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10 Tips for Enjoying a Photo Walk

A Guest Post by Tiffany Joyce from Beyond Megapixels

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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.

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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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