The Business of Photo Walking

This post is quite frankly, personal and there are a couple of reasons for that. The first reason is that it is business related and its not normally something I am willing to discuss in my blog posts, I normally discuss techniques and tips, how I got a certain shot or I share some photos. The second reason is what I undertook is something that I haven’t done before and I admit that at first it was rather daunting,  even a little scary and I did get frustrated early on because I couldn’t get a car park nearby (failed my first rule – do a recon of the area), and this is a new area that I am hoping to branch my photography business into in 2012. The third reason is because a couple of very good friends volunteered their time and bought their camera equipment along as well, The good thing about having very good friends helping you with this is that they don’t feel that they can’t say something that is negative or worry about hurting with what you are trying to achieve, so feedback, either positive or negative is something that I certainly value on how well or how bad this went. By now you are probably wondering what am I talking about, well its the business of photo walking or rather running a photo walk from a business perspective. The other problem I have with blogging about this is that I don’t like to use the word ‘I’ a lot on my blog posts because it sounds like I am always talking about myself and the letter I used in blogs is not very engaging for readers.

During December, I organised and run a photowalk for two very good friends of mine, Glen and Claire, like I said before this is something that I am considering branching off into in 2012, and I must admit that I learnt loads organising and then running a photowalk. So I have compiled a list of things that I believe can make a photowalk successful which was gained from positive and negative feedback from Glen and Claire.

Meet in a coffee shop

I think this is a very good way to break the ice with people that you haven’t met before and a good way to start having an interactive conversation with people who have ultimately paid to attend to determine where they are at with their photography, what level they are at, what camera gear they are using and how familiar they are with it and also to determine if they have done any photography courses or classes in the past. Glen liked the idea of meeting in a coffee shop as well and one of his remarks struck me  which was if its the middle of winter you can get something hot to drink or in the middle of summer you can something cold to drink and meeting in a coffee shop is a friendly way of meeting people. Not to mention, most people have no problems finding coffee shops and know where they are when you mention them. So meeting in a coffee shop is something that I will certainly implement in the future.

Location, Location, Location

Downfall No 1. Unfortunately I learnt this one the hard way that’s for sure. I decided to meet with Glen and Claire in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane for numerous reasons. This turned out to be the wrong spot for starters, There are areas to photograph there but they are hard to find and in some cases can be a decent walk. To add insult to injury the Brisbane City Council overhauled China Town which is now, unfortunately, rather a bland location with not a great deal to photograph. To make matters worse, I phoned the Fortitude Valley Railway Station Master several days before and asked if it was Ok if we shoot there, he said no problems just approach the Station Master on duty at the time and it should be no problems. Well guess what, The extremely large security personnel who now patrol the platforms and stand at all the entrances and exits were in no doubt that we were terrorists taking photos of the train station and did not allow us in or on the platforms. The station master is a lovely lady and she mentioned a few other stations that shooting at is sort of allowed, in other words they turn a blind eye in the suburbs.  So this was downfall No 1 for me. To improve this, I will endeavour to find a good coffee shop in Brisbane CBD where locations are more suitable for photography. There are plenty of locations such as the Queens Street mall, which would be a good starting point and finishing at South Bank on the Brisbane River after dark. all within a short walking distance.  These locations offer many opportunities for slow shutter, night photography and even street photography as well. I know this because I have photographed in Brisbane CBD in the past and I am well aware that  we won’t be hassled by some over zealous security guard.

Timings are everything in this Business

This one is two fold, Timings are everything and I hate being late, sometimes its completely unavoidable but I highly recommend being there early by at least 20 minutes. This way you can secure a table in a coffee shop or that public meeting place you have chosen that is large enough to be able to accommodate everyone that is attending and to ensure the spot is far enough away from ambient noises such as trucks, cars and trains rumbling past or even those ever annoying individuals who talk loudly and non-stop to their friends, I like to call them 7/11, They never close. You can also take that last nervous toilet visit before everyone else arrives. The other thing with timing is that I need to determine how long I will run the walk for. Will it be an hour or two hours, what I think is probably the appropriate time is more like 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours because of the meeting in the coffee shop at the beginning and doing the wind up at the finish point. This is something that needs to be finessed some because the summer months have longer days hence a later start time and trying to find the right time to start and then adding the required hours and ensuring that I finish when I am supposed to at my chosen location, this is something that I will have to work and test a few times to ensure that I get it right.

