10 Tips for Enjoying a Photo Walk

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A Guest Post by Tiffany Joyce from Beyond Megapixels

Flagstaffalley

There are a few reasons why I think photo walks are a great idea. Personally, my sense of creativity is boosted by movement and exposure to changing scenery. When I’m by myself I see my surroundings from a different perspective. When I’m with a group of people I enjoy seeing things from their perspective. I am challenged to use my photographic skills and tools in a different way and react to changing situations. At the end of the walk I take pride in the new discoveries that I’ve made.

This year I’m joining Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk (http://worldwidephotowalk.com/). It’s a global endeavor, and it can seem intimidating to wander a locale with a group of 49 other photographers, most of whom you’ve probably never met. I’m looking forward to meeting so many new people, but it’s also perfectly okay to start much smaller. The great thing about enjoying a photo walk is that it doesn’t have to be a formal, structured occasion. You can be by yourself or with a group of friends. You can wander streets you’re deeply familiar with, or explore an area that is brand new to you. The whole point is to get you out there, exploring your surroundings, exercising your creativity and taking pictures.

With that in mind, here are ten tips that have always helped me to enjoy my photo walks.

1. Be comfortable

You’re going to be on your feet for a few hours, at least. Wear supportive shoes, weather appropriate clothing, and dress in layers in case you need to warm up or cool off. Put on sun block (I usually leave my hat and sunglasses behind since I’m never comfortable shooting with them on), and have access to water.

2. Reduce your profile

Ditch the bulky camera bag in favor of pants with plenty of pockets. Take off your battery pack and put the extra batteries in your pocket. Some folks even remove any filters, lens caps or lens hoods and really minimize their profile. Invest in a good cross-body camera strap that allows you to have your hands free on occasion. Stick your keys and cash in a front pocket and leave behind the wallet or purse. Don’t bog yourself down with a lot of STUFF.

Adobeandwood

3. Bring only the absolute essentials

Realistically speaking, you’re probably only going to be shooting for a few hours. So, you’ll only need one or two backup batteries (as long as the one in your camera is fully charged) and a couple of memory cards. Tuck a cleaning cloth in your back pocket and you’re set.

4. Be confident enough to bring only one lens

This ties back to reducing your profile and bringing only the essentials. Bring a zoom lens with a good focal range, like a 70-200, a 70-300, an 18-135 or something similar. You won’t miss “the” shot; you’ll just exercise your skills in composition. Worst-case scenario, you can always come back to the spot with a different lens if you’ve identified a really great shot.

5. Leave the camera on

This might go against your instincts to save battery life, but if you have backups you don’t have to worry. Just leave the camera on all the time, so if a fleeting opportunity is happening right in front of you, you won’t miss it.

6. Bracket your shots

I learned this trick from Jay Maisel (http://www.jaymaisel.com/). If you bracket all of your shots, you’re sure to capture the correct exposure. This really cuts down on the amount of post-processing you have to put into the photos after the photo walk is over. Getting it as close to “right” in the camera as possible is always preferable to hours slaving away in front of the computer. Again, this eats up memory card space, so make sure you have extras. If you’re really confident you can shoot in high quality JPEG instead of RAW, which allows you to fit more photos on a card and allows you to skip the photo conversion process altogether. It really just depends on how much editing ability you want to have at the end of the day.

7. Walk a lot, and sit a lot

There are certain shots that you can capture by moving around and certain others that you can only achieve by being still. Combine many changes of vantage point, with really studying the view from one particular spot. So, walk around and explore by looking in every direction, but also take the opportunity to just sit in one spot and observe for a period of time.

Either way, whether you’re walking or sitting, take your time and really be present in the moment and in the environment.

Laramie

8. Bring some business cards

Or, if you don’t have a business card, have some mini cards made up with your name, e-mail address, URL and the like. You can get a bunch from Moo for very little money (http://us.moo.com/products/minicards.html). You will meet people during your photo walk – fellow photographers, folks on the street, business owners – and they’ll all ask you why you’re wandering around taking pictures. Use the opportunity to grow your network, and give people the ability to contact you if they’d like a copy of the photos you’ve taken.

