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A guide to completing the Photomarathon Sheffield


Photomarathon Sheffield logo. Photomarathon is back 28th October


The Photomarathon is back! One of the highlights of every Sheffield photographer’s calendar, the Photomarathon is a chance to test your creativity. We have invited Photomarathon Sheffield veteran, Ian Smith, to give us some tips to help you get the most out of the day.

6 hours, 6 topics, 6 photos, that sounds easy enough, but how do you set your photos out from the rest, manage your time, and have a fun day out while doing so? To continue the theme of 6’s, here are my 6 tips for having a successful marathon.

Photomarathon Tip 1: Grab a coffee



When you first receive your 6 topics the temptation will be to read the first one and head out hunting for the shot, but taking the time to think them over and plan out your day can make the task a lot easier.

I like to head to a nice coffee shop (Find one here) read over the topics and make a rough plan of action. You don’t necessarily need to think of the exact image or framing you want to capture, but consider what kind of location would work, maybe what subject you’d like for a certain topic and where that subject could be easily found. You might want to plan out any props you need, or any additional camera gear you hadn’t previously thought of.

Once you’ve got a rough idea of what you’d like for your 6 images you’ll have a better idea of how long each one might take to make, which leads us on to…

Photomarathon Tip 2: Time management is key

Part of the reason making a rough plan is a huge help, managing your time is going to be the most challenging part of the marathon. While shooting only 6 photos in 6 hours sounds easy on paper, you’re going to be making 6 distinctly unique images to 6 distinctly unique topics. This might mean you have multiple locations to move between, subjects to wait for, or plans to amend mid-shoot.


The best tip for time management will be to overestimate your allotted time for each part of the day, and plan as if you’ve got to hand your images in early. If you expect something to take 20 minutes, allow for 30 then use the leftover minutes later in the day. You might find that you rattle off your first 3 topics in the first hour, but that doesn’t mean the trend will continue, always be aware of Murphy’s Law; "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time."


Photomarathon Tip 3: Vary your locations

While it would be a great creative challenge to take all six topics in one location, to get the most out of the day try to explore. Dipping into new areas of the city that you’ve not seen before, or taking a look at familiar locations with fresh motivation is a great way to make some new and interesting work.


Varying your locations can also help set your images apart from the others. It’s not so much the quality of the images judges are looking for, but your interpretation and creativity with the topic you were given. If you’re shooting in the same locations as everyone else the chance of you producing similar work is greatly increased, but how can someone repeat your work if you’re the only one who went to that location. Plus, exploring the city is always fun, you never know what you might find! 



Tip 4: Know your limitations

Your creative potential is limitless, but your cameras features are not. Knowing what your set-up is capable of is a great boundary to work within, and something that personally has helped me create my best work. The most obvious limitations are the things you notice as soon as you pick the camera up. For example, consider what focal lengths you have available, if you’re just rocking the 16mm wide angle then committing to trying to capture the famous Endcliffe Park kingfisher might not be the best call, however that doesn’t mean you can’t capture a great scene in the same location.
Also, remember you’re going to be shooting JPEG and handing your images over straight from your camera, so you’re going to have no post-process editing like white balance adjustment, denoise, and most importantly, no crop. For this reason, I’d recommend taking an extra moment to make sure your image is properly framed and exposed.


Photomarathon Tip 5: Don’t be afraid to backtrack

The aim of the game is to shoot your photos in order, but that doesn’t mean you can’t backtrack. Let’s say you’ve just shot topic number 3, but while searching for your next topic you see a subject that’s perfect for topic number 2, way better than your original image. If you’ve managed your time well, you can delete your previous images for topics 2 and 3, capture your new image for topic 2, then backtrack and reshoot your 3rd photo.

Alternatively, if you turn up to your chosen location for a subject and you’re not happy with it, don’t worry about trying to force it to work and don’t be afraid to simply move on and go rogue with the plan instead. Plans are made to be broken when needed and if you’ve managed your time well you should have the leeway to change things up as and when you need.



Tip 6: Have some fun and get creative!

No matter what happens, remember the Photomarathon is supposed to be a fun. It’s a day out around Sheffield for creatives to enjoy something a little different, so try not to stress the small things and don’t worry too much about your end results, you’ll take some great photos no matter what so you might as well focus on having a good time while doing so.



Are you a Photomarathon veteran? Why not try adding some self-imposed challenges, for example while the competition and official event is focused on digital photography, you could also give it a go on film too for fun. This year I plan to also shoot the 6 topics as a run of 6 frames on 35mm, no re-takes, no deletions, just 6 topics, 6 presses of the shutter button. 

Finally, if you see other participants then make sure to say hi! We’re all here taking part so whether you’re a professional photographer or this is your first time holding a camera it’s always good to come away with new friends and new smiles.


Previous Photomarathon Sheffield

Topic “Out Of The Blue” in 2019

For this image I decided to use a small mirror held very awkwardly against the lens to artificially reflect the crucible to give it the appearance that it was appearing from the sky ‘out of the blue’. The actual image I wanted to capture was the Crucible reflected in a puddle, but on the day of the marathon it was bone dry, so the situation needed to be MacGyver’ed)


For 2023 Photomarathan Sheffield will take place on the 28th October and is Sponsored by Canon. Booking is now open through the Photomarathon Sheffield website

by Ian Smith on 18/09/2023


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