Subject Matter Knowledge

This is something that any one considering running photo walks should have and it needs to be more than a basic understanding of photography but you also must be able to explain the basics in simple terms. I can be and have been a rather technical person at times and I can talk ‘tech talk’ all day long but what I need to remember is that not every body is technically minded. A lot of people don’t need to be technically minded every day because their normal day to day life doesn’t require them to be, so in my case I need to be able to explain things well to people and have them understand it in their own way, regardless how they reach that point of understanding. The technical minded stuff for people who attend will come later on and what they are trying to learn by doing a photo walk is how to use their camera and get better results from their photography.

Flying by the seat of your pants

Don’t, which is something else that I learnt the hard way, so this is Downfall No 2. I was flying by the seat of my pants because I had forgotten that China town had been refurbished and was now devoid of any inspiration, then the over zealous security guards at the train station significantly reduced my shooting possibilities further. So flying by the seat of your pants is not a recommendation that I would make. In the future I will not only develop Plan A but also a Plan B/C etc to  reduce the likelihood of shooting possibilities being removed before my eyes.  So Plan A and parts of Plan B/C may look something like where you will walk and what route you are going to take. Then you need to work out how long you are going to spend in each spot so people can set their gear up, take some photos, struggle with some of the settings which will all do and then require assistance to get over that hurdle. Overall the distance of your photowalk say for beginners may only be 1 or 2 kilometres but its how you spend that time at each location will be invaluable to them, the paying customer.

To Much Information

Downfall No 3. I have this very bad habit of passing on to much information to quick and I need to learn to slow the rate of info that is passed on so people can absorb what the information is and understand it. Fortunately for me, Glen and Claire weren’t afraid to tell me to slow down or ask me to go over what I just said again so their understanding was at a high level. There is something that can leave a lasting impression on people is to give them a handy hint card which has tips like Freeze or Blur the action flow chart.

Knowledge of other camera brands

This wasn’t an issue on the day but it could become an issue in the future. I use Nikon, not because of any particular reason except that what’s I bought because it felt comfortable in my hands, but the problem will arise when I get asked a question such as ‘Where is the……” and the camera is a Canon, Pentax, Sony etc. I have no real way of fixing this one quickly and the only way that I can fix this is to ensure that everyone brings their manuals with them when they attend or pick up the camera and have a quick look through the settings. Each camera is different in many ways, in particular where the buttons are located and it may suck up some valuable time.

Dress appropriately

I am a big one for being dressed appropriately when it comes to running photo walks or undertaking any other activity such as Portraitphotography. You have to remember that you and no one elserepresent your business and can’t turn up wearing shorts and flip flops (thongs for the Aussies amongst us) as it doesn’t provide a business or even a professional look which is something that you should be trying to achieve. I have and wear a shirt that says everything. It says my business name in Bold White print and it says what I do and it does it rather loudly as well, in big Red Print ‘Photographer’ is emblazoned across the back of my shirt below my business name. I wear this because I am a walking advertisement and has the possibility of generating leads for my business, hence being dressed appropriately will and has paid off.  There is one last thing with being dressed appropriately and that Personal and Oral Hygiene, enough said on that subject.


Now you may be wondering if the photowalk was a success or not!, It was to some extent and the highlight of the day for me was seeing a massive smile on Glen and Claire’s face when they got some shots of light trails from passing trains and some great street photography. So will I be doing this again, definitely but there are quite a few things that I need to work on such as pricing, marketing and what market I will be aiming this at. On top of all of that, I will need to do a few more dry runs first to make sure that I get it right every time when this part of my business goes live, there never seems to be enough hours in the day.

There is one last thing though, I would publicly like to thank my two very good friends, Glen and Claire for providing their valuable time and bringing their camera equipment and lugging it around Brisbane. Without Glen and Claire donating their time and providing feedback to this plan, it would not be possible to implement this idea into my business in 2012, So a very big Thank You to Glen and Claire. The lessons I learnt that afternoon have been invaluable and I will implement them where they are needed.

I have got another idea and I wonder if they are up for it?, this one is slightly dangerous though.

Happy Shooting.

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