9. Be aware of your surroundings

As photographers, we tend to sometimes get lost in the viewfinder. Make sure as you walk to pay attention to things like traffic, potential trip hazards, pedestrians, and wildlife. Understand that activity is happening all around you – in front, from behind, from above or below, and to the sides. Try not to impede anyone’s progress, and always be courteous to those around you.

10. Know your rights, and know the rules

The laws differ in every country regarding photographers and the photos they can and cannot take. Chances are you’ll never be confronted by anyone regarding the photos you’re taking, but it’s better to be educated beforehand. Look up a civil rights or professional photography organization for your area or country and see what they have to say about a photographer’s rights. For example, in the United States the American Civil Liberties Union has put together this information to educate photographers on their rights (http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers).

Let me tie all of this together with an example of how I prepare for a photo walk. I always tell someone where I’m going. I wear sneakers and cargo pants with lots of pockets, and a zip-up hoodie with additional pockets. I bring two backup batteries plus the one in my camera, and two 16GB memory cards plus the one in my camera. I use my Black Rapid cross-body camera strap and tuck a lens cleaning cloth in my pocket. This year I will be joining the photo walk on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. This is a busy college district with lots of people and buildings. With this in mind, I will use my Canon 7D with my 70-200mm f/2.8L II lens, and remove the tripod ring from the lens. I will leave the lens hood and UV filter on, and I will shoot in RAW. For daytime street photography I usually shoot in aperture priority mode, around f/8 or f/11, ISO 100 or 200 depending on the light. I bracket my shots by stopping down a half stop, and stopping up a half stop. I use continuous shooting mode, which takes some practice to get the bracketing count correct. Sometimes I use AI Servo auto-focus mode to keep moving objects in focus.

I hope these tips help you on your next photo walk!

All photos copyright Tiffany Joyce.

Get more photography tips from Tiffany Joyce at her site – Beyond Megapixels.

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  • This is a fantastic set of tips for getting us up and out. I’m sure that coupling up with some other like-minded folks will help by giving us(me) ideas we(I) had not thought about. And using only one lens is a great idea as well. Thanks very much. Can’t wait to take a photo walk of my own.

  • As an amateur who has been confronted on multiple occasions since I moved into a new neighbourhood, I can second the business card tip, plus knowing your rights and having the patience to explain them to people that don’t is a very good idea.
    This probably is not the best place to describe your horror stories and how you scraped out of the angsty clutches of Cameraphobiacs and their public serven henchmen, but I’d sure like to know.

  • Chris4692

    My memory card holds roughly 450 shots in raw. I do have extras, but in 3 hours 450 shots is 2 1/2 shots per minute. Rather than carrying more memory, perhaps you should slow down and put more thought into each shot. At that rate, you have also given up all pretense of being subtle.

  • You forgot #1: Put all your cares and worries aside. I love photo walks but too many things can easily disrupt or even prevent them. Having a family with 3 kids age 4 and under as well as many commitments prevent me from taking them often or focusing (no pun) when I do get the chance.

    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • You could have cut this down to 5 to 7 tips. 10 was a stretch. Speaking of 10 I think it should have been closer to the top of the list.

  • Scottc

    Personally I tend to carry more gear on photowalks than I normally would, since the purpose of the walk is photography. When we lived in Germany, everyone seemed to get used to me after a few walks around the local area.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/sets/72157629952096923/

  • Michael Miller

    Very informative, I know I will this several time to get the idea down and I hope to go out and take some pix’s. Thank you for the ideas and the help….

  • Nice post! The #4 is a great tip for me. I love the 70-200 lens… It help me in many ways during my photo walks. Here in Wellington:

    http://pdf34.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/people-from-new-zealand-01/

  • Sandor oroszi

    Hi Tiffanny,

    Thank you SO much for these really valuable 10 tips.
    I’m leading a walk on October 13th, and will share this page with all my walkers.

