Tips to Make Sure Your Photo Walk Doesn’t Suck

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"Love Park of Philadelphia" by D. Travis North

When the term Photo Walk is thrown about, the first image that comes to many people’s mind is a group of emerging photographers following a more experienced photographer who serves as a tour and instructional guide.  While that may be true, it’s a limited view.  A Photo Walk is actually any trip that you might do – yes, you can do it alone – with the intent to photograph…well, stuff.  You can have a specific goal, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t.  The purpose is simply to get photos.

But alas, planning your own photo walk isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Especially if you’ve never done one before.  But photo walks are important.  If conducted regularly, the results of your photo walks will make up a large portion of your portfolio.  More than 70% of the photos in my own portfolio were the products of planned photo walks.  So here are some tips to help you get started.

  • Select a Known Location – If you’ve never done a photo walk on your own before, select a destination you know fairly well.  You don’t want to waste time finding your way around.
  • Set a Rough Schedule – When you’re deep into your art, it’s easy to lose track of time – and you don’t want to get behind.  So you’ll want to plan to be at specific milestone locations within certain time frames.  The amount of time you have on your photo walks will vary.  If you have all day, you’ll need to plan for meals and snacks.  Short photo walks still need a schedule.
  • Small Area To Stay Focused – Probably one of the largest mistakes that many people make is to set to broad of an area.  If you have a lot of ground to cover, you won’t have time to notice details.
  • Sit and Observe – Any time you spend looking around and observing is time well spent.  You’re a photographer, you want to capture more than just landmarks.  You want details and emotion, and you won’t find either unless you take the time to observe.
  • Don’t Over-pack – You may be tempted to carry all of your gear: several lenses, a bunch of filters, flashes and so on.  Not only will you waste time switching lenses and gear, but you’ll probably curb your inspiration.  Putting restrictions on yourself will help you to think quickly and stay inspired.
  • Consider a Loop – Especially when I’m photo walking in the city, I like to pick a small area just a couple blocks wide, and I am constantly walking the loop – a destined path that I might repeat several times, both forwards and backwards.  It permits me to notice things that I missed on a previous loop.  It also allows me to focus on different aspects, or use of different lenses, on each loop.  In the city, the area will change a lot throughout the day, so it’s good to see in different lights and at different times of the day.
  • Carry Business Cards – There are two reasons for this:  1) Credibility.  In public spaces, you will inevitably be asked what you’re doing, and business cards back up your story.  2)  You never know when someone is going to check out your website or portfolio.  Give cards to anyone with whom you get into a conversation about your work.
  • Have Fun – Photo walks are a little bit of work, but they’re absolutely worth it.  If done well, you should have a ton of fun, and you’ll end up with a number of great photos.
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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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