Photography walks are excellent not just for improving your photography skills but also to keep your motivation high. A photo walk is more than just walking around with your camera taking photos of everything around you. They are theme based and much more approachable than a big photography project.
If you’ve never tried a photo walk before, here you have 12 tips that will help you to organise your first photo walk.
1. Pick a Theme for Your Photo Walk
This is the most important decision when organising a photo walk. The theme is your guideline, according to it you will know what are you going to take photos of. My advice here is to keep it simple, at least for your first photo walks.
Some theme ideas for a photo walk theme are: a colour, a geometrical shape (like circles, rectangles or triangles), textures (smooth, rough, glossy and so on), letters (just one letter or photos of complete words), signs (traffic signs, store signs etc.), flowers, trees, clouds, etc.
Once you’ve picked a photo walk theme you need to stick with it. This is important. Sometimes, we tend to take photos of whatever appears in front of us. The idea behind a photo walk is to make you more aware and mindful of the surroundings.
This photo walk theme was “Rectangles”. It is amazing the amount of rectangles that surround us and we don’t even realise it!
2. Get a Little Out of Your Comfort Zone
After doing some photo walks with themes you naturally like, I invite you to try something you usually don´t take photos of. It can be a bit hard to decide on such a theme because we usually tend to do things we like. If you find it hard to decide on a theme, you can ask somebody to give you ideas. The important thing is to find a theme that takes you a bit out from your comfort zone, but not too much, your walk should still be enjoyable.
For example, I usually take photos of flowers and nature related subjects. I asked for different themes and from all the suggestion I chose “Broken”. It was interesting to take photos of something different for a couple of hours, and it was a challenge for me.
At first I didn’t know where to find broken things in the street or even how to frame them, but that’s the point. I needed to consider how to take a nice photo of something I don’t find appealing.
3. Keep Your Gear Simple
The usual photography advice would be to carry with you enough gear to adapt yourself to the situation and not missing a shot. But in photo walks the mindset is different. Here you can miss shots because the main purpose of a photo walk is to learn and have a good time. This makes photo walks into great opportunities to get to know your gear better.
A great way to do this is by restricting yourself to a certain set gear. Explore how it works in different situations, find its limits and how to get around them. So think before the photo walk what gear you want to practice with and take just that. It might be a particular lens, a camera, a flash and so on.
If you feel like you should take a backup, like an extra lens, do so, but try to keep it as simple and as light as you can.
In this photo walk I just took my compact camera (Nikon Coolpix P500) with me. As I am used to take photos with reflex cameras, this one was a fun challenge for me.
4. Don’t Overburden Yourself
Feeling light and comfortable helps keep your creative juices flowing. Selecting a limited amount of gear already makes your bag lighter. Try to avoid filling it with unnecessary things that will just add dead weight. A good option is to do the photo walks relatively close to your place. Then you can go out with just the gear, keys, some money and a phone.
In fact, I intentionally leave the phone at home from time to time. This way the photo walk becomes a way of disconnecting a little from this device. I don’t get interrupted by notifications and I am free from the temptation to check my email or social media every few minutes. You can fully focus on your craft and enjoy walking around taking photos.
If you are planning to go farther, you will need more things (it is better to take the phone with you as well), but take your time to analyse if you will need everything you are taking.
5. Set Limits
It is good to put a limit to the photo walk in order to increase your efficiency. For example, if you set a certain amount of time for your photo walk, you’ll become more aware of how much time you invest in taking a photo. On the other hand, limiting the amount of photos will make you consider and evaluate the photos you are taking.
Limiting yourself shouldn’t mean adding stress though, so consider what kind of limits will fit you so you are challenging yourself in an enjoyable way.
6. Take Someone With You
Photo walks are a great way to spend some time with a photography companion. You probably know somebody that would like to join you: a family member, a friend, a work colleague. If you don’t, you can look online for photography lovers near your area. Facebook groups, local photography associations, photography forums etc.
