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If you’ve been a photographer for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of the concept of a photo walk. You might have even been on one. But now you are starting to think about having one of your own. That is why I have written this article for you, How To Lead A Successful Photo Walk, so you can easily put together a great walk that both you and all of your fellow photographers will enjoy and you will not have to go through all the pitfalls that I have gone through to get to the point where I am.
I even get hired to do photo walks from building management firms and art clubs alike to have fun, safe and rewarding photo walks and you can do the same thing.
But just in case you have not, let’s try to define what we’re talking about here.
Photography can be a bit overwhelming or daunting to a new photographer. And a great way to learn new skills Is to hang out with other photographers that might be a little farther down the path of becoming a proficient photographer. One easy non-threatening way to solve this problem is to simply have a little photo walk, whether it’s just with a friend or with a group of people. Go out and see things you have not seen, explore places you have not adventured and see the way other photographers the see this new location.
For me, the photo walks started off organically and naturally more than 15 years ago, in the early days of flickr.com. I simply wanted to hang out with other skilled photographers. So, I contacted some set a date and a time and shazam it happened. But just like any group activity, there’s always a few glitches. People go to the wrong location, schedules are a bit confused, and having too many people can make the event more than more like a social event than a photography event. While this can be very fun indeed It might be a bit challenging to focus on improving your photography skills.
Also, I noticed during the warmer months, I’m basically out every day Walking the city of Minneapolis where I live and seeing things from a different and new perspective. Just being out and looking around, helps is to train your “ability to see” which is of the utmost importance in photography.
So, what are some of the key things I’ve learned over the years? Let’s go through a list here to try to help you focus on the important things for your photo walk.
If you’re going to be leading a photo walk the most important thing is that you know your locations. You want to take your group to interesting locations that are also safe and very photo worthy.
I often joke that I’ve been kicked out of every decent building in Minneapolis. That’s actually true. When you show up with huge professional photo gear all the security people in a building will quickly notice you and quickly try to scurry you out of the building. So, by knowing your location, you will know what buildings and locations you can get into without too much fuss. You really don’t want to end up getting arrested as you’re leading a photo walk.
But when you know your area you also know the places that your fellow photo walkers will enjoy seeing, experiencing, and capturing.
It’s important that you plan your route ahead so that you can have the most efficient use of time. You want to get from place to place on your walk so your fellow walkers can see interesting places Without having to walk too terribly far. Some people might be in very different condition then you are so to be as aware of other people’s abilities plan your times and distances efficiently. I want everyone to have the very best experience possible.
A few days before the photo walk, you check in a with the places you’re planning on going to make sure they are still available to visit. Make sure there have been no incidents. no change of plans no other scheduled events there that would close the location to you. You want to eliminate all unnecessary surprises that will turn your event into a negative experience for your fellow walkers.
It’s always important to know the rules of the places you’re visiting. For example, many places are starting to have specific photography policies that you can easily check out before you get there. You need to know if there will be a fee, what kind of equipment can be used in the location, and in general how open they are to having photographers in the space.
There are always some locations that are very averse to having photographers and only allow access to certain limited places. Other places are incredibly open to having photographers in that space.
For example, National Parks do not allow drones, so you could not have a drone photo walk there.
An example of a place that loves photographers is the nationally acclaimed Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. They let photographers roam through the space just like it was a public park. Photographers and creative’s have an open invitation to roam in the space, and the best thing is the place has interesting architecture and incredible views of the city. It’s actually shocking to many people how open The Guthrie is to having photographers in their space.
Again, be sure to check the rules, you don’t want any unforeseen surprises.
As a photographer, it’s always important to have the gear that you will need for the specific shoot. For example, if you’re going to be in a historic, dark, building with gorgeous architecture, you will be needing a tripod to shoot the location. Be sure to bring your tripod along.
If you’re going to be shooting a sunrise or sunset at some glorious National Park you might want a package of filters for your lenses, so you can create different effects and long exposure images etc.
Make sure I have all the extra batteries you need. You never want to be without power.
And of course, make sure you have all the lenses you might need.
Photography is always a battle of carrying as little as possible and having all the right equipment for the session you are going to be shooting. Most of us don’t have the ability to carry everything so judge carefully.
Always check the weather the day of the event. Different weather conditions can create amazingly interesting images, but you have to be prepared to protect your equipment in the varying weather conditions. In the rain, you need to be able to stay dry. In a dusty desert, you need to be able to protect your camera from getting dust and sand in the camera. Watching the weather carefully will allow you to capture the most interesting images.
It’s always imperative to have comfortable shoes. You can easily walk 5 to 10 miles on a photo walk. Yep, when you get photographers excited they can get going from place to place very quickly and the miles add up.
You don’t want to end up being uncomfortable and worst of all, you don’t want to end up getting blisters. Wear shoes that you wear frequently and know fit you well and you know you can walk a lot in them.
One of the best parts of a photo walk is that you get to see the artistic vision of many different photographers shooting the exact same place in their own style. You get to see how differently people see the world. It is so much fun to see these amazingly different results.
So, while you’re on the walk, check and see what other people are seeing. They will help bend your view of a location and they will influence you on how you can possibly shoot it.
For example, do not only take wide shots but also to take a few close-ups etc.
You always want to keep your camera ready and available because you never know what you might see while you’re on your adventure. Being people are seeing the area in a whole new way they will constantly be surprised, and they need to be able to capture and the surprising moment. And their surprise will also surprise you. You want to capture the people’s expression and you want to capture what they are seeing.
Be aware of all the places along your walk that are iconic places in your city and go ahead and shoot those places. They are iconic for a reason. The people in your community love them because of experiences and history etc.
In my experience, I have ended up selling images that I captured along a photo walk because they presented me with a surprising moment and I was able to capture them. Being I was at an iconic place, other people wanted to capture that exact same experience that they have had in that location.
It’s always important to be watching for new and interesting locations and perspectives. By being aware, you will be ready for these moments. Also, keep an eye out for interesting people along your route. Interesting locations with interesting people make even better images.
And of course, always be looking for interesting light. Beautiful interesting light always makes an image better, so always be watching for interesting creative unique light.
During and after your photo walk, always encourage your participants to post their images on social media so that everyone on the walk can see them. Instagram is, of course, a fabulous platform to do this but other platforms will work as well.
Be sure to select a hashtag # that you want everyone to use for tagging their images. Agree to this in advance, talk about it during your walk, and follow up with it after the walk. Doing all of this encourages community and communication throughout the photo walk and after it. It makes it very easy to see everyone’s work. This also makes it very easy for the people that went on the walk to get connected with new friends they met on the walk.
If you implement all or most of the ideas, your photo walk will be successful beyond your wildest dreams. You’ll make all kinds of new friends and you’ll see the world a little differently.
If you think of it, there are not too many ways in all of life to have fun, connect with people, and do your passion in one easy successful way.