8 Things to Bring on a Photowalk

8 Things to Bring on a Photowalk

This Guy Might Be Packing Too Much - Image by Brian Auer

This Guy Might Be Packing Too Much - Image by Brian Auer

This year I have challenged myself to doing 52 Photowalks. I’m leaving the house once a week with my camera and taking photos of my city, my Metro Parks, or whatever else I happen to find around me.  With 45 photowalks under my belt in less than year, I’ve learned about a few things that are helpful to have with you when you do these things.

1. A good pair of shoes

I use the same pair of shoes for every single one of my photowalks.  They’re an old pair of hiking boots from Lands End. They’re ugly as all get-out, but they have amazing traction, support my feet in all kinds of crazy angles, and yet still remain incredibly comfortable after all these years.  All three of those are so important when photowalking.  I’ve had to make my way across rivers on wet walks (thank you traction!), and I’ve taken photos crouched down on the ground while looking up at a tree on a very steep hill (thank you support for crazy angles!) and over the course of just under a year, I’ve put so many miles on those shoes and while I’ve come home with tired feet, I’ve never had a blister (thank you comfy shoes!)

2. An extra memory card

I have two memory cards. One large one that typically holds all of the photos I’ll take on a walk (with room to spare).  But I always carry a second, smaller card with me.  For one thing, if I ever DID fill up that one memory card, well, that wouldn’t be fun, now would it?  In addition, maybe I’m paranoid, but I like having the second card just in case something happens to the first while I’m using it.  I’ve never had that happen, but maybe one day it will, and that second memory card takes up so little space in my bag, it doesn’t hurt to bring it along just in case.

3. An extra battery

Do you know how frustrating it is to run out of battery power in the middle of a walk? I do, because it happened to me once.  So frustrating, in fact, that I bought a second battery just so that could never happen again.  And it has come in handy on more than one occasion!

4. A good bag

I’m not going to tell you which camera bag you should use, because I think a camera bag is a personal decision, and everyone is going to look for the things that are important to them.  For me, I wanted a slingbag so that I could easy pull my camera out, take a few photos, and then swish the camera back around to my back. I do a lot of my photowalking along hiking trails, so when I’m not taking photos, I need something that’s going to stay secure on my back.  You also want to make sure that your bag is big enough to hold the gear you’re going to bring with you.  This may or may not be all your gear – chances are, you’re not doing portrait photography on your photowalks, so you might not bring everything with you that you would to a photo shoot.  You’re going to do a lot of walking, so you want to travel as light as possible, and that includes not having a large bag that you’re only using 1/4 of.
If you’re curious, I use (and love) the Lowepro Slingshot 200.  And while I’ve (luckily) never had a reason to use it, one of my favorite features was the fact that i came with an all-weather cover, just in case I get stuck out in the rain halfway through a 5 mile hike!

5. A notebook/pen

I don’t use this on every walk, but I’ve found that I’m grateful for it whenever I do use it.  Sometimes when I’m out, I’ll see someplace else that I’d like to explore some other time – this happens a lot when I’m doing more urban photowalks. I don’t have the time to explore every part of downtown on any given day, but I’ll often see something that I’ll want to come back to, so I’ll write that down.  Other times I just want to make a note of the name of the trail I’m on or whatever body of water I’m walking by if such a thing exists.  Sometimes I’m lucky and find signs for these things and I can just take a photo of the sign, but I’m not always that lucky.

6. A flashlight

My favorite time to take photos – and a favorite time of many of you, I’m sure – is right before/during sunset.  Needless to say, I’ve found myself stuck a few miles away from my car when it starts getting dark.  This is another one that’s probably a bit more important when doing nature hikes, because there’s no streetlights around to guide me home – and it gets darker in the woods sooner than it does out in the open.

7. Other people!

And I don’t just mean other photographers. I’ve done photowalks by myself, I’ve done photowalks with other photographers, and I’ve done photowalks with friends and family who don’t even own a point & shoot.  Honestly, I find it most refreshing to go with the non-photographers.  I often feel pressure when with other photographers, wondering if they’re watching what I’m doing and judging me, or wondering if they’re getting a better shot than I am.  Once I start relaxing, there are some definite benefits of knowledge sharing when walking with other photographers, but it’s there’s something to be said for the company of a non-photographer.  I’ve found they’re much more likely to get excited about helping you find the perfect shot.  Non-photographers are there to help you get the shot, not to try and find the shot themselves.  Plus, they’re really good at holding your lens cap/bag/extra lenses for you!

