As a photographer, you might have noticed that photo walks are all the rage these days. Whether it’s an event run through meetup.com or eventbrite.com, or a more involved workshop from a teacher that you follow, photo walks are one of the best ways to see a place and to improve your photography.
NYC photo walk featuring dPS Managing Editor Darlene as my guest (I’m in the front row with the hat, she’s in blue with a hat on my right).
Classroom and reading time are very important for improving, but nothing can replace the act of learning while you are out there photographing. This is where all the things you’ve learned come together and finally stick in your head. It is also the most fun way to learn.
So if you haven’t already, I suggest that you start seeking photo walks out, and here are some tips to help when you do.
1. Use them as an excuse to meet other photographers
One of the main advantages to photo walks is that you are surrounded by like-minded people with similar passions. I don’t know about you, but most of my family and friends from growing up are not very into photography. So I try to find new photography friends whenever I can, but it can be tough to do that. Photo walks solve this problem.
Introduce yourself, exchange information, and talk about possibly going out to shoot again. You can take your favorite few people from each walk and start building an awesome network of photographers to go out shooting with in the future.
If you have questions, by all means, ask the organizers of the walk, but also see what the other people attending think. This is a chance to learn from many unique perspectives. Photography is a subject where there can be many correct, but differing answers to a question or problem, and it’s good to hear multiple opinions.
2. Watch what other people are photographing
You are there to have fun and learn, and sometimes a great way to learn in this environment is to watch the other photographers and see what they are attracted to. Just from teaching on photo walks for the last five years, I have found so many new interesting ways to capture the city by watching my students. I have walked down certain blocks hundreds of times and then suddenly someone will capture it in a way that I had never thought of. It is an incredible way to learn.
3. Shoot on your own occasionally
That being said, mix it up and take some time to break off and shoot on your own. You have the advantage here to learn from so many others, but at the same time you want to capture your own, unique photographs, and you need some quiet to do that. Step away a handful of times during the walk, but make sure not to get lost or slow down the group. After that, you can reengage with everyone else.
4. Get out of your comfort zone
This is a chance to do something you are not used to doing. If you are a street photographer and are on a street photography meet up, of course, that is what you will be focusing on. But if you are a landscape photographer, consider doing some street photography, and if you are a street photographer, consider trying more landscapes. Do some portraiture. Improve your lighting. There are photo walks for nearly everything.
Seek out photo walks that will cover your interests and others that will challenge them. Everyone has their likes and dislikes, but this is a great chance to seek new perspectives and to round out your abilities.
5. Learn about the area beforehand
Some photo walk leaders will talk about the history of the neighborhood, while others will strictly focus on the photography. Both are great ways of running workshops, but history is very important to photography. It helps to inform what you are shooting and to improve your awareness of the place.
Take some time on your own to read up about the area. Learn about the history, and explore the work of photographers that frequent those areas. Come prepared with this knowledge and it will make your day even that much more successful. This knowledge is not only inspiring but it will improve your ability to notice those special moments that create a magnificent photograph. In addition, some of the other walk attendees may find this knowledge fascinating as well.
6. Organize one yourself
As you continue to attend photo walks, build your network of local photographer friends and start shooting with them regularly. Once you all get to know each other this could become a very close group of friends. Keep in touch, build friendships, attend gallery events together, and share your work and ideas.
Having a close group that all know you and your work is the best way to get a proper critique. If you just ask anybody or share your work on the web, you never know what the person’s perspective is who is giving you the critique. Usually, they just say “beautiful!” With a close group, that perspective will grow between all of you and these friends will not be afraid to tell you when they do not like something.
7. Do not get run over by cars or bikes
This is the hardest part of my job, so please help me and the other photo walk leaders out. When you are in a new place, photographing in a new way, or surrounded by competing stimuli and photographers walking around, your situational awareness can become distracted. People with their lens to their eye can suddenly walk backward into the street trying to get the correct perspective, but with no awareness of where they are and the dangers that could hurt them.
Always be careful and look before you make a sudden stop or a move sideways or backward. If you are using a tripod on the sidewalk or street, be careful about the tripod legs. Make sure they are no wider than the width of your body so that bikers won’t trip on them riding by you.
With a one-on-one workshop, I can do a good job at making sure people don’t make unwelcomed moves on the street, but with a large group it is out of my ability, so please watch out for both yourself and your fellow photo walkers.
Have you participated in any photo walks? Please share your experience and tips for them below.
Now go out and find some photo walks!