Photowalking 101

Question: What are all these people with their smartphones doing?

San Francisco Photowalkers near the Vallejo Street Steps

Answer: They’re on a photowalk of course! This past Saturday I took part in a 3 hour photowalk with a group of San Francisco photowalkers. As described by Wikipedia:

Photowalking is the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that the photographer may find interesting.
Steven Loi photowalking in San Francisco
Steven Loi in the middle of composing a shot with his iPhone.

Photowalks typically involve people toting large DSLR cameras but the theme of this particular photowalk was smartphone-only. Most organized photowalks like this one have a planned route and people casually stroll along, composing and snapping great shots as they see them (maybe stopping in Chinatown for a great bubble tea on the way), and then continuing until people run out of battery or get hungry.

San Francisco Bay Bridge from the Vallejo Street Steps
San Francisco Bay Bridge in the background. Processed with snapseed on my iPhone.

But what’s the point you say? To have fun thinking about photography in a new way and explore parts of your city that might not have close attention to before. I discovered quite a few interesting parts of Russian Hill, San Francisco that I have never seen before.

San Francisco Photowalk - Flower near Vallejo Street Steps
A flower near Vallejo Street Steps. Processed with snapseed.

Even though I have heard of photowalks for years now — first hearing about it from Robert Scoble and Thomas Hawk — this was my first photowalk ever. I must say that I had quite a blast. In particular because of the smartphone-only constraint placed on this walk. It forced me to think of interesting angles and focus points rather than my typical DSLR frame of mind of thinking about camera settings, what lenses to use and the like.

Landscape photos of San Francisco near the Vallejo Street Steps
Photos taken by my iPhone 4S and processed with Instagram. I was surprised about how crisp these photos turned out!
San Francisco Photowalk - Maserati
I can never resist taking photos of exotic cars! This Maserati was parked in North Beach.


Throughout the walk I was keeping a close eye on how the other seasoned photowalkers were working. Here are a few photowalking tips based on what I saw:

Experiment with wide angle, telephoto and macro lenses. Sites like Photojojo sell cheap, magnetic lenses that attach easily to your phone.

Have a few photo processing apps on hand! There are many to choose from but one in particular blew my mind away with its abilities: SnapSeed. Thanks to Art Chang for the recommendation!

Try interesting angles. Don’t worry if you look goofy getting all the way down on the ground to compose and capture a nice shot, the results will be worth it.

San Francisco Photowalk
Some interesting sculptures inside Embarcadero Center. Processed with snapseed.

Interested in seeing more pictures from the photowalk? Take a look at photos from Steven Loi, Art Chang, Brian Bach Sørensen, Andrea Ewald and me. You’ll quickly notice that all these folks are Google+ users, as are we at Picplum! Follow Picplum on Google+ »

Want to take part in a photowalk near you? Find local walks on Google+, Flickr and Worldwide Photowalk.

What do you think about photowalking? If you have any questions with photowalking or in particular how to get started with some iphoneography and processing images on your iPhone, leave us a comment below! And of course, all of these photos look great printed out with Picplum. Send your first set of prints with Picplum today »