8. Your business cards

I’m not a professional photographer, but I’ve still had some business cards printed up that have the address of my photoblog and flickr account on the back.  When you have a professional looking camera and you look like you know what you’re doing, you just might be approached by other people. This has happened to me a number of times, and this is when I’ll pull out the cards.  It’s nice because I can tell the person where my photos will eventually be posted so that they can see the results of that day’s outing, but also nice because it can help politely end the conversation if they’re distracting me too much from what I’m trying to do.

About the Author: Jennifer Jacobs is an amateur photographer who runs iffles.com – a site for photography beginners. She’s also addicted to flickr and you can follow her stream here.

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Some Older Comments

  • Average Joe June 25, 2012 05:36 am

    Really great post! I am getting ready to start going on photowalks or at least one, and I googled how to take one and of course was presented with many posts to choose from on dPS. :) This was the first one I picked & it was very helpful, insightful, and encouraging! Can't wait!

  • Anita February 21, 2010 04:48 pm

    I LOVE the idea of a weekly photowalk challenge - much more achievable for me than the 365 idea. Since buying my first DSLR a month or so ago, I probably have been doing a shooting session around once a week, but think I will make it more systematic thanks to your article.

    Thanks for the prompt and all the tips.

  • Mark December 8, 2009 09:47 pm

    Reading this inspired me to do my own Photowalk at the weekend. The weather had turned from wet, windy and miserably to cold, sunny and crisp with blue skies so it was an opportunity to get the circular polariser out for the first time and work on composition and all the other great stuff I've learned from DPS. Here are my results....


  • dana December 8, 2009 09:41 pm

    I have mixed feelings about the other people non-photographers - I´ve done it and enjoyed it some of the time but it distracts me from the mood / objects I want to capture. Some people may not be patienly enough and want to be entertained.
    Want I want to say is this might not work with all people - take the ones with you who will not be mad when you´re into a picture for some minutes and don´t want to talk all the time.
    I had very good experiences with other photographers - because they know what it´s like when creating pictures. If we share afterwards the pictures we taken on the walk we are all very suprised everybody´s got another view of the same location.

  • Shane December 6, 2009 10:22 pm

    That's a helpful tip!you can actually maximize time and take a lot of photos at the same time!
    Wedding Photo Booths Denver
    Denver Wedding Venues

  • george December 6, 2009 08:36 am

    an iphone (or any cellphone) will readily serve in place of the pen and notebook for whatever notes you would take. anyway, i'm you would be bringing one along. a gps app in the iphone can also come handy. a ready business card is a good idea and not only during photo walks.

  • Lovell D'souza December 5, 2009 06:56 pm

    Nice tips!! Thanks!
    Photowalk here I come!

  • Rob Spendlove December 5, 2009 01:22 pm

    About the slingshot bags... with a little bit of reative sewing, you can add another strap to this bag for the left shoulder that attaches to either the existing strap in the front or to the lower right of the bag. It's also not too hard to add a waist strap to it that can be removed almost completely. Sure, it is a bit ugly, but who cares?

  • Gary December 5, 2009 10:30 am

    Since the majority of my photowalks take place during daylight hours, I have found one of the collapsable reflectors to be a great addition to my gear bag. It can be used to direct light or provide shade, as needed. They also weigh next to nothing, while packing away into a relatively small space. I use a mono-pod/walking stick as a tripod, but also carry a bean-bag for more stationary shots.

  • Jack Fussell December 5, 2009 07:24 am

    great list...looking forward to doing my own photowalks next year.

  • jforestphotos December 5, 2009 05:54 am

    Great article! I am planning on posting a photo a day for 365 days next year, and I think the idea of one big photowalk per week will help me immensely. Living in Boston should give me plenty of options when it comes to subject matter! I'll also have a newborn baby in Feb. that will be competing for my time, so I'll have to work around that.

