Photo scavenger hunts have never been so popular. They are enormous fun for both children and adults alike and are just as appropriate to play as a corporate team-building exercise as they are as a hilarious bachelorette party game or to let the kids run off steam in the park. Thinking of putting together your own photo scavenger hunt, or just curious to know more? Read this comprehensive photo scavenger hunt guide and you'll soon be an expert.
What Is a Photo Scavenger Hunt?
A photo scavenger hunt is a fun, active party game for all ages in which participants compete to be the first to complete a list of photo-based tasks in a limited amount of time. Typically these tasks are to photograph specific people, places, items or scenarios, often with the players themselves featured in the photographs.
A photo scavenger hunt can be played either in teams or by individual participants. The winning team or player is usually decided by a points system, with more difficult photography tasks awarded a greater number of points. Further points may be awarded or deducted depending on the amount of time competitors take to complete their list of tasks. Bonus points may also be given for exceptionally creative solutions to the tasks.
While photo scavenger hunts have only really become popular in recent years, they are of course based on traditional scavenger hunts, which have been around for decades, if not centuries. So to get a real grasp of how a photo scavenger hunt works, it's probably a good idea to first become familiar with the more traditional variety.
What Is a Scavenger Hunt?
A scavenger hunt is a game in which participants are given a list of objects to find within their immediate environment. Either a time limit can be set, with the winner being the individual or team that has gathered the most objects from the list once the allocated time has elapsed, or alternatively no limit is set but instead the first person or group to gather all the objects is declared the winner.
A scavenger hunt differs from a treasure hunt in that the latter usually involves searching for desirable or valuable objects (such as candy or other gifts) that the finder then keeps. Conversely, in a scavenger hunt, the items themselves are often trivial or useless, yet their successful collection leads to the awarding of a more desirable prize to the winner. For a young children's scavenger hunt, the objects on the list are often hidden before hand by the game's organizers so as to guarantee participants a certain degree of success (and save some tears).
Scavenger hunts may be played within a relatively small, predetermined space – such as a home, backyard or public park – or alternatively may require players to hunt for their objects across an entire neighborhood or even a city. If played in a home, objects to collect can be simple items such as a pencil, a teddy bear or a book. When played outdoors natural items such as leaves, flowers or stones can be more appropriate. For example, a list of items to collect if playing in a park or garden might include: a stone with a hole in it; three yellow leaves; a four-leaf clover; a feather, etc.
How Does a Photo Scavenger Hunt Differ from a Regular Scavenger Hunt?
A photo scavenger hunt follows the same format as a traditional scavenger hunt, but replaces the items to collect with a list of photographs that participants must take. For a children's photo scavenger hunt, these photographic tasks might be very simple, and in fact may not differ too much from the more traditional version of the game: for example, children might be required to photograph red leaves, black stones, daisies, a cat, a bird in a tree etc. Once players have found and photographed all the items on their list, they return to the organizers to show that they have successfully completed all the required tasks.
For adults and older children however, the tasks can be far more complex, inventive, and challenging, often involving a high degree of cooperation between team members and/or interaction with strangers. As an example, participants might be required to form a human pyramid, enlisting the help of passersby to photograph them in the act. The more taxing and ridiculous the tasks, the more fun the game is likely to be for very everyone involved.
Photo scavenger hunts combine all the fun and activity of a regular scavenger hunt with an opportunity for team-building and cooperation between strangers, thus making them an ideal exercise for breaking the ice at the start of a working relationship, conference, retreat or other professional or leisure event. What's more, players will capture many fun visual memories of the event as part of the game itself, and these can be shared between participants, or even used for promotional purposes, at a later date. For wilder social events, a photo scavenger hunt can make for a fun drinking game, and thus they are well suited to bachelorette parties (hen nights) and bar crawls.
How to Play Photo Scavenger Hunt
A photo scavenger hunt is sometimes also called a picture scavenger hunt or a camera scavenger hunt. Whatever the name, the format and rules remain pretty much the same. Below are the main points to consider when planning a photo scavenger hunt.
Things You Will Definitely Need
While a photo scavenger hunt can be played by individuals competing against each other, it's usually much more fun if instead the participants are divided up into small teams or pairs. Nine would probably be the minimum number of players for a good game, as this would allow for three teams, each comprising of three people. However bigger teams (say four to eight people) will permit players to attempt more difficult tasks. Naturally, the more teams there are, the more competitive and fun it will be for everyone.
