Beginning Photography Photography Workshops

How to Have Productive Photo Trips with Your Photographer Friends

Photography trips with your friends are always wonderfully fun, at least from a social standpoint. Few things are better than spending the day afield, talking and hunting for photos, taking breaks and enjoying the sunshine, finding interesting little roadside places to eat and quiet places to take a nap when the day has worn on a little too long. But, speaking from personal experience, photo trips with friends are not always the most productive way to bring home lots of new potential image files to work with. A lot can happen on these trips and much of it will serve as a distraction or obstruction to your creative process. At the end of the day, though you enjoyed yourself, you may find yourself unhappy with the new collection.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to make sure these trips are more productive. Let me share some of the things I’ve learned over the years and then you’ll be able to better organize these outings!

Plan Your Trip Around a Destination

So many photo outings are relatively aimless. You jump in the car with your friends and go wherever the road takes you. Many photographers do this, whether they are spending just a day out and about or an entire week out in the field. They simply go to the first spot that strikes their fancy, and then on to the next. Or they take random twists and turns, examining maps the entire day, hoping to find that one perfect spot to take photographs.

The problem with this is that it is a method that will more often than not lead you to spend most of your photography trip driving instead of taking photographs. That is why I say that it is better to choose a destination before you set out. This way, you won’t end up driving around endlessly. Instead, you can go to your destination in a more or less straight path, minimizing stops along the way and end up having more time left over so that you can stay on location, hunting for photos to take.

Fewer Friends is Better

In this day, with people racing to increase their friend counts and followers on social media, it seems odd to say that fewer friends might be a better option! However, on a photo trip, it is true. Go with one or two good friends, not an entire busload of people. Why? Because each person adds his or her own unique set of distractions. There are more conversations to be had, more stops to make and so on. All in all, more friends at once means less time taking pictures. Smaller groups are always more productive!

Embrace Those Random Stops!

I know I just got through saying that you should head straight for your destination so that you can maximize your time on location but I would also argue this: Random stops will happen, no matter how determined you are to make it to your destination. Embrace them. You may have a friend pointing excitedly out the passenger window at something that you just cannot fathom. Stop anyway, get out of the car, and let your friend take the photographs he or she wants.

And, while you are at it, use this time as a creative exercise. Take whatever photos you see, though they may not excite you as much as your friend who wanted to stop. If you don’t see any photographs, then search for them. Make a photograph happen anyway as your friend works on his or her inspiration. This will help you to get your creative mind going, presenting it with a good challenge to overcome.

Have a Way to Communicate

The simple fact is, photography is a solitary process. Like most creative pursuits, it is by nature solitary because it requires a lot of thought and consideration. People butting into that thought process invariably leads to a lost train of thought and therefore a lost photograph. Don’t hesitate to keep chatter to a minimum while you are photographing and what’s more, don’t hesitate to go your separate ways once you’ve reached the day’s photo destination.

However, make sure that you always play it safe by carrying a way to communicate with your friend. Though you may be half a mile away from each other, you should always be able to get in touch at a moment’s notice. Have your phone handy so that you can make a call or text or if you are in an area without cellular service, carry walkie-talkies. This is a safety measure that allows you to check in with each other every half hour or so to make sure everything is going smoothly and it also lets you check in on progress, to make sure that your friend did not head back to the car hours ago, finished with the project already and now thoroughly bored, waiting for you.

Know When to Come Together

On your photo trip, you certainly won’t want to ignore your friends entirely. That is, after all, why you decided to go on the trip with them — so that you could spend some time together. The key is knowing when the right time to come together is. There is plenty of time to discuss photos that have been taken, to flip through RAW files, to talk about inspiration together. It is just that that time is not while you are actually taking photographs.

Instead, save these conversations for downtime. When you stop for lunch or dinner, in the evening, as you head back to your hotel rooms for the night and the laptops start coming out or even while you are driving (just no examining photos while behind the wheel — be safe!). Organize photo time and social time around your breaks for the day and you will have much more uninterrupted time for taking photographs.

Spending the day in the field with your friends is a rewarding experience and a great way to bond with them. However, there are frustrations that can crop up so make sure that you plan for those frustrations in order to avoid them before they interfere with your productivity!

Will Moneymaker is a freelance photographer, family historian, a husband of twenty-five years and devoted father of four. The arts have always been a part of his life. Join Will as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography. Subscribe to his weekly newsletter.

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