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Photo Walks: A Way of Improving Your Photography Skills

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Sara Rodriguez Martinez
  By Sara Rodriguez Martinez
Photo Walks: A Way of Improving Your Photography Skills www.sleeklens.com

According to Wikipedia a photo walk is the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that the photographer may find interesting. For me a photo walk is much more than just walking and taking photos. I see it as a way of improving your photographic skills. Photo walks are commonly considered group activities.  The groups might be formed by amateur photographers that organize themselves or they might be also activities offered by a professional that set some guidelines and teach along the walks. Although I like the idea of group photo walks, I didn’t have the chance to do it yet. I hope I’d get the chance to do it in the near future. For now I have a less communal approach: either I go by myself, or with a friend. In group or alone, I highly recommend you to try photo walks.

I usually go on photo walks alone or with one or two people. My husband is one of my photo walks partners (here is a challenge for you: can you find where I am in the photo?).

Theme photo walks help you develop your creativity

Choosing a theme for a photo walk is an interesting thing to do. You can choose any subject such as shapes (triangles, circles…), colors (yellow, blue..), numbers or things (windows, doors, traffic signs…). If that day I am unable to decide a subject, I just ask somebody to tell me either a color, or a shape. And whatever they say I do. I saw that this helps me to develop my creativity because it forces me to take photos of things that I wouldn’t choose by myself. Trying to take nice photos of things that you don’t find attractive at first sight might push you out of your common thinking box.

I did a photo walk about circles. This subject pushed me to take photos that I wouldn’t usually take.

Photo walks help you to improve your composition

You can pick a composition subject and focus on it in your photo walk. You can work on finding leading lines, look for patterns, rule of thirds, symmetry… Practicing composition when you are enjoying a relaxed photo walk will take you to the point that you can create well composed images even under stress (as for example in the middle of a portrait photo session).

Using leading lines is a technique of composition where you lead the eye of the viewer through different elements of photo by using lines. They also give a sense of infinity. I like doing photo session focusing on leading lines.

Photo walks give you the chance to experiment with new things

Have you been reading about a new photography technique that you would like to try? Go on a photo walk focusing on that technique and you could see how you get better at it along the walk. You can try night photography, macro,  HDR, long exposure photography

I am not a night photographer. But planning photo walks at night took me out of my comfort zone and made me experiment with my camera.

Photo walks help you to find your photographic style

I learnt this from the photographer Marlene Hielema. When you photowalk, you don’t have to focus on the technical aspects of photography. You don’t have to take perfect photos. You can even set the camera on program mode (I know it can be hard to do it, but give it a try). What can you do if you don’t need to take care about the technicalities? You are left with just the creative side of photography.  Focus on the way you see things. Once you return home, check the results of your walk. Pick the photos that show better what you wanted to express and analyze them. Do they follow a pattern? Finding these patterns will help you to understand your style.

Photo walks are a great way of networking

If you are going in a group photo walk you will have the chance to meet new people. If you are going alone, you will have the chance to talk with the people you are taking photos of, and you will probably meet a few curious people who would want to know what you are doing. You can interchange details with these people (phone number, social media) and share your photo walk images with them.

Photo walks might improve your mood

A photo walk is a physical activity done outdoors (sometimes even in the sunlight and the fresh air!). Walking is good for your health and being outside will bring refresh your mind.

Going outdoors and enjoying the fresh air is always good for your mind.

And finally some tips:

Take only the essentials

You will be walking for a while, so if you carry a lot of gear and other stuff it will become heavy and will make the photo walk a not so nice experience. Be brave and take just one lens. Take out unnecessary things from your camera bag.

I do recommend to take with you water (and maybe a hat and sunglasses) and a small snack, just in case your walk turns a bit longer then you expected.

Be safe

When you are focused on taking pictures you can disconnect a little from the surroundings. But you should keep all the time a certain amount of awareness. Don’t walk into the road without looking for coming cars. Don’t walk into other pedestrians. If you are in a place with a lot of people, keep an eye out for possible thieves. If you are going alone on a photo walk, tell somebody where you are going and for how long. Although a photo walk can also be a great chance to disconnect for a while, evaluate the area you are going to be at before leaving the phone behind, on long walks, walks in the wild, or in unfamiliar neighborhoods, it might be better to have your phone with you (just in case).

If you are taking photos in a place with a lot of people and traffic, you need to take care to be safe and not to disturb the others.

Be respectful (with people and with the law)

If you are taking photos of people, it is important that you keep a respectful attitude. Remember that it is nice to ask people for permission to take their portrait (it is also an opportunity to meet new people). Depending in which places, you must do it. For that reason it is always good to know the laws regarding photographer’s right (They change in every country). You should know beforehand what you are allowed and not allowed to do with your camera. It can save you a lot of problems.

Sit from time to time

I know that the activity is called photo walk, but you can also sit from time to time to rest. Sitting is also good for observing. You can study the place where you are and take other kind of photos.

I decided to sit for a while. It was then when this little bird came close enough for me to be able to take a photo. This wouldn’t have happened if I was walking and moving around.

Do you like photo walks? Have you ever tried them? Are you going alone or with a group? Share your experiences with us, we would like to hear form you! 🙂

Have a happy shooting!!

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Sara Rodriguez Martinez
I am a biologist and a self-taught photographer based in Barcelona (Catalonia). Buddhist philosophy has a strong influence on me: I have a deep appreciation to life and I give a huge value to the little things that makes our days happier. I became a passionate about photography when I got my first camera and I understood that photography allows me to express my way of approaching life. I love learning so I am always willing to trying new things. These days I am shooting mostly nature and portraits.

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