Teams can be randomly grouped by getting everyone to draw a number from a hat. However, depending on the range of people who will be playing, it might actually be better if the organizer manually picks the teams in order to guarantee a more even distribution of ages, genders, and access to personal transport etc.
These can be DSLRs, compact cameras or even smartphones. Alternatively, for a fun hipsterish alternative, consider providing Polaroid cameras instead of using digital ones (although in this case you'll also need to supply plenty of instant film, which isn't cheap).
Kits for photo scavenger hunters…
…or go with this hipsterish alternative
A Viewing Device
You will need a laptop, tablet, monitor, TV-screen or other device on which to view all the photos at the end of the game.
Photo Task Lists
One for each team (or for each participant, if playing individually instead of in teams). You can either print these out and give them to team leaders or put them online for everyone to access.
At the very least you will need to arrange somewhere for everyone to meet up at the start of the game, and then to regroup once it is over. Bear in mind that looking through all the photographs and totaling up the final scores could take some time, so choose your location carefully. This could be someone's house, a park or other public space, or a bar or restaurant.
You might also want to set limits to the geographical zone within which players are permitted to move around in order to take their photos. For example, teams might be restricted to staying within the confines of a specific neighborhood and disqualified if they go beyond this boundary.
Naturally you'll also need a prize (or prizes) for the winners. If you don't want to spend a fortune, goodie bags filled with candy, toys, and gift or drinks vouchers are a fun and affordable option.
Things You May Also Need
Depending on how wide an area you're playing in, teams might need transport to get around. If public transport isn't a realistic option, make sure each team has enough members with cars to comfortably ferry around the entire group.
You might consider setting up a #hashtag and getting teams to upload their photos to an Instagram or Flickr account as they go along, thus allowing everyone to see how the game is progressing in real time.
Food and Refreshments
You can't expect a team of hunters to march on empty stomachs. Providing refreshments will also keep people entertained while you're totaling up the scores at the end.
Scavenger Hunt Rules
Now that you have a list of resources, you may still be left wondering exactly how to play scavenger hunt.
To play photo scavenger hunt you will first need a group of friends. If participants will be playing individually then you will need a minimum of five or six people for it to work. If in teams, then no less than nine players are recommended. There is no upper limit to the number of people who can participate beyond your ability to get them all organized.
Once teams have been decided, they are each given a list of photographs to take, typically within an allocated time limit. These can be photos of simple objects or locations that teams must find on their own, or may be more ambitious photographs that involve team members, and perhaps even non-playing members of the public, in the solving of problems, the carrying out of actions or the creation of complex scenarios.
Each photo-task is worth a set number of points, likely varying depending upon the degree of difficulty involved in successfully carrying out the task. Usually a time limit is set and all teams must return to the prearranged rendezvous point within this limit, whether they have completed all the tasks allocated or not by the designated hour.
Once the game is over, all the players reconvene to together look at the photographs taken by each team. Points are awarded, and a winning team is declared.
Photo scavenger hunt rules are simple and quite flexible, and can easily be adapted to whatever your particular circumstances or requirements. Here are a number of suggested rules that you can either use or ignore, depending on your needs.
- If playing in teams, team members should stay together throughout the duration of the game
- There should be no collaboration between teams
- All photos must be made by team members during the duration of the game itself
- A photo can only be used once in a game, i.e. responses to tasks must be unique and made specifically in order fulfill that particular task
- In order to put a stop to any possibility of cheating (e.g. by teams downloading photos from the internet and passing them off as their own) you can do one of two things: either you insist that at least one (or even all) team member(s) should be visible in every photo, or you give each team an object to carry around with them (for example a doll, toy, or even the team name written on a board) and tell them that this must feature in every photograph. Any photo that does not meet this criteria will not be awarded any points.
Things to Consider when Planning a Photo Scavenger Hunt
Photo Scavenger Hunt Tasks
Coming up with good tasks takes some imagination. As the organizer of a photo scavenger hunt, thinking up photo-tasks to give to teams is likely to be both the most challenging part of your job, and at the same time the most fun part of it. And in fact “fun” and “challenging” are really the two key words to keep in mind here, as it's important that each task is fun for the players to do and yet also highly challenging.