    Kind regards, and enjoy your walk on the same day.

  • When I go on a photo walk, bracketing exposures is very useful, you know that out of one shot out of many should come out well. Blending in with the background can help with coming up with some great shots.

  • thanks for the tips. its useful to me, as i am going to participate first time in next month.

  • Jay

    Inspiring post, thank you!
    When you recommend leaving the wallet behind, IMHI It may be prudent to take the drivers license or other picture ID in the pocket.

  • I’ll be leading a photo walk in my city. I will probably bring two lenses with me; the 80-205 is the most versatile, but I’d also want to bring the 28 along. The only problem will be that I switching my filter holder to a different sized adapter. I will bring 2, possibly 3 rolls of film to use.

    After I volunteered to be a photo walk leader, I checked the local football schedule. Fortunately, there won’t be any game day traffic to contend with since October 13 is an away game.

    As a photo walk leader, I’ll be bringing name tags to help with meeting others in the walk.

  • Sherry

    Thank you so much for your tips, I think they are all very helpful and I appreciate them very much. I am very new to SLR photography. I’ve been wanting to walk around town and take my camera for some time now but finding the time is my biggest problem. Also I would like to tell you I really appreciate all your emails, they are a big help for me. I don’t know when an inanimate object has intimidated me so much 🙂

  • Sam

    Regarding tip # 2: wouldn’t it be more low profile to take a smaller telezoom lens ? That 70-200 2.8 L II is one huge white lens. Especially shooting at f8-f11, you won’t see much difference concerning image quality anyway.

    And you must be shooting a whole lot, if you spend multiple batteries and memory cards in a couple of hours. Ever tried slowing down ? It could impact your photography a lot.

  • Angela

    your tips are really helpful, thanks. Sadly, here in my country there are a lot of beautiful places to take photos of, but would always require a permit… =(

  • Jay

    I just got the Capture camera clip and tried it on a walk yesterday. It works well with my Rebel XTI and a 17-50 lens. It’s much better (for me) than any strap, although I kept the original strap loosely for safety in case I didn’t clip the camera fully, while getting used to the system.

  • JacksonG

    Some good tips here. I’m an avid street photographer and prefer a smaller lens and sometimes just my Lumix lx5 to be discreet. Sometimes people get upset if you include them in a shot so I show them the lcd screen and if they want it deleted I do it right in front of them. Some people love the shot and I give them a business card and tell them to contact me and I’ll send them a copy for free online or in the mail their choice. I always tell people that are a little nervous about street shooting to start in a tourist area so they’ll blend right in.

  • Rachael

    Great pointers! Bracketing is amazing — getting the right exposure is virtually effortless and it saves SO much time.

    Also, i have a 18-200 mm lens and it is extremely versatile. I rarely carry any other lenses with me because my 18-200 gets everything done and keeps my load light 🙂

  • Arturomar

    I just read on my local newspaper this advice: Don’t let your kids be photographed for someone you don’t know.

    I don’t have children but as a photography enthusiast I took notice.

  • Matt Gregor

    Great post! I’ve only done 1 photo walk before but it was a lot of fun! I was switching lenses and definitely missed a shot or two. This year I rented an 18-300mm lens from http://www.borrowlenses.com so I should be in good shape.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattgregor/

  • Going on my first tomorrow in Edinburgh, so this was very helpful…thanks….

  • Cam Miller

    I did a daily photo walk for an entire year. I learned a lot, explored a lot, and fell in love with Maryland. I would add to research the area where you are going to do the photo walk, so that you don’t miss out on anything of historic significance or that might be unique to the area. You’ll be sorry if you missed that great lighthouse, for example, if you didn’t know it was down at the point, just beyond the waterfront apartments. You can check out my daily photo walk at camscamerashots.blogspot.com. It was from September 3, 2012, to September 2, 2013.

  • Viven Balsomo

    I tend to disagree with tip#6. When in photography, one of basic knowledge we need to know is the right metering. Once you master this, there’s no reason for bracketing anymore. For me I always use Adam Ansel’s zone system which always gave me the right exposure all the time.

