Photography trips can be a spectacular adventure: You explore bucket list destinations, make new friends who have a shared interest, and improve your skills under the guidance of very talented (sometimes famous) photographic professionals.
But with so many organizations offering excursions of all kinds, it can be a challenge to find the best photography trip to meet your needs To make sure you get the most of your journey and investment, keep these seven questions in mind when weighing your options.
Ask Yourself These Seven Questions
1. Do I want a photo trip or a workshop?
Both offer instruction, but a photographic workshop usually takes place in one location, has a formal structure that includes assignments, critiques, and post-processing techniques. The instructor often pushes you out of your photographic comfort zone. The goal is to help you develop your eye and skills to take your photography to another level.
A photographic tour is a casual affair. The objective is to put you in front of photographic opportunities while also learning about the destination from a cultural perspective. The photographic leader is on hand to answer questions, inspire, offer suggestions, but there are no assignments, and you do as much or as little as you want. Unlike a workshop, there’s no accountability for your efforts.
(If you’re still on the fence about which to choose, check out my post about whether a photo tour or workshop is right for you. )
2. Am I inspired?
The body of work from the trip’s host photographer should inspire and motivate you.
Review the photo trip company’s online photo gallery of the previous tours led by the photographer in your desired destination. Do you like them?
Visit the photographer’s personal website and Facebook page. You want to get a feel for their skill level and sensibility. Photography is very subjective. Does their work speak to you? Do you find it compelling? Don’t pay to learn from an expert unless their images make your jaw drop.
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3. How many people are on the tour?
Pick a tour with the smallest number of guests for your budget. It can be difficult to cultivate the camaraderie that makes trips of this nature so much fun in big groups. “The more, the merrier” is also not conducive to capturing a location; it makes it difficult to take a decent photograph when you’re jockeying for a good position.
Large groups are distracting or intimidating to local communities, locals may be intimidated by a large pack of camera-toting travelers, and it may limit your opportunities for valuable one-on-one time with the lead photographer.
4. Is the itinerary crafted to make the most of my photography?
Unfortunately, some larger travel companies market their standard tours to photo enthusiasts by inserting “photography” in the title and adding a big-name photographer to the mix — without modifying the itinerary.
What should you expect? Worthwhile organizations craft their itineraries with the following in mind: the photogenic qualities of the locations, the time of day you’ll be shooting in relation to those destinations, and the customs and habits of the locals.
For example, any professional photographer will tell you that lighting can make or break an image. If you shoot a temple bathed in the glow of the rising sun, you’re more likely to take an image that will make you proud. If you don’t leave the hotel until 10 a.m., the light will be too harsh.
I’ve had the best luck with boutique companies owned and led by the lead photographer because they design their trips according to what they would need if on assignment.
5. Has the photographer leading the trip been to my destination before?
One of the many great things about photography tours is that you don’t have to worry about wasting time scouting locations.
Ideally, your leader has been there before and knows what looks best at certain times of the day. They know where the hidden gems are in addition to the tourist hot spots. They know the area like you know your own neighborhood, meaning you’re bound to capture more successful pics than not.
I won’t go as far as to say that joining a photographer who hasn’t been to your destination is a guaranteed bust, but I prefer that they’ve spent time in the destination.
6. Do I Want to Learn A Lot on this Photography Trip?
If you want in-depth instruction, tell the tour representative what you’re hoping to get out of the experience and ask if the photographer on board is the right person to meet your needs. Some tours are just about hanging out with a Nat Geo icon, while others are designed to be more hands-on, get you out of bed for sunrise, kind of trips.
Many big-name photographers lead photography trips, but that doesn’t mean they like to teach or, more importantly, are any good at it. Ask the company if you can speak to past clients and ask what the person’s teaching style is like.
I prefer photographic trips where the owner is also the lead photographer. That way, I can speak to them directly to make sure I’ll get what I need, and I can get a sense of their personality and whether we’ll be a good fit.
7. Is the Schedule Flexible?
Imagine visiting an exotic village in Southeast Asia. The lighting is ideal, and everywhere you turn, a photo is waiting to be taken. If your tour doesn’t have a flexible schedule, you may have to leave to make a lunch reservation. Some tours are stricter than others; it’s worth finding out before you hop on a plane.
The Moral of This Story
Ask a lot of questions. What you’ll learn could save you a lot of money, time, and effort. You are the client; you have a right to know what you’re getting into. The best companies will welcome your inquiries and do all they can to give you answers in addition to peace of mind.
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