By hosting a photo scavenger hunt, you can utilize your local area, add special items to find and explore your community. This type of event incorporates physical activity with fun. So, let’s start with the basics of planning a photo scavenger hunt.
1. Indoors or outdoors.
Since you’re taking pictures and minimizing impact to your area, you can do either indoor or outdoor hunts. Of course, the age of your participants may influence this such as younger kids taking pictures may do better outside where they can be loud and silly. The time of year can also be a limiting factor. Decide if your scavenger hunt will be indoors or outdoors.
Will you be inside a single store or a mall? Will you be at your camp or use the entire town? You need to determine how much area the hunt will cover. Can your participants move through the area within their teams on foot or will you need to organize transportation? You may need to provide a map with locations marked if you wish to keep the scavengers within a certain area or if you’re only utilizing certain areas of a location. Explore locations where you might be able to host a hunt. Look at the pros and cons of each location. Determine where your scavenger hunt will be held.
NOTE: Be aware you will need to travel the location(s) during planning as well as before the event to make sure nothing has changed.
You may need to limit the amount of time for your scavenger hunt. A small area like one store might be as short as an hour. Adults who have limited time may be given a full weekend to meet up on their schedules to participate. Make sure you don’t make it so long that people get bored and quit. You need to also make sure that the items on your list can be completed in the time allowed.
You need to let others know you are having a scavenger hunt. These should be shared about two weeks before the hunt for friends, longer if you’re planning for a larger group. You can notify others by invitation or a flyer. You can make it free or charge and provide patches, drinks, food, etc. Complete your planning and create an invitation for your planned participants.
By having a purpose or creating a theme, you’ll find it’s easier to create your hunt list. You can provide or ask participants to bring additional items for the hunt. For example, if you just want to have fun, you can ask the scavengers to decorate items they find with props, create street art or encourage strangers to participate – all while taking photos for proof. If you want preschoolers to learn colors, that can be the theme. Brainstorm themes you would like to do. Check out the Enrichment Project supplements for this badge set to get started.
6. Number of participants.
Smaller areas require smaller teams while a larger area may need a driver or chaperone included in the team. Keep your teams in groups of 2 – 5 participants. Review your location for the hunt and determine the ideal number in teams in regards to area, transportation, etc.
You may want to identify your teams. Identifiers help your scavengers identify each other and if you include members of your community in the hunt, they can also identify your scavengers. This might mean similar colored clothing, pre-printed team shirts, etc. Decide if (and how) you’d like to identify and differentiate your teams.
Brainstorm the rules you feel need to be given to your scavengers. Make sure to review them before the hunt. You may wish to give each team a short hand-out as well. Rules might include:
- Start / end time
- Start / end locations
- Area for hunt / map
- Forming teams
- Teams remain together
- Behavior guidelines
- Responsibility for damage
- Possible issues (shops)
- Tips for what you want in your photos
- Cell phone number in case of emergency
- How points will be awarded
- How final files will be collected
- Penalty for being late
- Photo judging and awards
9. Shot restrictions.
You may want to put some restrictions on your photo shots for the scavengers. Here’s a few to get you started on your brainstorming session. You may choose not to have any restrictions as well.
- When a shot requires everyone / entire team, that means asking someone not on your team to take the photo.
- Artistic renderings, knick knacks, etc. of an item is NOT the item.
- No online images allowed, you must take your own.
- Every shot must include a team member.
- Someone can be anyone who is not part of your team.
- A stranger is someone no one on your team knows. Once you take a picture of them, they are no longer a stranger.
- Each picture may only count as one item on your list – no double-dipping.
- If there are exact requirements in the description, all of them must be present in the photo.
- If judges cannot figure out the picture and which item it is, it will be disqualified.
- Judges will determine if your photo content counts for bonus points.
10. Photo kiosks.
The easiest way to collect and judge photos are to have physical prints. Arrange with a local photo kiosk to allow the participants to print a certain amount of photos which you pre-pay or you can have them bring back the receipt and you can reimburse each team. You will need to include additional time for the photos to be processed. Of course, this is unnecessary if you intend to share online (see Step 11).
11. Online sharing.
Using an online photo sharing site will save your participants time and allow everyone a chance to download the photos they want after the scavenger hunt. Have a computer available after the hunt and make sure each camera / phone has a way to upload the photos to a photo sharing site online — including cables for your computer or WiFi. Create an area on the site for each team.
NOTE: If you’re doing this with adults, you could give them a time limit beyond the hunt to upload their photos from a location of their choice so you don’t have to do it on site.
12. Judging and awards.
Judges should either not be part of any of the teams or judging should be done by everyone who participates. You need to make sure you do not look as if any one team is receiving preferential treatment.
If you are at a restaurant, you can review and judge while everyone drinks / eats. You can also host a separate awards ceremony at a specified time afterwards. Make sure you schedule time for your players just to discuss the fun as this will add to your event.
13. Series hunts.
If your team wants to do multiple hunts, consider setting up a team on Facebook or another social media site where you can contact your participants. You can share the list online and meet up afterwards to share your images. Consider setting up monthly themes or explore photography techniques to expand your photography skills.