  • Barry E Warren

    Great read and idea’s .I’m always doing photo walks. I was just a Steam Punk Event in Pennsylvania. I love doing all type of events. Thanks for the link to ALCU, with are rights.

  • pincherio

    Tip #6 is still a good one because people who go on photo walks are not necessarily of the same skill level as you and many will have their cameras on auto exposure. The article is geared towards beginners to intermediate photographers. Avid enthusiasts such as yourself are expected to know everything already.

  • pincherio

    Great tip. I go on a lot of trips and stand guilty of not doing enough research on a place and as a result, I usually end up with photographer’s remorse over the shots I could’ve had.

  • Phil

    Going on photowalk at night. I have 70- 200 2.8 is also 24-70 2.8 and 24 105 f4 is. Doing mostly architectural photography at night. I think tripod is a must. Also thinking 24 mm would be better for landscape buildings. What lens would you take and would you definitely take tripod?

  • TAC.Photography

    good advice for our upcoming walk (10/11/14). Last February 2014 I spent a few hours walking Tempe and got some memorable photos. Especially liked the movie theater with the detached ticket booth, and bridge over the Salt River. A young fellow with guitar asked for money so I said I’d give him a buck for a pose – he agreed redily.

  • Nancy

    This is a great article. I just joined a local photowalk group and went on my first walk two weeks ago. I’ve also met with two lovely ladies for photowalks in two different little villages and enjoyed comparing our shots. Some were exactly alike and many were totally different. I also spend a lot of time alone walking through the beautiful parks and streets of Brussels taking many photos. I will use the bracketing method the next time I go out. I carry a small camera backpack which helps keep my hands free for shooting.

Some Older Comments

  • Dorothy October 13, 2012 12:05 am

    Going on my first tomorrow in Edinburgh, so this was very helpful...thanks....

  • Matt Gregor October 12, 2012 10:30 pm

    Great post! I've only done 1 photo walk before but it was a lot of fun! I was switching lenses and definitely missed a shot or two. This year I rented an 18-300mm lens from www.borrowlenses.com so I should be in good shape.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattgregor/

  • Arturomar October 5, 2012 02:44 am

    I just read on my local newspaper this advice: Don't let your kids be photographed for someone you don't know.

    I don't have children but as a photography enthusiast I took notice.

  • Rachael October 1, 2012 12:08 pm

    Great pointers! Bracketing is amazing -- getting the right exposure is virtually effortless and it saves SO much time.

    Also, i have a 18-200 mm lens and it is extremely versatile. I rarely carry any other lenses with me because my 18-200 gets everything done and keeps my load light :)

  • JacksonG October 1, 2012 12:14 am

    Some good tips here. I'm an avid street photographer and prefer a smaller lens and sometimes just my Lumix lx5 to be discreet. Sometimes people get upset if you include them in a shot so I show them the lcd screen and if they want it deleted I do it right in front of them. Some people love the shot and I give them a business card and tell them to contact me and I'll send them a copy for free online or in the mail their choice. I always tell people that are a little nervous about street shooting to start in a tourist area so they'll blend right in.

  • Jay September 30, 2012 02:30 am

    I just got the Capture camera clip and tried it on a walk yesterday. It works well with my Rebel XTI and a 17-50 lens. It's much better (for me) than any strap, although I kept the original strap loosely for safety in case I didn't clip the camera fully, while getting used to the system.

  • Angela September 30, 2012 12:42 am

    your tips are really helpful, thanks. Sadly, here in my country there are a lot of beautiful places to take photos of, but would always require a permit... =(

  • Sam September 29, 2012 09:39 pm

    Regarding tip # 2: wouldn't it be more low profile to take a smaller telezoom lens ? That 70-200 2.8 L II is one huge white lens. Especially shooting at f8-f11, you won't see much difference concerning image quality anyway.

    And you must be shooting a whole lot, if you spend multiple batteries and memory cards in a couple of hours. Ever tried slowing down ? It could impact your photography a lot.