    My favorite advice from this is number 7) Other People! I have gone on walks with non-photographers before and I do agree, it's much more entertaining to have someone to chat with along the way. (good company never hurts!)

    I'm looking forward to more articles!

  • aborrias December 4, 2009 07:58 pm

    Balloons!! I copied this from a Belgium tourist in Petra, Jordan. I always have a few balloons stashed away somewhere to give to children I meet in the street. If I take their picture, it is nice to be able to give them something in return. Also, it usually brings a great smile to their face!

  • Campfyah December 4, 2009 01:30 pm

    so interesting reading this post. I was thinking of doing a photwalk in my neighborhood tomorrow and these tips will be so helpful for me as a budding pro.

  • Salvacion (Saanva in the forum) December 4, 2009 12:24 pm

    Great tips! I could use them. I have not done much photowalking. I should remember about the flashlight.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Debbie Barrett December 4, 2009 10:23 am

    I'm only 5'2" and I love my Expedition 3 Backpack by Tarmac...it's very light weight and carries everything I need for a walkabout. I've had a lot of fun exploring the Houston area since a Christmas gift of a Nikon D40x 2 years ago. You can see my attempts on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dpbarrettphotos/sets/.

  • T Schulz December 4, 2009 09:41 am

    Considering how "well endowed" you are, what do you do to get around it? What have to you done to get abreast of the situation (no pun intended)?

    I personally think a photo vest would help with much of this, but what do YOU do?

  • April December 4, 2009 09:24 am

    One thing female photographers never mention here is the problem with boobs. Perhaps the ones that submit articles here don't have big enough boobs to worry about it, but man. It's a pain in the neck (and back).

    I can't use those sling type bags because my boobs get in the way. It's also hard to lay on the ground for low shots or bring my arms in to steady a shot. Wearing a sports bra can help, but not if they're too big to find a decent sports bra in the right size.

  • T Schulz December 4, 2009 08:53 am

    I really like this idea. In addition to the tripod someone else mentioned, the thing that I have found to be one of the most valuable pieces of equipment I have is.....a photo vest. I can carry just about all my gear on me at all times with the weight distributed evenly on my person which reduces fatigue and back stress. Mine is black and made of cotton so it breathes well in the summer (with a mesh back) and is still fairly warm in the colder seasons.

    I have also found you don't need to spend a ton of money on the big brands like Domke. I found one from a company called Promaster. They make the "System Pro Shooting Vest". It appears to be of similar construction to all the other vests I looked at, but has over 21 pockets!! I got it on eBay for well less than half what all the others were selling for. Here's a link for an example.


    If you do shoot during the day in bright sun, I also recommend some sort of wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap. It's much easier to see in the viewfinder with the sun being blocked. The only time it gets in the way is when you shoot portrait shots.

    If you plan on moving around a lot, or you're hiking and don't like the weight of a tripod, get a monopod. They also double as a good walking stick.

  • J.A.Lambert December 4, 2009 08:40 am

    Do you take a tripod with you as part of your ten essentials?
    John Lambert

  • Jonathon Jenkins December 4, 2009 07:34 am

    This is a wonderful article and great list! I guess I’d never thought of my “going out to shoot” as PhotoWalks, but I guess they are. I’ve tried to challenge myself this year to shoot something every day, but it has turned about to be about every other day. I have also posted a new image to Facebook and sometimes Twitter every day so far which also fuels my PhotoWalks. By getting out and shooting so much, I’ve managed to build a pretty good collection of things to carry with me to “be prepared.” I agree that the comfortable shoes, cell phone and “shooting clothes” are important tools just as the items in my camera bag:

    Here’s what I carry with me every day:

    Pentax K20D (not shown) (with battery grip and extra battery)
    iPhone (for quick shots) Lens is (wide, lower quality, and w/o controllable DOF)

    Pentax 24mm (not shown) f/2 (w/hood)
    Pentax 50mm f/1.4
    Pentax 50-135mm f/2.8 (w/hood)
    Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8

    Flash Memory:
    3 x 2 GB SanDisk Ex III)
    4 x 4 GB (3-SanDisk Ex III, 1 Kingston)
    USB SD Card Reader
    USB Zip Drive

    2 for the camera (yes, for a total of 4)
    2 for the iPhone (plus charging cable and wall adapter)