Most people like to hug, so setting the task “take a photo of a team member hugging someone” clearly isn't going to push anyone to the limits of their abilities. On the other hand, hugging a total stranger while covered in whipped-cream might require a little more courage. Similarly, asking players to do something like dressing up in scuba diving kit likely wouldn't cause too much trouble if done in private, but insisting they all do so while shopping in Walgreens might be more deserving of some bonus points.
You don't always need to make tasks so ridiculous or extreme as these though. Even a fairly straightforward task such as “take a photo of at least three team members sitting in a barber's chair all at once” can prove tricky and time consuming: first the players will need to find a barber's shop with a big enough chair, then they'll need to persuade the owner to let them sit in it to take the photo.
Tasks can be even simpler still though and still prove challenging. Just taking a simple shot of a location or an object – such as “a house with a blue door” or “a man in a tuxedo” – could occupy a lot of time. So try to be realistic about how long teams might need to complete all – or at least quite a few – of the tasks you set them.
Still, you should try to make your tasks as amusing, demanding and original as possible. You will be surprised what utter madness your players (and the random strangers they've roped into helping them) will be willing to get up to in the name of a photo scavenger hunt.
How to Compile a Photo Scavenger Hunt List
One way of making it easier to put together a list of tasks is to decide upon a theme for your photo scavenger hunt, as this narrows down the options somewhat and will help to suggest many people, places, objects and actions to photograph right from the outset.
A theme can really be anything. if you and your friends share similar interests then it may already be obvious what the theme should be. Or if you're organizing a photo scavenger hunt in a specific neighborhood then perhaps a little digging into the history of the area will help to suggest many of the tasks. Alternatively, if your scavenger hunt coincides with a popular holiday then this may already narrow things down considerably. For example, if it's Halloween then you're probably going to want to include some tasks involving pumpkins, cobwebs, black cats, white sheets and brooms.
If you plan on awarding points not just for successfully completing a task, but also bonus points for how imaginatively players complete them, then you'll need to set tasks that are open to more creative interpretation. Even just a simple task such as “make the scariest photo ever” can produce wildly varying results.
Sometimes you might want to be more specific – and surreal – in your tasks though, but coming up with this kind of task can often seem quite difficult. So if you are stuck for ideas it can be helpful to first make a list of separate elements and then put them to get quirky combinations.
For example you could write out a series of columns with the following titles (or any other categories you might want to add):
Location | Food | Drink | Animal | Person | Object | Body Part | Plant | Action | Question | Mood | Movie | Song | Celebrity
Then quickly fill in as many fun and funny examples of words that go into these categories as you can think of.
For example, under Location you might write: “Starbucks”, “graveyard”, “mall”, “launderette”, “Luke's house”, “duck pond” etc.
And under Food write “pizza”, “noodles”, “banana”, “cupcake”, “eggplant”, “wasabi”, and so on.
Once you've got plenty of examples under each column, start picking and combining elements from a few different categories to see what kind of tasks they suggest. So for example you might take the word “mall” from the Location column, “banana” from the Food column, and “Harlem Shake” from the Action column. You probably already have your own idea of what kind of photo-task this particular combination of words might suggest…
Treasure hunts often provide participants with tasks in the form of riddles that must be solved before the players will understand where to look for the item. Sometimes these riddles are given in the form of rhymes. This adds an extra element of fun to the game, for sure.
In a treasure hunt, discovery of the hidden item of course confirms that players have correctly solved the riddle. However, with a photo scavenger hunt, there is no way for players to really be certain that they have correctly deciphered the riddle (and therefore understood the task that they are required to carry out) until after everyone has returned to base and the game is over.
For this reason, depending on the kind of tasks being given to players, instructions given as riddles may or may not be practical for a photo scavenger hunt. At the very least, they will add a further level of challenge that might be too much for very young players.
By all means give tasks to players in the form of riddles, but be aware that some players are likely to misinterpret the meaning of some riddles and therefore produce totally different photos to the ones they were meant to shoot. This may or may not prove fun.
The successful completion of each photo-task should net players a certain number of points. So that teams can tactically plan their order of attack, the precise number of points that each task is worth should be made clear to participants before the game begins.
For example, for the completion of the most simple tasks, players may receive ten points. Slightly more difficult tasks could be worth twenty points, and really demanding ones 30 points, and so on.
If players know in advance that doing certain difficult tasks will get them higher points, they might want to try these first, saving the easier ones for later if time will allow.