  • Sherry September 29, 2012 11:05 am

    Thank you so much for your tips, I think they are all very helpful and I appreciate them very much. I am very new to SLR photography. I've been wanting to walk around town and take my camera for some time now but finding the time is my biggest problem. Also I would like to tell you I really appreciate all your emails, they are a big help for me. I don't know when an inanimate object has intimidated me so much :-)

  • Ralph Hightower September 29, 2012 05:24 am

    I'll be leading a photo walk in my city. I will probably bring two lenses with me; the 80-205 is the most versatile, but I'd also want to bring the 28 along. The only problem will be that I switching my filter holder to a different sized adapter. I will bring 2, possibly 3 rolls of film to use.

    After I volunteered to be a photo walk leader, I checked the local football schedule. Fortunately, there won't be any game day traffic to contend with since October 13 is an away game.

    As a photo walk leader, I'll be bringing name tags to help with meeting others in the walk.

  • Jay September 29, 2012 03:14 am

    Inspiring post, thank you!
    When you recommend leaving the wallet behind, IMHI It may be prudent to take the drivers license or other picture ID in the pocket.

  • Pattikattaan Jey September 29, 2012 02:16 am

    thanks for the tips. its useful to me, as i am going to participate first time in next month.

  • Kiran September 29, 2012 01:30 am

    When I go on a photo walk, bracketing exposures is very useful, you know that out of one shot out of many should come out well. Blending in with the background can help with coming up with some great shots.

  • Nehemiah September 28, 2012 09:08 pm

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/370502749691754/

  • Sandor oroszi September 28, 2012 07:53 pm

    Hi Tiffanny,

    Thank you SO much for these really valuable 10 tips.
    I'm leading a walk on October 13th, and will share this page with all my walkers.

    Kind regards, and enjoy your walk on the same day.

  • Gabriele September 28, 2012 05:40 pm

    Nice post! The #4 is a great tip for me. I love the 70-200 lens... It help me in many ways during my photo walks. Here in Wellington:

    http://pdf34.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/people-from-new-zealand-01/

  • Michael Miller September 28, 2012 04:48 pm

    Very informative, I know I will this several time to get the idea down and I hope to go out and take some pix's. Thank you for the ideas and the help....

  • Scottc September 28, 2012 07:48 am

    Personally I tend to carry more gear on photowalks than I normally would, since the purpose of the walk is photography. When we lived in Germany, everyone seemed to get used to me after a few walks around the local area.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/sets/72157629952096923/

  • Jai Catalano September 28, 2012 06:22 am

    You could have cut this down to 5 to 7 tips. 10 was a stretch. Speaking of 10 I think it should have been closer to the top of the list.

  • Brian Fuller September 28, 2012 04:55 am

    You forgot #1: Put all your cares and worries aside. I love photo walks but too many things can easily disrupt or even prevent them. Having a family with 3 kids age 4 and under as well as many commitments prevent me from taking them often or focusing (no pun) when I do get the chance.

    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Chris4692 September 28, 2012 04:35 am

    My memory card holds roughly 450 shots in raw. I do have extras, but in 3 hours 450 shots is 2 1/2 shots per minute. Rather than carrying more memory, perhaps you should slow down and put more thought into each shot. At that rate, you have also given up all pretense of being subtle.

  • chris k September 28, 2012 03:49 am

    As an amateur who has been confronted on multiple occasions since I moved into a new neighbourhood, I can second the business card tip, plus knowing your rights and having the patience to explain them to people that don't is a very good idea.
    This probably is not the best place to describe your horror stories and how you scraped out of the angsty clutches of Cameraphobiacs and their public serven henchmen, but I'd sure like to know.

  • Wayne September 28, 2012 02:38 am

    This is a fantastic set of tips for getting us up and out. I'm sure that coupling up with some other like-minded folks will help by giving us(me) ideas we(I) had not thought about. And using only one lens is a great idea as well. Thanks very much. Can't wait to take a photo walk of my own.

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