media has become a powerful tool for interaction, with many communities and groups of photographers forming over the years to encourage photographers to share their work and engage with others. Alongside his professional ice hockey career, Mike took up photography as a hobby in 2016. But Instagram’s potential as a place to collaborate and socialize with others quickly became apparent when he started share their own work.

The idea for UK Shooters was born following a trip to Los Angeles. “I saw the scene that was going on there, and everyone knew each other… you would be walking down the streets and if you had your camera out, someone would come up to you and be like, ‘Ah cool, what are you filming? No one would do that in the UK.

Bentley meet-up, picture of all participants

UK Shooters has become a popular community and a recognizable brand with photographers, videographers and content creators

Mike started researching this community in the UK and started contacting other photographers to hang out with and take pictures. Every Monday he went to London to practice photography and always tried to meet another photographer. Many of them had never met other people to take photos before, and that’s what led Mike to arrange his first meeting in September 2016.

“I obviously managed to turn a hobby into a job with hockey. I always had that motivation and I knew that if I wanted to do something, I could do it… The people I initially contacted came and supported, then others did too. It was about networking and meeting like-minded people – which was particularly difficult at the time. I’ve been very lucky to progress quite quickly, and social media has been an amazing part of that for me. From there, UK Shooters was born and flourished throughout the UK.

Luminous nightscape painting by UK Shooters founder Mike Will

Mike Will, @m.visuals

Expansion

Mike also met his team via Instagram. Several people came and went in the beginning, but now the team is more stable: “The people who stayed were the ones who kept hustling, working on their own photography and also wanted to create a community, which was the driving force behind UK Shooters.

“We made a call on Instagram to expand the team. We are six in the main team, four in UK Shooters and two in UK Portraits. The team consists of Mike Will, Luke Jackson-Clark, Keenan Lam, Cyrus Nezami, Gigi Umbrasaite and Gareth Davies. Mike met Gigi and Gareth several years ago and always had them in mind for UK Portraits, so when the opportunity arose they ran with it.

“It was a good time to move the team forward… Now we also do everything, a lot of campaigns and events, as six. But it’s very difficult to have six incredibly talented people in one room, as we all have our own clients and work in progress. Mike retired from ice hockey in 2020, due to the pandemic as well as the increasing shift in focus towards his growing business and photography.

The UK Shooters team from left to right, top: Gigi Umbrasaite, Mike Will, Gareth Davies, Luke Jackson-Clark;  bottom: Cyrus Nezami, Keenan Lam

The UK Shooters team from left to right, top: Gigi Umbrasaite, Mike Will, Gareth Davies, Luke Jackson-Clark; bottom: Cyrus Nezami, Keenan Lam

Meetings

UK Shooters offers a range of meetups and events that cover as many different photographic genres as possible, as well as film and video. “Our meetups can be anything from a UK Shooters Presents social event where guest speakers come to talk about their journey as a creator, to our main lighthouse meetups which are based around content creation and the community coming to take photos, meet like-minded people – and have a really good time!

Each encounter has a slightly different theme, for example Halloween, and many also collaborate with models and makeup artists. Part of the goal is to offer photographers the opportunity to dabble in genres that may be inaccessible to them, such as portraiture. “Another we did was with Bentleys, we had 14 Bentleys, again people wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to go and shoot all those cars.” In addition, sometimes the meetings take place during the day and sometimes at night.

Behind the scenes of the UK Shooters x Bentley encounter

Opportunities to meet new people and try new photography skills and genres. Behind the scenes of the UK Shooters x Bentley encounter

Community at heart

Collaboration, community and networking are at the heart of UK Shooters, feeding from the work ethic of Mike and the team to the way they connect with photographers online.

Mike explains: “In the beginning, I knew a lot of people and no one was really open and ready to help me. I thought that was a weird way of doing things and another reason why I wanted to favor the team around me. It’s actually better to work together and help each other… mistakes and things you learn or things you do well are going to transcend everyone and you are all going to learn from each other. Therefore, you will grow. I wanted that to be at the heart of UK Shooters. It was an opportunity to help each other, even if it’s also business.’

Instagram is used as the main platform to interact with the community and share their work. Mike added: “I wanted to showcase as many up-and-coming shooters and as many locations across the UK as possible with the UK Shooters showcase page.”

uk shooters instagram screenshot

@uk.shooters on Instagram

Conquer the world

Since 2016, other Shooter communities have been created in the United States, including Bay (the San Francisco area), LA, Chicago and Pacific North West (PNW), as well as more recently Philadelphia. “They were pushing and we were thinking about how we can grow things and get people to meet.” A big part of expanding globally for Mike was ensuring the teams behind the new pages were talented, versatile people who support the UK Shooters ethos.

In January 2020, Mike and Luke flew to New York to launch the NY Shooters hub. Their plans to continue flying around the world and launching others have been cut short due to Covid-19. “We had this amazing team and plan in place and then obviously Covid hit and it changed everything we could do, we couldn’t go out and complete the launch. The people running the pages have stopped for various reasons and it’s sort of all overhauled… Now we’re in a rebuilding stage in the US with a lot of the team.

image by Luke Jackson-Clark, member of the UK Shooting Team

Luke Jackson-Clark, @watchluke

The Dutch Shooters community also started in March 2020. “It was really exciting and they just had their first event. It’s great that they’re building really well. We have this amazing hub of photographers behind it. World Shooters was launched in April 2020 to expand to a global audience, with the hope that it could act as the lead for all the shooting groups formed around the world. “We thought, ‘we are confined, we we’ll be a lot on our phones, let’s just launch this new page!” Hopefully this will one day be the biggest hub which then powers all the different individual pages.

There are plans to launch more communities around the world, but it’s only a matter of time. “In the UK we run one to four events a month. I’m very busy with my personal clients and my work…and haven’t been able to travel but plan to. We have a few potential locations in mind as a few tourist offices have made contact with events which is exciting. We are waiting for travel to open up hopefully even more.

uk shooters team Left to right: Gareth Davies, Andy Napleton, Cyrus Nezami, Luke Jackson Clark, Mike Will

From left to right: Gareth Davies, Andy Napleton, Cyrus Nezami, Luke Jackson Clark, Mike Will

Advice for newcomers

Keep an eye on the @uk.shooters page for the latest event information. Mike says, “Get involved! Come talk to the team. At many events you attend, you may have been messaging other photographers for a long time and this may be the first time you can meet them face to face.

We want our events to be a safe environment, so this is an opportunity for people who may not have the confidence to meet one-on-one; with UK Shooters you can get together as a group. From there, it’s who you vibrate with and get along with, friendships and relationships can then be built.

The future looks incredibly bright for the UK Shooters team, so watch this space.


Visit Instagram Shooters hubs

@world.shooters
@uk.shooters
@fr.portraits
@la.shooters
@bay.shooters
@chi.shooters
@pnw.shooters
@ny.shooters
@sw.shooters
@phl.shooters
@portrait.shooters
@uk.spinners
@film.shooters
@dutch.shooters

www.worldshooters.com

British Shooting Team

mike goes @m.visuals

Luke Jackson Clark @watchluke

Cyrus Nezami @cyrusnezami

Keenan Lam @keenanlam

Portraits from the United Kingdom

Gareth Davies @87shots

Gigi Umbrasaite @ggphotographyofficial


Further reading

UKBFTOG: the success of a group dedicated to black women photographers

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