Guerrilla filmmaking has been in action for decades. Think: Independent filmmakers roaming the streets, seeking out accessible locations and talent, and spontaneous opportunities to create great indie films. The practice in its intended form is rogue filmmaking that pushes boundaries. Photowalks have also been around for decades, often organized by photo clubs, where photographers come together to shoot at a common location or with a common purpose, sometimes using shared props and/or models.

Combine some guerrilla tactics with structured photowalk organization and camaraderie and you have a Guerrilla Shutterwalk! As community leaders, we’ll be organizing these Shutterwalks for you to participate in, but you don’t have to wait. Here are some tips and tricks to follow for running your very own Guerrilla Shutterwalk — the goals of which are the sharing of information and resources, while producing effective, high-quality stock images.

Planning

Planning out the basics for your event will provide you with the greatest opportunity for quality images. Decide who will be leading the group and the max number of participants you want at the event (we recommend 10 to 15) as well as a specific location with marked parameters and an interesting array of backgrounds and scenes. The event should be scheduled to last about two hours.

The organizers are responsible for handling all the paperwork (model/property releases) and payment for models. The organizers may obtain one release for each model and property on the Shutterwalk itself (including the location and date), with a list of all participants, which participants can then use to submit content to Shutterstock. Organizers should scout out locations in which to shoot (more about location next).

Research should also be done in order to avoid problems and obvious issues with locations (eg. the TTC subway system in Toronto does not permit filming of any kind without strict permits). Shutterstock’s Known Restrictions list can also be a useful resource for determining potential issues with certain locations. Be sure to let us know that you are organizing your event — send a note to your country’s community leader, keep them involved, and speak to us for support while planning your shoot.

Kamira | Typical street scene in Havana, Cuba
Kamira | Typical street scene in Havana, Cuba

Location

Location is everything. This is a guerrilla shoot, so you’ll be moving and, in general, you won’t be organizing property releases for your “sets.” Remember that you’re likely in a public location, and that you are a large group. Choose a location that has a lot of opportunity for interesting and effective stock backgrounds (for example: urban streets, office buildings, open parks, and beaches). You can even choose a private area where you can obtain a property release (you could do this by offering to trade images taken on the property with the property owner, or by paying a fee that is shared by participants). Nail down your location perimeters, create a map for attendees, or be sure that you are always leading with your own map. Remember to avoid any backgrounds for which you would normally require a property release (for example, unique and/or identifiable property). Don’t invade, and be present and productive. Organizers should walk the location in advance and know which spaces to use and which spaces to avoid in order to maximize the experience for all attendees. Be sure that there are different angles to capture and space for all attendees.

Models

I prefer to work with models that I have worked with before. They are generally more reliable, like working with me, and will be given the opportunity to get lots of great images and/or payment from the group. There should be little overhead cost for a Guerrilla Shutterwalk; this is part of the objective. But a payment to models from 10-15 people should be manageable and in my experience paid models are the most reliable. If you choose to organize models based on time for print, be sure that your photographers understand this expectation. Provide a deadline for the participating photographers to submit shots to every participating model from the event. This is your reputation as a photographer, but also Shutterstock’s reputation as a group. Remember that local models will take away their own experiences from the event and you may wish to work with them again.

Evgeniya Porechenskaya | Fashion portrait of stylish girl on blue background
Evgeniya Porechenskaya | Fashion portrait of stylish girl on blue background

It’s usually best to stick to just three or four models. More than this can cause confusion. Ensure that you communicate with models, that they understand the format of the walk, and they have clear instructions for wardrobe, since there will be little opportunity for changing garments. Wardrobe instructions should always include avoiding logos and recognizable patterns or art on the models’ clothing items. Ask models to have hair and makeup ready, according to your instructions, and they can do hair and makeup themselves before coming on set. The other option is to trade with a combined hair/makeup artist building a portfolio. Ask them to come along with basics for retouching and provide them with images for their portfolio. Be sure to communicate rules for the event with both models and participants. Photographers should be shooting as a group (communication tips next), and should not be taking models from the set to go off and do shoots on their own.

Sharing & Communication

Make maps, guidelines and instructions available to models and participants before the event. As the organizer, get an idea of how many experienced versus inexperienced photographers you have attending. Assign buddy roles (volunteers) in the group to keep an eye on less experienced photographers and to offer advice or help should those photographers have difficulty. Organizers should always be the directors, keeping an eye on the time, the location shifts, and the photographers and models, to ensure everyone has an opportunity to shoot. Not all photographers are able to direct effectively, and not all photographers have worked with models before. Some of the goals of a Guerrilla Shutterwalk are to learn by watching other photographers, to have the opportunity to learn to direct on set, and to produce quality images. Communicate as a group; get to know one another a little by email or social media before the event. Have a list of all attendees available to participants.

Buntoon Rodseng | Silhouette of photographers taking pictures of landscape during sunset
Buntoon Rodseng | Silhouette of photographers taking pictures of landscape during sunset

Photographer Etiquette

This is a group event, and participants should understand that everyone is there to have fun, to learn, and to create beautiful images. I am always thrilled and amazed that a group of photographers in the same location, with the same models, can produce such different results. Inexperienced photographers may fall back on imitating more experienced shooters and their shots; copying or emulating isn’t necessary and organizers should stay on top of the behavior among participants to ensure that everyone is working from their own concepts and ideas. Obviously some repeat concepts and similar shots are possible in this scenario; however, it’s remarkable how unique and numerous the concepts and images can be. Don’t shoot over someone’s shoulder. Be original in your ideas and helpful to one another.

Organizers should also direct movement of the group and the positions of models. Then, from left to right or right to left, participants should have an opportunity to shoot for a minute. While shooting, the other photographers can shoot in tandem, but are encouraged to do so from different angles and places until it is their turn to direct themselves.

Your Mission

Your mission: Plan your own Guerrilla Shutterwalk. Your event may have a higher budget (if five or six experienced photographers choose to organize a smaller shoot with paid models and stylists), or a smaller budget, if the event has little overhead cost. Be creative, be prepared, be ready to be spontaneous, and work around small problems as they arise. At the end of the day, have a fun debrief at a pub or restaurant to share your ideas and thoughts and to start planning the next shoot!