Friday, 22 March 2013

Leading a Photowalk


Leading a walk is both challenging and rewarding. I've lost count of how many walks I've organised and lead. Were they all successful? No, not completely but we learn and implement better plans for the next one. You need to think about the audience you want and their interests as well as your own.

Anyone can lead a photowalk. Start with something small. Discuss it with the community you're targeting and use their feedback in your plans. Try and get some sponsorship for your walk for giveaways.

During the walk check in on your phone from time to time to help people find you. Both existing walkers and late comers will find this useful.

Creating an Interesting Walk

Location is the big one. What is there? What is nearby? Finding areas with a variety of subject material will help gain acceptance from the most people. Everyone takes different images. Provide guidance of good photo spots but don't get up tight about it. People will do their own thing. Let them.

Planning The Route (Google Maps)

Once you've settled on an area, you might pick a theme to centre your walk around or you might just do a freestyle. Get into the area and get some local knowledge. I cannot emphasise how important this is. If you can't do it, enlist a helper who can. Remember maps and tools like street view are only as good as when they were made.

Work out your basic route and get it onto a Google Map with start, end and way points (places to regroup), interesting photographic spots, and toilets. www.toiletmap.gov.au can help you to find them. Share your map with a link into your event (see below).

 A few days before the event (no more than a week) walk or at least drive the entire route to make sure you can get through and that nothing has changed. Check out the other events that might be on at the same time. Can you incorporate them into the walk? Do you need to avoid them?

Are there any restricted areas? Do you need any kind of permits?

Safety

Consider the safety of your walkers - dark alleys hold attractions. Abandoned buildings are amazing. Major arterial roads and intersections can lead to interesting images. Would you go there? Possibly. I certainly do. Would you take a photowalk? Well, that depends on where you're going. I'd quite happily head down AC/DC Lane at night time and many others but there are some where you just wouldn't. If you would not be comfortable doing it by yourself or when taking your loved one there then don't take a walk there. Your group are responsible for their own safety but you have to be mindful and avoid being negligent.

Timeframes

Ah timeframes. Just how long does it take to walk from Point A to Point B. Well that is a classic question really and the answer involves string. If you're hurrying from one place in town to another for an event you can do it in a few minutes right? So wouldn't a photowalk take only a few minutes? Well, no. There are two factors at play here - everyone creates images at different speeds but they also stop and look at different things. Some might wander off down an alley to reemerge a little later on. Others will follow the exact route because they're like that. Give people plenty of time to move from place to place with oodles of time for between point shots.

Does Your Walk Need To Be Sanctioned?

Some communities such as Photograph Melbourne require the walk be presented to the Moderators to be reviewed and sanctioned to ensure it meets the guidelines outlaid in this blog before they can be announced in general if the walk leader wants to use the Photograph Melbourne name with their walk and promote it within the community. The aim here is not to restrict potential leaders but to ensure that they understand what they're getting into and provide the best possible outcome for the community.

Promoting The Walk

Creating a Google+ Event is a great way to promote a walk. Share it publicly from your own stream first then share it into the Photograph Melbourne Meetups and Photowalks category. It's important to do it this way around as communities limit the visibility of posts and events to that community to varying extents.

Be online and active to answer questions. Solicit help from interested people who indicate they're coming to be walk leaders to help you on the day with keeping people grouped and moving. With small groups this really doesn't matter at all but with big groups split them up and try to separate them with some distance to avoid angst from authorities. Be prepared to alter your plans during the day as events transpire.

Include a hash tag e.g. the walk in this blog post is #collingwalk as it will help people to find the relevant images and posts.

Sponsorship can really help you promote the walk but be careful as it is a fine line. Community photowalks are not commercial activities nor may they be treated as such. They are not a networking opportunity for your business.

Photograph Melbourne has started to use eventbrite.com.au for ticketing and event management since g+ events went away.

Collecting Information & Privacy

Don't collect any private information that you don't specifically need for the activity. Follow the National Privacy Principals as much as possible. As an example, you might need the email address of the winner of a competition to provide to the sponsor. Don't take everyone's before the walk just contact the winner later to get theirs. Note that the eventbrite.com.au tool does collect emails as a login but both the tool provider and the moderators will not use the emails for any other purpose. Use Eventbrite.com.au to push out any notifications so that you don't need to have any of the emails outside that tool.

You might be tempted to share phone numbers. I do so amongst the walk leaders, but don't ask people to give you theirs. They might volunteer it but that is different.

A lot of people see privacy differently and some take it extremely seriously.

On The Day

Turn up! Don't assume someone else will do it. Get there early. Scout out the meeting area and set up camp. Get ready for the walkers to come. If you've got any giveaways or swag from sponsors prepare to show it to people. I usually hand small stuff out at the start so I don't have to carry it. Bigger or more expensive stuff I tend to hold onto at home and use a photo competition to give it out as prizes. This improves fairness  is a good promotional aid and keeps your walk in people's minds for some time after the walk while the competition progresses. This is also good for your sponsors as it improves their visibility by repeated posts about the competition.

Consider using a tool such as Glympse to allow you to share your location to a specific group without any private information for the duration of the walk to help stragglers find you.

Stay for the entire walk. They can become a bit annoying sometimes and a bit of a slog. Make sure you stick out the entire event and ensure your stragglers reach the end of the walk. I generally end at a food or drink venue which gives early arrivers time to get stuck in while the stragglers catch up.

Do you need to walk in the lead? No, people can follow your route that you published. Some might like to be around you during the walk. Give them what guidance you can while you do your own shots.

Afterwards

Talk to people at the end of the walk find out what they liked or didn't like. This will be varied and you'll never please everyone. Don't even try, you'll just go mad. But do listen and use reason to make decisions. Followup with people later. Watch the streams of people who came on the walk. They are more likely to be truthful behind the safety of their keyboard. Talk to your regulars - their feedback is vital if you want to keep them as regulars!