10 Tips for a Great Photo Walk

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By Ishak J on Flickr Creative Commons

As many of you are probably already aware, Scott Kelby’s (free!) Fourth Annual World Wide Photo Walk is taking place on October 1st and 2nd 2011 (the first year that the event is being held on two days). The purpose of the Photo Walk is to bring together photographers of all skill levels, in locations all over the world. Participants walk around their city or chosen location, photographing their environment and sharing their experiences with fellow walkers, and they can also participate in various contests hosted by the Kelby gang. The groups generally conclude their day by sharing a meal or a beverage, comparing the results of their walk and growing their network of friends. The event really supports the feeling of creativity and comradeship within the photographic community.

Whether you’ve participated every year in this event, you are joining in for the the first time this year, or you’re planning on hosting your own photo walk in the future, keep these tips in mind to make the most of your day.

1. Choose a light lens. The key word in the term “photo walk” is “walk”, so keep in mind that you’re going to be lugging around anything you choose to take with you, and a heavy lens is misery to walk around with for any length of time. Choose a light zoom lens in a flexible focal range – I’m fond of my 17-55mm (Canon/Nikon), many folks choose a 24-70mm (Canon/Nikon), or go with a longer lens such as a 70-300mm (Canon/Nikon). Be brave. Take just one lens. You can do it!

2. Streamline your camera. I’m of Jay Maisel’s school of thought – take a camera, take a lens. Tuck an extra battery or two, and an extra memory card, in your pocket. Leave off the lens hood (I choose to keep the UV filter on), and take off the battery grip. You want to be nimble with your camera. You’re going to be walking around in a group of people. Streamlining your camera will minimize your footprint and reduce the occurrences of lens fencing. It’s very liberating to leave off all of the accouterments we tend to collect.

3. Leave it in the car. Now, to completely oppose what I mentioned in #1 and #2, bring other options with you and leave them in your car. You may find the lens that you chose completely unacceptable for your surroundings. The bright sunlight may be causing wicked lens flare which would be helped by a lens hood. You may have mistakenly grabbed the batteries with no juice. Having some backup gear will give you some peace of mind. Now, don’t bring everything you own. Be thoughtful in your selection. Just don’t plan on carrying it around all day. And lock it in your trunk, don’t leave it in plain view on your back seat.

4. Dress for the weather and for the activity. Comfortable shoes are a must, and non-confining clothing is recommended. Pick pants or a jacket with plenty of pockets! Layer if you need to, to accommodate changing temperatures throughout the day.

by Jiaren Lau on Flickr Creative Commons

5. Be open, and be polite. We’re all grown-ups. Be open to the opinions, advice, and feedback of the other photographers with you. Use common courtesy and manners. Reject obnoxious behavior – your own and others. It is always a good reminder for everyone to just mind their manners and play nice. So, be aware that while you’re trying to get “the” shot, so are all of the other folks in your group. Be mindful of where other folks are framing their pictures, so you don’t accidentally commit a photobomb. Be a good photo walk citizen.

6. Share. If you see a really cool angle or unique perspective, point it out. If some action is going on down the street that no one else has seen yet, let folks know. Keep your head on a swivel and hone your observational skills, but don’t “hog” the shot just because you want to be the only one cool enough to have spotted it.

7. Shoot in burst mode, or bracket your shots. For busy surroundings or areas with a lot of action, shooting in burst mode helps ensure that you capture the moment before it’s gone. If you’re unsure of the required exposure, bracket your shots to guarantee you get the right one.

8. Stand in one spot and look in EVERY direction. A photo walk implies that you will automatically keep moving along. Pause for a few moments every now and then. “Stand in the place where you are.” Let the group move ahead of you a bit so you can have an unfettered view of your surroundings. Look up, look down, turn 360 degrees to absorb every vantage available to you. Stand on something to give yourself an elevated view. Kneel and get your eyes level to the ground. Photograph the people as well as the place.

9. Keep mental notes for a second trip. There may be shots that would benefit all the more for being shot at another time of day than the one you found yourself in during your walk. Maybe some traffic trails on a specific corner would be especially cool. Perhaps some upcoming festival or celebration would provide a unique opportunity for inspired street photography. A photo walk is often a great opportunity to become familiar with a place, so that you can go back there and know exactly what you’d like to shoot.

10. Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Relax. Enjoy the opportunity to surround yourself with fellow enthusiasts in person (says the blogger tied to her computer). Give constructive feedback to walk leaders or the Kelby gang so that they can help improve upon the experience for next year.

Are you planning on joining the World Wide Photo Walk? Have you ever participated in a photo walk, Kelby’s otherwise? Do you have some great advice to share? Feel free to speak up in the comments, or head on over to our Facebook page!

Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- Photo Walk Penang by Ishak J. on Flickr Creative Commons.
- Windmills @ Worldwide Photo Walk 2009 by Jiaren Lau on Flickr Creative Commons.

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