In this guest post, Betsy Decillis discusses the concept of photowalks and provides some advice to get started using this social strategy. Photowalks – walking with a camera for the purpose of taking pictures – have long been popular with photographers. However, the rise of visual content makes photowalks an interesting business tool that can yield professional level photographs for client promotions and create content for online social media platforms.
Independent communication professionals can organize a photowalk at a client location or attraction, sponsor a photowalk to drive community engagement or simply participate in a photowalk to gain images for client work. While photowalks are a natural fit for Betsy’s tourism and nonprofit clients, the concept can be creatively implemented with a wide range of clients.
The latest craze in social isn’t actually happening completely online. There is increasingly a push to move the online to offline, and turn these online relationships into something more meaningful.
Not surprisingly, Instagram has actually sparked a phenomenon called “photowalks”. A photowalk is exactly what it sounds like: It’s where a group of people get together to walk around and take photos. I personally pictured a group of geeks with their iPhones going snap happy and maybe only get a few pictures that would be at all useful. However, on the walks I have attended, I have been the only person to come out with just my phone. Everyone else is hoisting professional-grade equipment and then they take those photos home to lovingly edit them.
Free professional-level photographs that can be used for client promotions sounds pretty enticing, doesn’t it? Don’t jump just yet. Here are a few things you should know before you go:
Your community may already have a photowalk group
Whoa, right? Do some research via Google and go hashtag hunting through Instagram. Chances are that you will find a group that already gets together for these walks. Taking advantage of an already-formed community means less work for you and more results for your client. But before you decide to hold hands with what is sure to be a wonderful community, go out on a walk with them. Get a feel for who they are and what their hopes and dreams are. Basically, make friends. You will then be able to more perfectly match them with your client opportunities and make both sides happy.
Choose a unique and long hashtag
This goes against everything we know and love about hashtags, doesn’t it? You want me to type in a long hashtag… ON MY MOBILE DEVICE?! Insane. Except it isn’t. Type it in once and it will start populating itself when you try to type it again for the next picture. Instagram is just that smart. This helps prevent others from using your hashtag for their marketing or other very bad things.
People love snacks and drinks
Remember that you are inviting people to do a favor for you for free. They may enjoy it. They may think this is the best thing ever. But in the end, they are doing YOU a favor. Treat them like human beings. At the very least, offer water. But, you know, it wouldn’t kill you to have some cupcakes available too, because mmmmmm… frosting.
This may not be the age group you think it is
On my first photowalk, I expected to be the oldie hanging with all the millennials. Boy was I wrong. These people came from all ages and all lifestyles. They even came from hours away, because they loved this particular walk. There is no one audience here.
Create an experience and then let go
Here’s the thing about people nowadays: They are so much more cynical. You can’t just say, “Hey, my client has such-and-such thing and you should take pictures of it.” No. No. No. This is not what a photowalk does. In that case, hire a photographer — you'll get better results.
What you should be doing is creating a one-of-a-kind experience. For example, getting into a building that does not typically allow visitors is in and of itself is an experience. I took one group through the county courthouse, which they considered an experience. Remember those friends you made on your first photowalk? Drop them a line. Ask them what their ideal photography experience would be and then build on it to be beneficial to your client. And then once that experience is created, you need to let go. Playas are gonna play and photographers are gonna photograph. You can’t really control how either group does their thing.
Advertise on all of your networks
The first photowalk I hosted, I wrote a blog post in advance of the walk. That blog post then went on all other networks, with ad money put behind the Facebook post. Without fail, all attendees found out via the Facebook post. Just because this is technically an Instagram event does not mean that your attendees are only going to come from Instagram. Use all of your networks for the best results.
Don’t be afraid of a small turnout
It is very likely that your first photowalk won’t attract a large crowd. That’s okay! If you can get ten photographers there taking pictures for your client, that is extremely powerful. Create a great experience, and that ten can lead to twenty next time and so on and so on. Just make sure you take care of those ten now and help them take the best pictures possible. I can guarantee that you will be happy with the results.
Have you done a photowalk? What were your results?
Betsy A. Decillis is the Chief Content Officer for Betsy A. Decillis Consulting, LLC. She loves bringing her bad jokes and unrelenting optimism to her nonprofit and tourism clients. She always asks clients where the best ice cream is located and asks them to put up with her bouncing in her seat as she tries to explain something she’s too excited about. Betsy lives in Reynoldsburg, OH with her demanding cat, Cesare (Chez-uh-ray, because she can totally hear you saying it wrong as you read this), and the Guy Who She Lives With. Both are unwilling mascots of BAD Consulting.