Do some research and you will find somebody to share your passion with. You can organise photography walks with the same theme and then compare the photos that you all take. It is always surprising to see the different vision of each person. Even walking together, you will end up with totally different images.
Two different photos of exactly the same subject taken by two different people during the same photo walk.
7. Research Your Photo Walk
This tip is especially relevant if you are going to a place you don’t know yet. If you get really focused on the photo walk, you might get disoriented or lost.. Nowadays, it’s easy to access Google Maps or any other similar app and check the way back home. But if you decided to leave the phone at home, be aware of where you are at all times.
Doing some previous research is good for avoiding dangerous places and situations as well as to locate interesting spots such as attractions, monuments, nice coffee places, restaurants or if there are any public toilets around. This might not be photography related, but it is practical.
8. Be Aware of the Environment
When you walk around looking for a particular subject to take photos of, it’s easy to get so immersed in what you’re doing that you lose awareness of your environment.
Try to keep an eye on your environment all the time to avoid putting yourself in uncomfortable or even dangerous situations. It is easy to bump into other people or objects while walking backwards, looking for the perfect frame. Remember to take a look before you do this.
Be aware of the traffic around you. You don’t want to end your photo walk with a car accident! And put your wallet and other important belongings in a safe place, especially if you are in a popular tourist area. Visiting the police office is not something that you would like to include in your photo walk.
9. Do Something With the Photos
Finishing the photo walk and leaving the photos in your computer or external memory is the perfect way to forget about the experience. To keep the learning process and your art alive, do something with your photos. There are a lot of options. You can make a collage and share them on your website or social media, or use them as a desktop background.
You can select some and print them. Once you print them you can hang them on a wall or make a nice album, but you can also get more creative and turn them into bookmarks by laminating them. If you want to invest a bit more you can even print your photos on coffee cups or pillows and, of course, with a lamination machine and some glue you can make magnets for your fridge.
The possibilities are endless.
10. Photo Walk Often
Photo walks are easy to organise, and they really help to improve your photography skills. For that reason, it is worth to include a photo walk in your routine. This doesn’t mean to do it every day. But as often as is realistic for your lifestyle. I try to do a photo walk once a month, for example.
If you have enough time, you can plan it to be relatively long in time or to do it in a place you have never been to before (this might require some time investment in previous research about the area). But if you have no time to organise this kind of photo walk, you can always do something simpler to keep your photo motivation. One option is to do it on your way to or back from work.
If you try this and carrying your camera is not comfortable, you can do it with the phone or with a compact camera.
11. Turn It Into a Photography Project
You can always join several photo walks to turn them into a bigger photography project. You can for example do several photo walks about colours. Start with one colour and plan each photo walk with a different one: yellow, blue, red, green… You will have a great collection of photos organised by colour!
Another idea is to repeat the same theme in different seasons. This is especially interesting for subjects that will show evident changes along the year. Nature related themes are perfect for that.
I am repeating the theme “Trees” every season. I already have winter and autumn!
12. Enjoy Your Photo Walk
Photo walks are a great tool to improve your photography. It is good to plan them, do some previous research (if needed), focus on the theme, but they are also a perfect moment to enjoy your craft. Find the balance between achieving your goals and enjoying your photography. Stop and rest if you need to. Sit for a while and enjoy looking around.
If you are going with somebody, have fun talking about what you found and share your different photography visions. At the end, have a coffee or treat while going over your photos. Make the photo walks a pleasurable experience and I guarantee you will repeat them over time!
Photo walks are a great way to improve your photography skills because they are achievable challenges. Pick a theme, especially one that you are not used to work with. This will take you out of your comfort zone. Keep your gear as simple as possible and get to know each piece well. This will also help you to keep your backpack light.
If you are going to a new place, do some research beforehand to stay away from dangerous areas but also to find interesting spots. Invite somebody to come with you and enjoy your time with your camera as much as you can!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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