During the walk on Saturday, I saw a comment made on our G+ Events page that kind of stood out to me. It read along the lines of this:
“Limiting the walks to just 50 people seems a bit elitist to me.”
After I shook my head and thought, “Geesh, there’s one in every crowd,” I did think that there might be some people who are just curious why we have a limit at all, so I thought it might be worth giving you an insight into how that limit came about.
When I first had the idea for this worldwide event, I did a lot of research, including talking extensively with Jeff Revell of PhotoWalkPro.com (he’s done a lot work on finding “the right” number of people for a walk), and Jeff recommended that between 35 to 40 would be ideal, but whatever I do make sure I do not to go over 50 people. After the very first walk I ever led years ago, I can tell you without reservation — Jeff was right on the money (and 50 is on the high-end for sure). Here’s a few of the reasons we think 50 is the right maximum number:
(1) I want each walk to be a quality experience for both the walker and the leader
When I lead a walk, I want to meet everyone participating in my local walk, and believe it or not, in just two hours with 50 people, that’s not as easy as it sounds. For example, you’re only walking for 120 minutes total, which leaves you less than two minutes to talk to each person, but that’s only if you spent the entire time talking, and never took a single photo during the walk. The people who volunteer to lead walks do it to promote and grow their local photographic community and to make new friends along the way. Having a group size that’s manageable, and getting a chance to meet the walkers is as important to them as it is to me. The quality of the experience for everybody is that important.
(2) Believe it or not, finding a restaurant or bar to willingly accommodate 50 people is harder than I ever imagined
You’d think restaurants or pubs would be falling over-themselves to have you deliver a large group of people to their business, but that’s often not the case. I’ve been turned down by restaurant after restaurant (including ones in Paris) that either didn’t have enough staff, or enough seats, or just didn’t want to be bothered with that size of a crowd coming in all at once. I can’t imagine how many doors would close if it were 75 or 100 people.
(3) The more people you have walking in a large group, the more potential you have for someone to get lost in the shuffle
Ask anyone who has led a walk —- keeping an eye on your walkers, making sure they follow the route, and making sure everybody stays together (and stays out of trouble) and winds up where they’re supposed to be isn’t as easy as it seems for the leader (which is why we’re so careful about who we allow to lead a walk). Think of how tricky it is to manage 50 people in a meeting room, then take those same 50 people and let them loose on a busy street. Now, give them all cameras. See what I mean? It’s kind of like putting kittens back in a box (and the less kittens you have, the easier it is on everybody). :)
(4) It’s supposed to be intimate
It’s supposed to be a small group getting together to share their passion of making images. Big crowds are intimidating to a lot of people (imagine 100 people coming down a city street — it looks more like a mob, right?) so keeping things small keeps the intimacy, and the feel of being a part of something very big, while still being very small and friendly. I got to sit at lot of people’s lunch table after my walk, chatting and sharing photos. That’s very important to me, but with a larger group, I would have probably had a chance to talk to less than half of the folks, if that. We want a small, fun group. Not just a big crowd.
(5) When a walk reaches 50 photographers, someone can apply to lead another walk in the same town
We only limited the number of photographers in a walk — but not the number of walks in a particular area. If a walk fills up (or even gets close to filling up), and we get a request from someone who wants to lead another walk in that city, we add that walk, which expands the number of open spots by another 50 (and there are numerous cities that have numerous walks, at different times, like the two walks I participated in, in Paris).
I hope that gives you some insight into why we limit our walks to 50 people per walk. We do it to make your photo walk experience a fun and memorable one, and to make it manageable enough so your leader will actually want to lead another walk next year in a town near you.
Thanks for clearing that up, Scott.
I was one of the late applicants to a photo-walk in my city and was wait-listed. I hoped a slot would free up but it didn’t.
While point 3 was the one I thought of immediately(I live in Mumbai), the rest of the points make a lot of sense.
Just wish I knew that anyone could lead a walk. I’d have applied….oh well, next year! :-)
Geez, I guess some people’s mission in life is to find fault in anything and everything.
I reckon if the person who made this comment had been at the Last Supper he’d have asked for chips ;)
50…it works :)
I get where the original commenter was coming from in terms of the disappointment. But calling it elitist is kinda silly…
Not all of us are lugging around Hasselblads. :-P
Just from argument 2, in downtown Munich is literally impossible to find a place even for 50!!
This year people split in different restaurants and then in different tables ;-)
Fully agree on number limitation. In my opinion, I would make them even smaller (maximum 30).
Where would someone ever come up with the term elitist? It you limited the walk to only full frame DSLR cameras costing over $5K, yeah. It’s still first come, first serve and open to everyone. It’s also open to have more than 50 people come out and walk, just that those over the 50 limit won’t be able to enter into the contest. And Like Scott said, open a second walk in your town. If the first one is over 50 then the chances are you will get plenty of people for the 2nd one. We’ve even had two walks in the same place here in South Florida. One was during the day and the second one was in the evening after sunset. the location is VERY different at night and became a popular walk.
One thing I would like to see is a slightly longer walk. On my walk we didn’t get started until almost 30 minutes late because we were waiting on people to show up, but we still ended at the planned time. That 90 minutes went REALLY quick. Personally I’d love to see it extended to 3 hours if possible next year.
50 still seems like a high number. 35 would be my preference for a max number and just encourage more walks. Like you said, it’s supposed to be intimate, make friends, have fun, shoot pictures.
Like you said, you find one in every crowd. This was my first year participating and I loved it! Can’t wait until next year! Thank you Scott for your insight and hard work putting this all together.
While I do think 50 is a high number and 30 would probably be a better maximum I was very glad of the 50 limit this year. There was one almost full walk and a second one with few people registered in my area so we registered with the small walk. When we got there, the leader and the other 3 people never showed up. So, after waiting for half an hour we flipped out our smartphones and re-registered for the bigger walk and luckily, it was just below the limit of 50, so we could join and had a fun walk and a great time in the restaurant afterwards!
btw: the photowalk site did not work with my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy Ace, login to the site didn’t work), luckily my friend has that Linux-based Nokia with Firefox which worked. I’m not sure how many people try to re-register, get/give directions or otherwise coordinate via the photowalk site during the actual walk but it might be a good idea to check that the site works with as many phones as possible in the future.
I don’t think I’d want to join a walk with more than 50 people. You can’t meet all of those folks for any meaningful conversation in large numbers, and trying to get a photo of something that everyone finds interesting would become much more difficult.
I think it is Elitist that you did the Photo Walk on a day that I was busy ;)
I had to skip this year’s photowalk (made the first 4) because I wanted to chronicle the space shuttle Endeavor’s trip through Los Angeles. I caught it flying into LAX, then when it was “parked” in Westchester (West LA), then the agonizingly slow trip to a downtown museum some 12 hours late due to size, street conditions, and mechanical towing failures. Maybe next year….
I’ve led the photowalk here in Taiwan for the past few years and certainly agree with the idea that 50 is about the maximum that a single leader can manage, with 35 or so being the optimum number. Even then, there’s not a lot of time for chatting to all the walkers, although here in Taipei that’s somewhat mitigated by the fact that a lot of us in the English-speaking photography community already know each other. Still, it’s not easy and each year I find ways that I can improve the experience.
When is the next South Florida Photo Walk scheduled.