In order to make the game even more challenging, bonus points can be given for meeting certain criteria or successfully carrying out extra tasks. For example, bonus points might be awarded to the team that:
- is first to return to base
- is first to complete all the tasks
- completes the hunt with the lowest mileage
- shoots the photo containing the greatest number of people
- involves the greatest number of strangers in their tasks overall
- wears the most ridiculous costumes while hunting
Points can also be deducted for a variety of reasons, such as returning late to base or for poor photography skills.
Additional points can be awarded for adding extra elements to photographs beyond the basic tasks. E.g. players might be given a list of items that can be incorporated into any shot/task they want throughout the hunt. Like trump cards, each of these bonus items can be played only once during the entire game. For example, a bonus might be rewarded for a photo that contains:
- a police officer in uniform
- a goat
- Santa Claus
- Donald Trump's hairpiece
- cheese and pickles
- a unicorn
- a unicycle
- Miley Cyrus
- a wrecking ball
Or whatever random items you desire.
You should probably decide beforehand how flexible you are going to be about the interpretation of items such as these though. For example, unless there happens to be a certain individual called Melania on one of your teams, then clearly the chances of anyone actually gaining access to The Donald's toupee are somewhat slim. However, in this particular scenario you might award points to the team that manages to photograph the object that is most reminiscent of the president's esteemed cranial adornment.
So as not to risk some teams taking much longer than others, leaving everyone else bored while they wait around for the last players to finish, usually a time limit is set for completion of the game. Points can be deducted for every minute that a team is late in returning to base. Use cell phones to be sure that everyone is operating on exactly the same time
Naturally, half of the fun of a photo scavenger hunt lies in looking at all the photos the other teams produced and showing off your own efforts. There are two ways to approach this: either everyone goes out to shoot and then comes back with their hoard of photos to share with the others at the end, or participants upload their shots to a dedicated social media account such as Flickr or Instagram as they go along, thus allowing everyone to see what the others are doing.
The first option has the advantage of saving everything as a surprise for all the participants to enjoy together at the end of the game. It also removes the temptation of anyone copying ideas from other teams (although this problem can also be avoided simply by setting each team a totally different list of photo-tasks from the outset). The second option adds an extra degree of competitiveness to the event, with teams able to see how the others are progressing in more or less real time: spurring them on to do better, and be quicker.
Photo Scavenger Hunt Checklist
Before the Day
- Send out invites
- Make sure everyone knows where they should be meeting
- As speed is of the essence, suggest participants wear practical footwear such as sneakers.
On the Day
- Divide everyone into teams
- Distribute cameras and make sure everyone knows how to use them
- Hand out task-lists
- Make sure everyone understands the rules and the points system
- Encourage teams to be as inventive as possible in approaching the photo-tasks
- Make sure everyone knows where they are to meet at the end, and at what time
- Make sure everyone is on the same time (i.e. use phones, not watches)
- In order to avoid cheating, you might also want to give each team an object that they must include in every picture
After the Day
- Consider compiling an album or photobook containing the best images from the hunt that you can give to all the participants as a memento.
- Start planning the next one!
Photo Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Photo scavenger hunts can be played by both kids and adults, and in a wide variety of social – and even educational or business – settings. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Photo Scavenger Hunt for Adults
Even adults like to play games, and the more opportunity they allow for social interaction, friendly rivalry, creative problem solving, and extrovert behavior the better. A photo scavenger hunt has you covered on all four counts.
Corporate team-building Photo Scavenger Hunt
The degree of interaction and cooperation required to play photo scavenger hunt makes the game a fantastic team-building and ice-breaking exercise. If you need to improve levels of cooperation between work colleagues then organizing a photo scavenger hunt could be a great way to boost morale and encourage greater camaraderie. As the game can be adapted to play anywhere, it can just as easily be integrated into other team-building trips or activities you might already have planned. Themes and tasks can be designed to relate directly to your line of business or to promote the kind of collaboration you'd like to see your employees engage in more often within the work environment.
Educational Photo Scavenger Hunt
In an educational context, photo scavenger hunts can be an excellent way of discovering a neighborhood or town. For example, they can be incorporated into a school or college level history class, prompting students to look more closely at their environment. They can even be a good way to learn the basics of photography itself.
