I’ve learned over the past few years that I love photographing with other people. It’s why I’m so drawn to photowalks, which have truly become both a social and educational experience for me, and so many others.
Locally, I run a photowalk group, and I help plan monthly walks for our members. I also coordinate photowalks for the Out of Chicago conferences. Throughout the past few years doing this, I’ve learned there are a few items that will make the difference between a “meh” photowalk to a great one.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Some of the most successful walks I’ve hosted have been those that are planned out. This starts before the walk begins. I run my photowalk group on Facebook, and invite others to chime in with ideas. Regardless of what’s being planned, I ask members to vote on which dates work best.
I also get the word out as much as possible. I reach out to other photowalk groups, and some I’ve had a relationship with where we regularly share events between groups.
Think Outside the Box
When I’m planning a walk, I always ask, “how can I make this different and more exciting for our members?”
I’ve thought of a few different ways to do this. Past walks have included scavenger hunts, A-B-C finds, brewery tours and more. We’ve even done some educational workshops; not exactly photowalks, but it gets our group involved. We’re even starting to plan a walk at one of our leader’s homes that happens to have a skateboard ramp in their barn. Imagine the possibilities…
Take Advantage of Local Events
Being in Grand Rapids, Mich., I always host at least a couple photowalks during ArtPrize, the world’s largest public art competition (which, if you haven’t been, it’s AWESOME). This year, I’m hosting three — one of which is a part of Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk on Oct. 1.
Local events — especially those as large as ArtPrize — tend to get people excited. For the Kelby walk, we’ll be giving away prizes from the ArtPrize organization, adding an extra benefit to our participants.
But it doesn’t have to be an event as large as ArtPrize to be effective. We’ve held walks during an afternoon food truck rally, winter snow festival and more. Anything that seems to draw a crowd also seems to draw a lot of photographers.
Keep an Open Mind
Macro photography is not my thing — I don’t even own a macro lens. But that doesn’t mean that a macro flower walk, for instance, wouldn’t make for a great walk.
This spring, I held a macro flower photowalk during the Holland, Mich. Tulip Festival. Some of my Out of Chicago friends (including macro flower expert Anne Belmont) came up for it, and we made a day of photographing fields upon fields of tulips. I rented a macro lens so I could take part, and it was an awesome experience.
While I’m definitely not going to drop my corporate event photography to photograph flowers for a living, it was great to come away with some new tips and a unique experience. Others got even more out of the experience, being able to apply what they had learned as they continue to grow their nature photography techniques.
If you don’t feel comfortable hosting a type of photowalk, bring an expert on board! For me, bringing Anne up from Chicago was key for the macro flower walk being successful.
Have a Specific Agenda
Having a plan is important as soon as you hit the streets for your walk. You don’t want to just show up and come up with an agenda as you move about. By having a specific agenda, people know what to expect, and will ultimately get more out of the walk.
This goes back to thinking outside the box. A scavenger hunt is a great way to have an agenda, as it helps people stay on task but also lets them have a little fun. It isn’t just shooting “whatever, wherever,” it’s “how can I get the best shot of a certain element, that’s different than everyone else?”
It’s important to not only invite people to your walk, but also to encourage them on the way. Have them show you photos as you walk around, and point out some ideas for your group to photograph.
And most importantly, if anyone asks for help…help them! If you can’t answer a question, try to find someone in the group who can.
Have People Share
One of the most important things occurs after the event. It’s important for people to share their experience, their images…you name it. After each walk, we usually end up at a restaurant or bar, and order some food and drinks. We talk about what we photographed, what we’ve been photographing recently, and what challenges we’ve faced. It’s almost a photographer’s support group, in a way.
And it doesn’t stop there. I ask everyone to share their images on social media, to our Facebook group and to Instagram using a hashtag. It lets all the participants see the images, and makes for a great reminder of all the fun we had!
The possibilities for a photowalk are endless! But by keeping it interesting and on-task, you can have a photowalk that will keep your attendees coming back for more.
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