Host an instameet on your campus

A recent instameet at the University of Birmingham was a big success. We took the chance to ask the organisers Beth Astington and Annabell Lamba why they did it and how you could do the same at your university.

UatW: Who are you?

Annabell and I work at the University of Birmingham in the College of Arts and Law Marketing team, although we organised the instameet in our spare time with IGersBirmingham – the official Instagramers Birmingham account. We both enjoy using social media – Instagram in particular is a favourite for us both.

UatW: What was the initial idea for organising the instameet at the University of Birmingham?

We attended an Instameet in June which was co-organised by Visit Birmingham and the Hidden Spaces project. It was a really enjoyable event – exploring places we hadn’t been before as well as streets we’ve walked along hundreds of times, but taking the time to really look at things instead of hurrying along. It was also great fun meeting other people who had similar interests, and we really didn’t feel self-conscious about getting in to all sorts of strange positions while taking photos, because you know that there are lots of other people doing the same! We really enjoyed the instameet and by the end we both came to the same conclusion: that the University of Birmingham campus would be a great place to hold one. It’s a beautiful campus, has a great mix of different architectural styles and there is a large amount of greenery, monuments and sculptures such as the Clock Tower. We also thought that it would be a place where many people would not have visited before – therefore getting the wider community onto campus was key.

UatW: What was involved in organising it?

We got in touch with the organiser of IGersBirmingham, Fraser McGee, to see whether some sort of collaboration with the University would be possible. IGersBirmingham share photos of the city and organise Instameets. IGersBirmingham is part of the global IGers community which was started in Madrid in 2010 and now spans 400 cities across 60 countries. The movement was created with the aim of helping photographers to improve their skills and quickly evolved into developing photographic communities around the world that were linked through a single social network.

Fraser was keen to hold their next Instameet outside of the city centre and so we invited him on to campus to show him around – he instantly agreed that the campus would be a great place to host an instameet. Our main organisational tasks were publicity, managing enquiries and registrations, organising a route and making the route map, making arrangements for access to certain buildings and informing the University’s marketing team that the event was going on. The key factors when working out the route were that it included a good mix of things to photograph, it was the right length and had a pub to end up at. From the photos below I think it shows that we had a good selection of buildings and things to photograph.

We also wanted to secure access to somewhere that people didn’t normally get to spend much time in. We decided that the university’s “Great Hall” would be perfect as it’s very grand and ornate and lots of people think it has a Harry Potter / Hogwarts feel to it. We were able to get that opened for us which was great, as people really liked photographing it. When arranging the route map we put together some information about some of the different buildings and things that people would see so they knew a little bit more about what they were photographing. People liked that as they were able to put a bit more information in their posts about what was in their photographs. We were also able to get some old photographs of campus so people could see what it used to look like and take retrographic photos (where an old photo is placed and photographed in its modern environment).

Oh for the love of hearts. 😂 #igb_meet_UOB || #IgersBirmingham A photo posted by Sanna. (@apaali) on

UatW: How did you publicise it?

It was publicised via the IGersBirmingham accounts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and was shared by other Birmingham-based social media accounts. We also liaised with the university’s marketing teams so that they could advertise it and feature it after the event. The Instameet was also advertised internally to students and staff. When advertising it to staff we  played on the fact that this was a great opportunity to see the Great Hall / campus at a time when they weren’t dashing between meetings or at a work event.

UatW: Why hold it on a Saturday?

The Instameets are typically held at the weekends, as most of the people that attend are at work during the week. The bonus of holding it on a Saturday was that campus was quiet – so there were not too many people getting in the way of the photographs.

UatW: What was the format on the day?

Annabell, Fraser, and I arrived early to make sure everything was OK with the Great Hall and then to be on hand when people started arriving. When people arrived we would welcome them, give them the leaflet, a sticker and a code to access the university’s wifi. People were then chatting amongst themselves or taking a few photos while we waited for everyone to arrive. Once we were ready to go we gave a short welcome speech and then we lead everyone to the front of the Aston Webb building for a group photograph – a must for any Instameet!

We then let people in to the Great Hall and everyone started to take photos. People then started filtering outside and followed the route. People progressed at different speeds and naturally fell in to a few groups with some going faster than others. By about 2:30pm, everyone had taken enough photos and made it to the pub. People then stayed around for a few drinks and it was a great opportunity to chat with everyone after the event. Over 850 images were uploaded: some during the Instameet itself, but a lot were uploaded over the course of the weekend as people transferred their photos from their cameras.

UatW: How many turned up?

75 people turned up which was a great turnout. It was mostly members of the public, about 20  people were members of staff or students. As most people had not been to the campus before it was really nice to see their first impressions of campus as many were really impressed at how nice it was. I think the students and staff that came along really enjoyed the chance to look really closely at the campus without being in a rush to get somewhere else – I know Annabell and I certainly did!

A video posted by Sanna. (@apaali) on

UatW: Was it a success?

Yes – everyone seemed to really enjoy it! We got a lot of positive comments on the day and when people were posting their photos later they were saying how much they had enjoyed it. In addition, we both really enjoyed organising it too and seeing the photos afterwards. It was really good to see new angles and details that people had noticed.

UatW: What’s the benefit to the university?

The number one benefit is that it has produced a massive number of photos on social media of the campus, so anyone who looks at the various tags / location tags will see some excellent and creative shots. The University posted information and a link to a gallery of photos on Facebook – the posts got over 1000 likes and some really positive engagement. They have also been able to utilise some eye catching images for social media posts, marketing materials and course handbooks (after seeking permission of course). The Birmingham Mail also ran a feature on the event which included a number of photos from the day – and ran a print copy the day of A Level results were released; perfect timing for those coming to study at Birmingham and seeing campus in all its glory! It was good to be able to engage with the community and bring people on to campus who might not have visited before.

UatW: Any advice for anyone thinking of doing similar?

Our top tips would be:

  • Get in touch with your local IGers or photography group as they will be great for getting members of the local community involved;
  • Make sure your route includes a real diverse mix of things to photograph;
  • If possible, include somewhere on your route that is somewhere that people don’t normally go or don’t normally have access to – the novelty factor alone will please a lot of people. We accessed the Great Hall in the Aston Webb Building and the Visit Birmingham / Hidden Spaces instameet has accessed to the old Municipal Bank which is normally closed to the public;
  • Think about getting some of your student societies / sports teams involved as “live action models”. Canon UK recently held an Instameet involving BMX bikers whereby Instagramers could get up close and photograph them as they performed tricks, but this could work equally well with people playing sports, dancing, acting and so on.
  • Set themes for people to try and capture in the photographs – for example architecture, colours, looking up, looking down, animals, flowers etc. This gives direction for newcomers and also makes people think about taking a wider variety of photos. Encourage people to be creative with their interpretation of the themes.
  • Run a competition whereby the best photos get prizes or simply featured as being the best photos;
  • Let people know that it’s accessible to people who are beginners in photography and people who simply use their smart phones, as well as people with expensive cameras;
  • Don’t just promote the event on social media  – not everyone will be on Instagram already and Instameets are sometimes the reason someone joins Instagram;
  • Have the hashtag displayed prominently on your route map / leaflet so that everyone can find it easily.


Web Manager for the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham.

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