Bachelorette Photo Scavenger Hunt
It's not always easy to come up with fun ideas for a bachelorette party (that's a hen night to you Brits). Particularly one that strikes just the right balance between the wild and the tame. A bachelorette photo scavenger hunt can be as safe or as risqué as you want, you just need to gauge your guests: if they're fairly straight-laced then you should probably keep the lewdness to a minimum, but if they're a little on the wilder side then too many tame tasks will leave everyone bored. Either way, if the bride-to-be has various groups of friends that don't all know each other, then a photo scavenger hunt can be a great way for everyone to get acquainted very quickly.
Bar Crawl Photo Scavenger Hunt
By their very nature, bar crawls tend to be a lot of fun (a big group of friends, lots of alcohol…what could possibly go wrong?). With that said though, once you've been on a few, the formula can get a little stale. By combining a bar crawl with a photo scavenger hunt you can easily inject a whole new level of energy and fun into the proceedings.
Tasks can either be drink-related, or just need to be performed in or around the watering-holes along the route of your bar crawl. Try alternating photo-tasks with other outrageous challenges and drinking games – allowing those with little talent for photography to compensate by means of their stamina for reckless and life-threatening levels of alcohol consumption. Yippee!
Costume Photo Scavenger Hunt
One of the most funny scavenger hunt ideas for adults is setting a theme, compiling a list of photo-tasks according to this theme, and then getting all players to dress up in costume that fits the same theme. For example, if the theme was “the 1980s”, then tasks might include finding and photographing an arcade video game, a BMX, a tape recorder, and Tom Selleck's mustache; and players might wear Hawaiian shirts, rollerskates, sweatbands and fluoro spandex as they go about the hunt. In this case, shooting with Polaroid cameras would be pretty much a must!
Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids
Children love scavenger hunts, and a photo scavenger hunt is no exception. By getting kids to cooperate on complex tasks in teams, this fun game can also have an educational side to it too.
Kids Party Photo Scavenger Hunt
Photo scavenger hunts are great for kids' parties, especially when there'll be a lot of guests and you need to keep them entertained for a long time. Photo-tasks can range from very simple ones that are easy to do indoors – such as “build a tower of dominoes”, or “everyone swap coats” – to more active photo-tasks for playing outside in the yard or street, such as “do hand-stands against the wall”, “dig a large hole and put Luke in it”, “throw heavy objects at the neighbor's windows and run away” or “order pizza and rob the delivery guy”.
Photo Scavenger Hunt in the Park
A day in the park can be the perfect opportunity to play a photo scavenger hunt. Tasks can include photographing plants, trees and even animals so that kids will have the opportunity to explore their local environment and become more familiar with nature. With all that open space, there's also the option of getting teams to collaborate on more ambitious physical activities without the risk of anyone getting heart or breaking anything.
Photo Scavenger Hunt Bingo
As an extra twist, you can turn your photo scavenger hunt into a game of bingo. Instead of giving players their photo-tasks in list form, lay the tasks out in a grid, like a bingo game-card. The first team to complete a line of tasks (either horizontally, vertically or diagonally) is the winner.
This is great for a photo scavenger hunt in short rounds – instead of one long game lasting hours. It can be played for as long as it holds everyone attention, and then quickly ended once players start to become bored.
Video Scavenger Hunt
You can make your scavenger hunt even more challenging by turning it into a video scavenger hunt. In this case most of the procedures will remain the same, however teams will need to document their tasks as videos rather than as photos. Naturally, the tasks will need to be allocated specifically with video in mind or they'll produce boring results. For example, the instructions “shoot a green armchair” would be fine for a photo scavenger hunt, but are unlikely to make for a particularly exciting video. Instead tasks such as “sing a song to a stranger” or “climb to the top of a tree” are probably better adapted to videos than photos.
When organizing a video scavenger hunt you will also need to consider adding specific rules to the game, and disqualify all submissions that do not respect these guidelines. For example, you'll probably want to set a maximum (and minimum?) video duration, otherwise there's the danger of receiving overly long videos that will send everyone to sleep.
Photo Scavenger Hunt Apps
There's an app for pretty much everything now, so it should come as no surprise to discover that there are many apps for photo scavenger hunts. Here are a few you can check out, many of them for free:
Photo Scavenger Hunt IOS Apps:
- GooseChase – GooseChase Adventures
- SnapQuest: Photo Scavenger Hunts for Kids – Intuary
- Klikaklu – Scavenger and Treasure Hunts – Coopercode LLC
Photo Scavenger Hunt Android Apps:
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