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How to Organize a Photowalk

If you love photography, going out to shoot something with a your friends is probably way up on your list. We're hard-pressed to find anyone who organizes these events better than Scott Jarvie, full-time destination wedding photographer and vagabond whose vibrant photos are matched only in brightness by his wit. He's a friend of ours, too, and he recently helped pilot a full-weekend long exposure photowalk right here in San Francisco. He's written up his personal insights into why joining photo walks is good for the photo-soul and how you can get the most out of planning one of your own.

By Scott Jarvie

Why Photowalks?

2008 was my first connection with other photographers and photowalks, and it marks a turning point in my photography. The small group of people I met on my very first photowalk are still good friends of mine, and knowing that other photographers were looking at my work actually made me step up my game. No longer was it just friends who thought every picture was a masterpiece... I actually had to start taking legitimately good pictures.

Utah has a consistent photowalking community, which was a great example to me of what a great community should be like. They connect on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook and then they become legitimate friends by meeting each other in person at the photowalk.

To this day, I see this same core group from 2008 meeting at SMUG meetings and still interacting with each other online or in-person: They have created studio co-ops, they’ve worked on paid projects together, they’ve referred businesses to each other, they’ve done photoshoots for each other. 4-5 years later and they still have a vibrant community with over 1000 people on their Facebook group.

I’ve met some of my very best friends because of photowalks. I’ve done weddings for a lot of people I’ve met at photowalks. I’ve seen casual goers to these photowalks become really good professional photographers.

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Tips for Attending (or Planning) Your Next Photowalk

• Just go. You rarely - if ever - will regret going.

• Have a good attitude and don’t have crazy expectations so you’re not let down.

• Giving is more rewarding than taking: You’ll get more from photowalks if you help organize or be leader of sorts, teach, or make the newbies feel welcome.

• The balancing of taking pictures with meeting people is an art and it takes a a little experience to find it.

• The people you'll meet are often more beneficial than the pictures you'll take.

• Edit your pictures fast because the buzz dies down quickly.

• Use a hashtag for your photowalk photos (#jarviewalk, #dv2011) when sharing on sites like Google Plus

• Comment on other people’s pictures, too

• Stick around for the dinner and the mingling.

• Plan to have your picture taken by someone there. It's inevitable.

• Consistent, regular photowalks are key to creating a successful group.

• Don’t try to do it all yourself, especially if you plan regular photowalks. Get other people to help organize.

• If it’s a local group, try to create yearly traditions. (Christmas walk, Halloween walk, studio day, BBQ with no photography)

• Use social media. Get people that use social media to mention it.

• Have a place online to congregate and share pictures (Facebook group, G+ community, Flickr Group)

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Questions to Consider

Are you attending a Photowalk?

Are you going to meet people and network?

Do you already know these people and want to solidify friendships?

Do you want to meet new people?

Are you going to learn?

Will there be a class before or after?

Will there be photographers there that like to teach?

Are you going to take pictures?

Because it’s a good way to motivate yourself to get out there?

Because the location is a place you’ve wanted to go?

Because you’ll take any excuse to go take pictures?

Are you setting up a Photowalk?

Because you want to create a community where you are?

Because you want to network?

Because a company will sponsor it?

Because the location wants exposure?

Because you have no idea why... it just sounds fun?

Because it will help get your name out there?

What style of Photowalk is it?

Short walk (2-3 hrs)

Short walk plus (walk plus either a lesson or food)

Day Walk (All day, many locations)

Multi Day Walk (Cover a big area over a course of a weekend)

An adventure (A planned trip with friends)

How can you ensure good attendance?

What day is it?

What time of the day is it?

How far away from people is it?

How much money will it cost people?

Are there any giveaways?

Does it seem organized?

Is it an interesting location?

Has the location been overdone?

Is a photowalk long overdue?

Is it a regular thing?

How many other people are saying they’re going?

Are there any well known photographers going?

How welcome do beginners feel?

Is there a chance for people to learn?

Is there food before or after?

What’s the weather like?

How far in advance did you plan it?

How well did you remind people?

Where did you advertise it?

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The Surge of Multi-Day Photowalks

Probably the most interesting thing I’ve seen in the last couple years is the growth of the multi-day photowalk. I’ve been to several including Utah, Yosemite, Death Valley and San Fransisco. It’s at these photowalks that you seem to get the best of both worlds: to get great pictures and to meet new people.

At multi-day photowalks you can, in general, make much more solid friendship than what you can get in a single 2-3 hr interaction. Plus, with most of those multi-day photowalks you’re hours from home, staying in hotels, eating out as a group and are less distracted with your day to day stuff.

There’s also a lot more time which means you don’t have to rush the taking pictures part or the creating friendships part. You'll be able to do both, even if there are 30-40 people there.

All photos by Jarvie Digital

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