    2 x Circular Polarizers (when it’s bright and I need to drag the shutter)

    iPhone & Apps:
    I regularly use my phone for the following:
    Emergencies - telephone, contacts, hospitals (AroundMe App)
    GPS & Moving Map & Geotagging
    Email/Text/Notes including images
    Wide-Angle Camera: Lens is (wide, lower quality, and w/o controllable DOF)
    Internet Reference lookup (Manuals, Google, Wikipedia, etc)

    The Apps that I use the most for photography are:
    Camera/Pictures (of course!) – quick shots/current portfolio display
    PhotoGene – very good in-iPhone editing
    MagicHour – when I need to know how much longer I have to wait before sunset/sunrise)

    I also occasionally use:
    CameraBag – image editing
    PanoLab – stitch images together
    PS Mobile – PS on iPhone
    SmugShot – Push images to my website

    The iPhone also works as a flashlight in a pinch

    Cleaning Cloth
    Lens Cleaning Pen
    Ball-Point Pen
    Infrared Remote Shutter Release
    Mini Flashlight
    Rubber Bands (1 large/2 small)
    Camera lens cover
    Reverse Macro ring (49mm)
    X-Rite Color Chart
    Business Cards
    Earbuds (phone calls and music!)
    Hot Shoe Level
    Carbon Fiber Tripod and Bag (only carry it sometimes, a must have for night/low light walks)

    Some of the things that I would like to find a way to carry: (when I find space!)
    Sand Bag
    Gaffers Tape
    Weather Cover for the camera (at least the K20D is sealed)
    [eimg url='http://www.jljfoto.com/Other/Todays-Images/CameraBag1/730927474_qqaad-L.jpg' title='730927474_qqaad-L.jpg']

  • Marty December 4, 2009 07:20 am

    I've become a big fan of the ThinkTank modular stuff. I've got several and they slide easily onto the web belt of an existing fanny pack. Keeps all that heavy stuff resting on hips/waist, includes rain covers, and makes the stuff easy to grab quickly. Carry as many or as few as needed for what you are doing that day.

  • J. Littlebear December 4, 2009 06:22 am

    I own a Slingshot 300. It is an excellent bag, but I must agree with Brian and Fernando that the Slingshot pattern is fine for accessing equipment in the field, but it is not comfortable for long hikes. The single strap design is helpful, but the downside is that it is not very practical for long walks.

    However, the Slingshot 300 has a sturdy waist belt which tends to transfer the mass of the bag away from the one shoulder to the hips, which is where one should bear weight, rather than on the shoulder(s). The 200 and 100 models don't have that, as I understand.

    All the same, I usually feel as though I am wearing a suit of armor when I have the Slingshot on. I have never tried a regular photographic back pack, but I think I should consider one, since I do a fair amount of photographic field work.

    Interestingly, the camera bag ads show the various bags brimming full of equipment. But the ads don't say how heavy and uncomfortable such bags quickly become. Simply making a bag roomy enough to hold a lot of stuff is not enough, imho. The comfort and ease of use is also important and not easy to discover until you buy.

    There is some Law Of Photography which says that the more you bring along, the fewer pictures you take.
    Practice has proven that to me.

  • Brian Chen December 4, 2009 05:14 am


    When you talked about good snacks and food at the end I was also thinking that If my Slingshot 200 wasn't full of camera EQ, i'd also have room for food also. Reason why i'm looking for a backpack now =)

  • Jim December 4, 2009 04:49 am

    How about a tripod. I hardly ever take landscape shots without a tripod.
    I have two a Manfrotto 055XPROB with a tilt and pan head which is a little heavy to take on hikes but is a fail never workhorse. I have a lighter Velbon 444 which is not so robust but much lighter. This does a reasonable job. Alternatively you could go for carbon fibre which is much more expensive but does the trick too.
    I try and get out for a walk / shoot at least once a week. I dont worry too much about what other photographers are thinking, I just go out and enjoy myself taking shots and editing them later in Elements.

