Photo walk

Capturing an area in images that brings you new insights to solve your social issue

Practical Information

What is this tool?

During a Photo Walk you walk around a specific area while you take pictures of everything that attracts your eye. Based on the photos, together with your team, you can discover new themes or patterns that will help you to come up with new and fresh ideas.

Why do we use it?

The Photo Walk is a practice in observation and opening your eyes to see beyond the obvious and towards (new) solutions. It allows you to discover new insights, even (or especially) if you have been working on the topic for a long time.

Design phase:

Design research


(phone) camera


3 - 5 hours

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A step-by-step guide

1. Plan a walk of 45 minutes to 2 hours. Think about the area and route. It should be relevant to your social issue, but at the same time don’t overthink it – it is not a tour, it is a walk. It should be safe and acceptable to walk around with a group taking photos (ask permission when needed). Make sure everyone knows the objective of the Photo Walk, knows the rules (step 3), has a (phone)camera and wears comfortable shoes.

2. Do a test with the whole group at your starting location: stand still, and everyone takes a photo of the first thing that captures their eye. When people try to make very nice and pretty pictures, explain that the idea is to follow wherever your eye leads you and directly photograph that.

3. Make smaller groups of 5-6 participants and have them walk separately. One of the group members is the lead and makes sure that everyone is following the ‘rules’. Take pictures during the walk of everything that catches your eye. Photograph whatever you see – it is not about pretty pictures, just snap what triggers you. 

Some rules during the Photo Walk:

• Each person takes his/her own pictures.

• Let go of your social issue - just map the area by images and details that stand out to you.

• You can take a lot of photos during the walk (minimum 30, but 100 is even better)

4. Come together and discuss the next step: selection & naming of the pictures. Everyone selects between 3 to 5 of their own pictures and gives them a title and caption. The title and caption should describe what caught your attention – without judgment. You upload your selection on the shared space with the title and caption.

5. Upload the photos to a computer to organise them or print them. The idea is that you can start zooming in (see one) and zooming out (see many). If you made several photo walks, make sure you can analyse them separately as well as collectively.

6. Start going through the photos both one by one and see them all at the same time. Whatever comes to mind, write it down. Be careful not to categorise, look for insights. Don’t forget to zoom out and look at colours, shapes. Connect this to your feeling when walking and when seeing the photos. Look for parallels, perhaps buildings are built like a puzzle, or maybe you heard that water is a big issue, and now you can see little references to water (e.g. pipes, buckets, bottles etc.). These metaphors or references often mean something. 

7. Once you have a list of everything you noticed, start creating short stories of the most interesting insights: give every group of photos a title and write a short description. Connect the photos to the story and place details of the insight and the photos on a page or wall.

Note: This tool is based on the PAPA (Participating Artists Press Agency) methodology. The Photo Walk tool as we have described it is a derivative of the PAPA methodology. See more about the origin here:

How other organisations used this tool

How to use the outcomes of the tool?

The outcomes of the photo walk can be used as a starting point for an insights presentation, you can create different categories that will allow you to get ideas for solutions.

Related tools

Pattern finding
Combine the findings you have gathered into usable insights
If you find it hard to organise the photo’s and take out insights, you can use the pattern finding tool for more guidance
Inspiration presentation
Building a solution based on knowing what is already created and done by others.
You can use the patters you find with this tool as a starting point for an Inspiration presentation
Lottery game
Generating many creative and fresh ideas
You can use places, people or objects that were photographed as inspiration for the Lottery Game, where these can be combined into new ideas for solutions

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