The 7 Commandments for Great Photo Walks
In the last year, I’ve walked probably more than 2,000 miles with my camera. I love photo walks because they are so meditative. There is also great excitement when you get home to look at the photos, to see if you caught any great ones. It adds a dimension of extra beauty and flow to your regular long walks. Here are the seven most important lessons I have learned when it comes to getting the best possible enjoyment and results from your photo walks.
1. You shall snap the first photo immediately
Have you noticed, that as you enter an IKEA store, you usually encounter a too-good-to-be-true deal in the first few minutes? Like, an insanely good deal? The reason is that they want you to take that deal and put it in your bag, as this will make you enter into “shopping mode” early on in your visit. Entering “shopping mode” is a threshold you must cross, where you make the decision that “today I am shopping.” And soon item number two and three goes into your bag as well. The sooner you go into shopping mode, the more money IKEA makes from your visit.
It is the same with photo walks. The sooner you take your camera out of the bag, turn it on, and take the first photo – the sooner you enter into photography mode – and the more great photos you will come home with. You will discover, that as soon as you snap the first couple of photos, you will enter a more creative mindset, where you will discover great photos everywhere!
2. You shall bring no other lenses, besides the one you pick
This one is not only about lenses: It is about equipment in general. I always just bring one lens – the one on my camera.
I pick a lens that I feel would fit this particular day and this particular photo walk. If it is a beautiful morning with a clear sky, where I can anticipate a sunrise, I would likely bring a wide-angle lens. If I am out walking with my girlfriend, I might be more likely to bring a portrait lens. The point is that I try to minimize the weight and amount of stuff I bring so that the camera gear never becomes a burden. You want to feel free and light during a photo walk, as this will bring you creativity.
3. You shall introduce a constraint to boost creativity
This one is quite unintuitive, I know. But the more constraints you have, the more creative you will get. A great first constraint, that I always utilize, is that I only bring one lens and that it is always a fixed focal length.
But try what happens if you add even more constraints, such as only shooting in black and white, or only shooting in portrait mode. A constraint is useful if you initially feel resistance towards it. But just stay determined to work your way through the initial resistance, and your creativity will spring into action. You will take photos unlike any you have taken before.
4. You shall follow the good light
I find that the best results come from the photo walks where I allow myself to walk without a set plan. I go out exploring. Whenever you get a feeling, that the light is particularly beautiful in a certain direction, or my intuition just tells me that you should go somewhere – I go there.
I’m not giving you this advice because I necessarily believe our intuition can lead us to the best photos. I have simply found that following my intuition boosts my creativity, and the result of that is always better and more beautiful photos.
5. You shall honor your gut when it says a photo must be taken
This one is common to hear from street photographers, where the moment is everything. But I think it applies to all forms of photography. When your gut feeling says that you have an opportunity to take a great photo, you must go for it. Even if your camera is packed in the bottom of your bag. Even if you feel embarrassed to take a photo in the situation at hand, for whatever reason. Even if you tell yourself you can come back later and take that photo.
Usually, you cannot come back later. Photos are unique moments that you freeze, and moments never come back. The exact same scene, with exactly the same light, will never come back. So always take the shot if your gut tells you to!
6. You shall review sharpness and composition before leaving the scene
Never just quickly glance at your camera’s screen and think to yourself “looks good, let’s move on.” Chances are, the photo isn’t really that good. It might be slightly out of focus. It might be a bit tilted. It might be overexposed.
Always make a habit of checking the composition, exposure, and sharpness of your photo before leaving the scene. Otherwise, you might come home very disappointed, when you bring up the photo on your computer screen, only to discover that it wasn’t as good as you thought. If you check your photos in detail, by zooming in on details to check sharpness, you can always retake the photo while still at the scene.
7. You shall always walk somewhere new
A final key to creativity is variation. Always walk to new places, because newness triggers your creativity. If you always walk the same path, on every photo walk, you will get increasingly bored and gradually lose inspiration. Walk new walks every time!
About the author: Micael Widell is a photography enthusiast based in Stockholm, Sweden. He loves photography, and runs a YouTube channel with tutorials, lens reviews and photography inspiration. You can also find him on Instagram and 500px where his username is @mwroll.