Scavenger hunt tasks
14. Creating the list.
You can find lists online (free or purchased) or you can create your own. Usually, you want between 20-50 items. See the supplements provided for the adult, teen and youth extensions of this badge program. Take your final list with you as you tour the hunt area and personalize it for what you think would be fun. Don’t forget to think outside the box.
15. Bonus points.
If you’re interested in allowing the teams to earn “bonus points”, you’ll need to spell out how they can get them. This is a good way for the teams to break any ties which may occur. Make notes as you are personalizing your list.
16. No points.
If you don’t feel like giving out points to the teams, you can make a shorter list that can be easily completed in your time limit. When the first team returns, review their photos. If they have gotten everything on the list, they win.
17. Required or not.
You may wish to make some of the items on your scavenger hunt required. It is your choice to make it easy or difficult. You might ask for a picture of a “mascot” for the team. You can have them ask a stranger to take a picture of the entire team to help you identify the participants / teams. What other required shots might you include?
18. Decorating an item.
If you plan on asking your participants to decorate items before taking photos, be sure to include this information with your event information or have a “care packet” available for each team. You might want to put hats on inanimate objects or do chalk drawings in front of a supportive restaurant. Brainstorm other nonpermanent ways to decorate items.
19. Placed items.
You can place items for people to find as the scavenger hunt instead of sending them to specific places. We have done fairy hunts where all of the fairies are placed before the event. In a local yearly hunt, yard gnomes are placed in a large natural area for adults to find. Be sure to check and make sure it is okay to place items and have a way to collect them after the hunt. Think of themed events where you can place items for the hunt. Placed items are great for a rainy day activity indoors as well.
20. Participating shops and more.
If you plan to have your scavengers hunt in shops and public buildings, make sure you have permission. You don’t need someone calling the police because people stop by and take photos. You might be pleasantly surprised by offerings by these places as well. One year during a town-wide hunt, one of our team members got to put on the full fire-fighting outfit for a photo at a specific firehouse and a local ice cream store gave each girl a free cone. Make a list of stores and organizations that might be willing to participate.
21. Sets versus individual tasks.
You can take one item, like the color blue, and have your team take a specific number of photos of items with that color. Alternately, you can have them take one picture each of a variety of colors. Simple sets of the same item work better with younger children. Explore how you might take an individual item and make it into a hunt.
22. Participants in shots.
By requiring participants to be in shots, this keeps them from taking pictures before the hunt. You can choose not to have participants in shots or require a certain number of participants in shots of the entire team. If you require the entire team, they may need a non-member with them or be prepared to ask strangers to take their photo. Which of these will work best for your hunt?
23. Meeting up.
You need a location everyone can meet, get their team assignments and learn the rules. You may want to make the start and finish place at the same location so if anyone becomes ill, gets tired of hunting, etc. they can come back and wait for everyone else. Find a location that will suit your needs and make the arrangements.
Digital cameras or cell phones work well for photos that will be uploaded. You can add in non-digital cameras if you plan on printing the photos (or make special plans for these people). Make sure you send a reminder to charge batteries, empty cards and bring any necessary cords / electronics to transfer photos. In addition, make sure each team has a watch for telling time and a cell phone with a predetermined number to call for questions.
NOTE: If a camera fails during the hunt, you may instruct the team to sketch the scene / item. You may also choose to have disposable cameras available for a replacement.
25. Other items.
Brainstorm items you may want to have available before the event for your participants such as water bottles or pencils. Make sure these items are available, especially if you request your participants to bring items and they “forget.”
26. Rules and scavenge list.
Before you hand out the lists, make sure each team has a way to take pictures and a way to tell time. Go over the rules and ask a few questions to make sure everyone understands. If you hand out the list before going over it, you’ll be ignored as they read it. Hand out papers just before they walk out the door.
27. While they’re away.
This is your time to make sure everything is ready for your teams’ return. Set up a system to check all devices to make sure they’re hooked up and ready to go. Prepare the judges by discussing how they will be judging the photos or putting out voting sheets for participants. You want to be ready to receive them from half-way through the hunt to the official stop time. What other steps can be completed while your scavengers are out?
28. Meet up after hunt.
Often, this will be the same place you started. You can have free refreshments available — mainly water or other hydrating beverages. Other activities you might include:
- Snacks or full meal
- Reviewing photos
- Awarding prizes / certificates
- Participation awards
- Returning props
- Team photos
29. Viewing the photos.
Viewing the photos is part of the fun. You can have everyone share the cameras and their favorite shots or put them on a computer and do a slide show against a wall so everyone can see. Your scavengers can give commentary on the shots as a group or use a spokesperson.
Awarding certificates for each participant is very simple and downloading photos gives them souvenirs. For main awards, you don’t need to be extravagant. You can craft awards or purchase them at a local dollar store. You might even have blank certificates on-hand and ask each team to award their members for special things they did during the hunt. Brainstorm ways to provide awards that have meaning to your scavengers.
31. Take notes.
Note what worked and what didn’t. There might be rules you didn’t know about or places to avoid if you do it again. Also note what everyone’s favorite things were. Keep a copy for your next scheduled photo scavenger hunt.
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