  • Fernando December 4, 2009 12:29 am

    Although I love my Slingshot 200 camera bag because I really love the idea of having easy access to my equipment, and it can hold a lot of gear, I do not find it to be very comfortable on long hikes, especially when it is loaded with equipment. Having only one sholder take on all the weight, with no hope of switching to the other now and then does not work well for long periods of time. If it is fairly empty, or if you are not going to be out all day, then yes its snug and a wicked bag... but sometimes while im shooting weddings I wish I had bought a backpack type bag!
    One more thing I would take on a photowalk would be some snacks/food! I get hungry while on a good walk! =)

  • Can Berkol December 3, 2009 07:55 pm

    (: i love the photo :)

  • Jason Collin Photography December 3, 2009 02:49 pm

    My preferred style of camera bag for a photowalk when I'm bringing more than one lens is backpack style.

    Might want to bring some good conversation to the photowalk as well.

    If you want to be the one making the group shot at the end, and be in the group shot as well, bring a tripod.

  • Rolling Stone December 3, 2009 02:13 pm

    I, too, always bring my cell phone. I can type in notes or leave myself some little recorded messages.
    I also always bring a friend. My Jeep. We go into the woods together and work as a team. I think all photographers should have a Jeep. Can you imagine?!

  • Matt Brown December 3, 2009 01:28 pm

    I take my iphone with me as a must. With apps that can record locations for you to return to and apps to take notes it is very useful. I also take it with me for apps like PhotoCalc to get the DOF I want for the shot.

    Great tip about a business card.

  • fortunato_uno December 3, 2009 01:23 pm

    might seem silly to mention it but some wipes for the lens has been a benifit for me. i try to have them on every adventure where i bring my camera (which is always)

  • Brian Chen December 3, 2009 01:13 pm

    That is a very nice list. I too also own the Lowepro Slingshot 200 and I would say if it was a VERY shot photo walk it is nice, but if you go on a long hike it starts to dig into your shoulder. It would have been nice if it was possible to decide for yourself what side to have that strap on. After using that bag for awhile now, I'd say its alright for a short photowalk anything more, you should get a backpack. It just just so much more comfortable.

  • Kionda Dunham December 3, 2009 10:19 am

    Great idea with challenging yourself to do 52 photowalks for the coming year. I should do the same. :0)

  • OsmosisStudios December 3, 2009 10:15 am

    I'd like to just add onto the first point: A good pair of shoes AND APPROPRIATE ATTIRE.

    Remember, you're outside. During the summer, that means sunscreen + a hat during the day, bug spray at night (yes, even in the city). During the spring and fall that means a jacket (preferably impermeable) and a sweater and maybe even some gloves and a hat. In the winter that means dress warmly. If you're outside for any length of time you should be properly dressed.

    I Learned the SUMMER portion of this the hard way: I looked like a lobster for a week!

  • Jonathan December 3, 2009 10:00 am

    haha yes it might help.

  • Robert December 3, 2009 08:24 am

    One thing I always bring with me is the Polaroid Pogo Printer. It's small enough to fit in my camera bag, and the battery is good for seven or eight prints. I've found it really helps defuse an otherwise tense situation if someone is put off by your Big Scary Lens Hood; if you can share a snapshot and some idle conversation, you're likely to turn a confrontation into a friendly encounter. Plus, kids absolutely love the sticker aspect. :)

    I figure it helps me, I get to meet new people, and (hopefully) makes the area just that much more photographer friendly for the next person to venture out with a camera larger than a P&S.

  • Dustin Diaz December 3, 2009 08:21 am

    you forgot "a camera"

  • 0rovert December 3, 2009 07:47 am

    Thanks for this post. I really enjoy the idea of 52 photo walks in a year, it seems easier to achieve than a 365 project. I certainly like the company of other people, but contrary to Jennifer when I'm shooting I'd actually prefer other photographers or no one at all. I tend to take a long time processing a scene and trying different angles and exposures which leads to rather lengthy stops. I find that I am less apt to stop and photograph something because i don't want to make the other people in my party wait. If however those people are other photogs they're often just as happy to stop as I am.

  • Keri December 3, 2009 07:19 am

    Nice post, a modern day alternative to the notepad is of course a GPS connector for your camera if compatible or a GPS logger.

    I too had some business cards printed up for a laugh and they came in very handy when surfers ask about the photos i've taken that day - i got mine from moo.com great quality, reasonable prices, and they link straight into flickr.