Why you should go on a photo walk (and how you can plan your own)

Why you should go on a photo walk (and how you can plan your own)

All images by Philip Mowbray

Going on a photo walk either as part of a group or solo can give your confidence behind the camera a huge boost, and they are very easy to plan too

A photo walk (or photowalking) is the practice of going to a specific location to walk around to take photos. Photowalks are often group activities organised by local camera clubs or other meetup groups. However, you don’t always need to attend a group or guided photowalk - you can easily create your own that caters to your specific photographic tastes.

What are the benefits of a photo walk (or photowalking)?

Numerous! Going on a photo walk, solo or in a group, gives you time and space to practice your camera skills, helps you find inspiration in the environment around you, and helps you discover new and exciting places to take images.

"...photography shouldn’t always be a solo venture; being part of a community can bring so much more to your craft."

A solo photo walk can also be a great way to step away from the daily routine and be one with your camera and surroundings. When going on a photowalk as part of a group; you’ll be with fellow photographers to take inspiration from and bounce ideas off. You can also make some good friends in the process - photography shouldn’t always be a solo venture; being part of a community can bring so much more to your craft.

Many camera clubs plan regular photowalks, so it’s always worth looking at what’s happening in your local area and getting in touch if you would like to join. Facebook is a great place to start when looking for camera clubs or other meetup groups in your area.

Photographing the "Vampire Rabbit" in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Exploring a location by way of a photo walk can help you discover some really interesting spots for taking images that you may not have thought about previously

How to plan your own photo walk

If you’d like to plan your own photo walk, simply follow these tips below. Where you'll see my process on how how I planned a photo walk around the city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in North East England.

- Pick a location based on your needs


First of all, pick a location that you know will tick boxes when it comes to what you want to shoot.

"If you’re unsure where to start, your local area is the best place to look and see what’s close to you."

For example, if you like photographing architecture or street shots, choose a photo walk in a built-up area like a large town or city, where you know it will bring plenty of opportunities. Or if wildlife and landscapes are more your thing, then look for somewhere accessible for walking in the countryside where you know you can get those types of shots.

If you’re unsure where to start, your local area is the best place to look and see what’s close to you. You could also take part in a group photowalk first to get an idea of what it entails and what to expect before planning your own.

- Research places of interest and make a list of sites you want to visit


Once you’ve chosen the location of where you’d like to go on a photo walk, start doing some research on potential spots you’d like to visit. For this, I find several portals useful:

Google Image Search is a great place to start. Simply type in your destination and see what image results come up. You’ll immediately see a multitude of images appearing in search results from that location, giving you an immediate idea of the photographic opportunities available (and how you could potentially put your personal spin on them). You can also use photography community sites like Flickr to see what other photographers have shot in the area.

Google Image Search is a great way to see immediately the photographic opportunities available in your indented photo walk destination

Other valuable resources for picking locations are travel sites like Lonely Planet and Wikitravel, which often have a comprehensive list of notable landmarks and other points of interest. If you’re looking for something a bit off-the-beaten-track, sites like Atlas Obscura can help you discover more unusual locations in the area (that may be less photographed too).

"...going off on a tangent with your walk has its creative benefits too, but it’s generally helpful to have an initial course in mind."

Once you’ve discovered several locations you’d like to include in your photo walk, make a list of these to plan a route. You don’t have to stick to it; diverging from your planned route can have its benefits too if you discover something new on the way, but it’s generally helpful to have an initial course in mind.

Google Maps is probably my most used app when planning the route for photo walks. Sometimes, I can spend hours looking at an overview of a location and working out interesting stops and routes. It’s an ideal tool for planning a photo walk, as you can use the directions tool to map it out, along with approximate times and distances between stops.

Google Street View is also an excellent resource as you can see what a location looks like in real life - so much so that you can practically visualise great shots at the location without even being there.

Google Maps is a fantastic tool for discovering locations and planning a route in between them, and you can save directions to your smartphone so you know where you're going when out on location
Google Street View is also incredibly handy for seeing what a location looks like in real life, and helps you visualise places for photos before even getting there
Ideas for what to include in your photo walk:

- Landmarks
- Bridges
- Monuments
- Rivers
- Canals
- Interesting architecture
- Viewpoints
- Transport infrastructure (stations, tunnels, etc)
- Parks and nature reserves

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Don’t forget about practicalities

Once you’ve got a location and route planned, make sure you take into account the logistics and practicalities of the walk too.

"Make sure you know how you’re going to get there and, more importantly, how you’re going to get home."

For example, check the weather forecast in advance to ensure the conditions are suitable. Make sure you know how you’re going to get there and, more importantly, how you’re going to get home. And look in advance, again with Google Maps, to see what amenities are available along the walk. There are often plenty of opportunities in cities to grab a bite to eat or take a pitstop along the way, but this may not be the case in more rural areas, so you’ll want to make sure you account for any provisions you may need.

Also, most importantly, let someone else know of your plans and when they should expect you back. Safety, especially in cities at night, is something to consider, and even if you’re planning a photo walk as a solo venture and not as a group, it’s better to take a friend with you. It's safety in numbers, and you’ll also have company along the way and someone to bounce ideas off.

Make sure you keep an eye on the weather. Apps like Dark Sky Weather are fantastic for keeping tabs on conditions, both in advance and in real-time

Make a list of what to pack

Once all of the above has been considered, the last thing to do is make a packing list - there’s nothing worst than starting your walk and reaching for your camera only to find you’ve left your memory card at home!

"...if I’m heading out on a photo walk, I make sure I charge all my camera batteries and pack my bag the night before."

So, make sure you’ve got everything you need well in advance; if I’m heading out on a photo walk, I make sure I charge all my camera batteries, clean my camera and filters, and pack my bag the night before.

As well as the obvious kit like your camera, memory cards, filters, and a tripod if you’re using one, it’s worth packing several other items too. Such as a portable charger and cable if your phone runs out of battery, or extra layers if the weather turns. You want to feel comfortable on your walk; otherwise, you won't enjoy it as much.

Remember to charge up all your equipment before heading out! The last thing you want is a camera with a flat battery!

Last of all - get out there and enjoy!

The most important thing to remember when it comes to a photo walk is to enjoy it! Embrace the environment around you - not just the sights but the sounds and smells too - it’ll all feed into your photography. As mentioned before - don’t be afraid to diverge from your planned route or do something different. Photo walks are all about exploration, creativity, and trying out new things. Get yourself in this mindset before venturing out - it’s far more rewarding.

Below are some of my own highlights from photo walks I've done around Newcastle, and remember, no two days are the same - you can do the same photo walk several times and find new opportunities. And as we’ve touched upon above, even if you’ve planned your own photo walk, it doesn’t mean it needs to be a solo venture. Invite others along too and make it a group activity - this way you’ll get so much more out of it.

Views of the iconic Tyne Bridge, a iconic symbol of Newcastle and North East England
Looking down the High Level Bridge and the Newcastle "Vampire Rabbit" which I discovered with the help of Atlas Obscura
View towards Grey's Monument from Newcastle Castle, and a low-down view from the High Level Bridge