Photowalks are nothing new, anyone remotely interested in photography and with access to the internet has probably heard about one taking place somewhere in the world. Notable photographers like Scott Kelby, Trey Ratcliff, and Thomas Hawk are active participants and promoters of photowalks all around the world and their support has, undoubtedly, helped to increase the ever growing interest in the social events.
Photowalks are a lot of fun and offer a low-stress learning environment that can help you improve your photography all the while getting to meet and hang out with other photographers. People of all skill levels are encouraged to attend photowalks and the diversity is all part of the charm. If you've been considering going on a photowalk, or even if you've been on one before, there are a few things you should know to help you get the most out of the experience.
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- Geek Out – Photographers of all levels love to check out what equipment other photographers are using. I find myself doing it every time I see someone snapping a picture. I'm innately curious about their camera body, lens choice, tripods…Heck, I even like to check out camera straps and bags! It's not out of jealousy, I just love cameras and I love seeing how and what other photographers are using. Sometimes I'll even strike up a conversation if I see someone using a piece of equipment I've been thinking about buying. At photowalks, the camera eye candy is very diverse, you'll see people using everything from an iPhone to high end DSLRs. Take advantage of the opportunity, if you see someone using that lens you've been dying to test out, go ahead and geek out. If there's one thing photographers enjoy talking about, it's their collection of awesome gear.
- Encourages Exploration – It's easy to take our surroundings for granted, especially the places we live. Seeing the same thing day in and day enables us to not look at things from a fresh point of view. Think about how you react to a place when you are experiencing it for the first time. You pay closer attention to the little things than you normally would in your own hometown. Photo walks encourage you to be a tourist right in your own neighborhood. You'll find yourself slowing down, taking in all the architecture, landscapes, and local wildlife you have been missing out on.
- Networking Opportunities Await – This is one of the more obvious reasons to go which makes it all the more worthy of mention on this list. What a perfect opportunity to network with like-minded individuals. If you have an online portfolio, or storefront, or blog, or any sort of photography project you want to get seen, it doesn't get an easier to find someone interested in checking it out than at a photowalk. Be prepared and bring along a few business cards to hand out to your new photography buddies.
- Branch Out – As a photographer, it's important to find the style of photography that you are really passionate about, be it landscapes, portraiture, abstract, whatever it is you love, but to help you grow as a photographer in general you should always be willing to branch out on a occasion and try your hand at different styles. It's a fun and challenging way to expand your understanding of the art form as a whole. A photowalk is great place to do so, since you won't necessarily be choosing where or what you are going to be photographing. Get out there, try something new!
- Socialize – Another obvious addition to the list and also one of the main reasons people go to and continue going on photowalks. It goes without saying that you are going to have at least one thing in common with everyone else who attends which makes it a lot less nerve wracking to meet new people. You won't have to worry about what you're going to talk about because everyone is going to want to talk about the same thing–photography. Making new friends is part of what these group outings are all about.
Preparation is Key
Now that we've got you excited about attending a photowalk, here are a few pointers to make sure you have a fruitful and enjoyable experience.
- Pack Lightly – Take what you need and leave it at that. What you need should be a camera, one lens, and a comfy pair of walking shoes. Maybe a bottle of water if you are concerned about staying well hydrated, but I digress. Keep your camera setup simple. Not only does lugging around a pack full of different lenses get real old, real quick, it also makes it too easy for you. Challenge yourself by using a single lens for the entire walk. It will force you to think more creatively when composing your shot. Don't be discouraged if you think you are missing out on something by not having packed all your lenses, you are not. Sure, you might have to work a little harder at making it work, but that's okay, it will help you learn.
- Dress Accordingly – We mentioned a comfy pair of walking shoes already, but make sure you check the weather report and dress accordingly. Bring an umbrella if there is a chance of rain, and sunblock if it's going to be sunny. Set yourself up for a successful adventure by coming prepared. Remember, you're going to take photos and socialize a bit with other photographers, no need to suffer for fashions sake.
- It's All About Perspective – Yes, it is called a photowalk, but that doesn't mean you can't stop, sit, squat, kneel, lean, or whatever it takes to make a creative, unique photo. If you get stuck on how to compose an image, try looking at it from a different angle. Walk around it, look down or up to it, get down in the grass and really explore the different perspectives. Remember, you're among a group of photographers who, more than likely, will completely understand the great lengths and relative shamelessness required to get “the shot.” Don't be afraid to embrace the unspoken creative license you are given at the start of the photowalk.
- Sharing Is Caring – When the photowalk has drawn to a conclusion, it's time to see what you've all captured. Trade cameras with one of your new friends and flip through the images they created while they do the same with yours. If you're not quite ready to share your work, suggest starting a Flickr group where everyone is invited to share the images they took that day. It's interesting to see how everyone else envisioned the days captures.
If you can't find a photowalk in your area, you could try organizing one yourself. Even if it is just with your existing group of photographer friends, tell them to invite their friends, and have them invite theirs, before you know it you'll have yourself a thriving group together to do some adventuring. (Also, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we might have a few followers in your city who would love to join you!) Mix up your locations, try the local zoo, parks, or just walk around different parts of your city. Don't limit yourself because a locations first impression might be boring, the point is to look at things differently. Find the beauty in it!