“Get a good pair of walking shoes” - A statistical photography analysis

The war photographer Abbas advised people who wanted to improve their photography to “Get a good pair of walking shoes… and fall in love.”

Photography is my favourite and most serious pastime, and my main creative outlet. I have been interested in photography since 2002 when I borrowed a friends early digital point-and-shoot camera and by some accidental fluke managed to take an otherworldly photo of the main street in my hometown. A few months later I got my first digital camera, started taking pictures, and haven’t really stopped since. My tastes in photos have changed over time many times, as has digital photography itself as it has become an ubiquitous part of culture. For the last 10 years I have tried to actively think about how to improve and consider photography as an art form.

One thing has not changed since I started in the early 2000’s: my preferred mode of taking pictures has always been to walk for hours upon hours, and shoot what I encounter. In cities, through forests, over mountains. The advice from Abbas has a profound resonance with me.

A recent change in many people’s life is the introduction of ever-present personal tracking systems, enabled through increasingly cheap advanced sensors in electronic devices such as cell phones. The most recent phone I bought a couple of years ago came with the ability to passively count the steps of its owner throughout the days. Reflecting on this on yet another day of walking with my camera the other week I realized that I could put Abbas advice to the test: what is the effect of walking on my photographic productivity?

The number of steps I have taken in each day for the last year and a half was easily extracted from my phone. From my photo management software I could parse out the number of photos I had captured in each of the days.


Many factors contribute to the inspiration that goes into wanting to capture more photos. But I was wondering, how much more productive am I simply by walking further?

To answer this, I set up a generalized linear regression model with a Poisson likelihood using brms, predicting the number of photos taken as a response to the number of steps I had taken. After fitting the model I investigated the marginal effect and found that on average I capture about 50 additional photos for every 10,000 additional steps I take in a day.


On a typical day of photo-walking I walk about 30,000 steps. In the future I will appreciate these steps even more, and be more motivated to walking further, since now I know the degree to which it affects my inspiration.

An R notebook with the analysis for this post is available on Github.