Choosing the right photography tour takes time and effort. You don’t want to waste your precious annual leave, booking the wrong trip so it helps to have a checklist of things to consider when beginning your research. Having a mental checklist of which countries to visit in your grand scheme is a good starting point then it’s about choosing the tour for you.
The photography tour itinerary – choosing trips geared for photographers
They all look good on paper and usually cover all the obvious locations. It’s tough to write original insights for the places visited on any trip. More often it will sound perfect in terms of travel but won’t say a lot about the photography and that’s the tough part as it’s only the images that really count although the cultural aspects of any tour or trip are also invaluable.
So how do you know you’ll get the photos you want? I would suggest looking to links for photos taken by past photography tour attendees and not those taken by the tutor or tour leader. Ask who took the promoted images. Also, seek out reviews. Testimonials posted on most photo tour websites should be accepted as legitimate but also look to Trip Advisor (although by no means perfect) or other independent sources for reviews and see how they fare. Many of the larger tour operators don’t use Trip Advisor.
The tour leader – hopefully not hogging the best position
It’s essential that he or she knows the terrain and has visited most of the places designated for the tour. That way they can offer insights into where to shoot from, time of day and more importantly they’ll know what photographic opportunities are coming up ahead and that helps you decide on your approach and the type of lens to select. Perhaps they’ll also know local people and that’s about giving access. More of that later.
Photographic students on a photography tour with us are more often than not capable with their cameras. They don’t need an overbearing individual to dictate what to shoot but suggestions are received warmly. Finally, it’s better if the tour leader is not leading every set-up with their camera. It’s your photography tour. They should be patient and supportive.
It doesn’t matter if they’re not a world established travel photographer. Your photos are the important thing. As long as they can impart useful information when requested to get you out of a tight spot with your photography. It may be changing camera position or trying a different focal length. I think of the tutor on the road as being equivalent to the golf caddie. Can they quickly assess how to improve your images. One gadget you can take on a tour to help facilitate this is a loupe. Have one of these dangling around your neck and pinned to the screen your tutor can look at your photos even standing in bright sunlight.
Genre – what kind of photography am I interested in?
It helps to know your interests. You can keep an open mind of course and that’s probably the best approach. Having too specific an idea of pre-imagined photos from a place you’ve never visited may be limiting. Once again look to see the kinds of photography the tour offers and then check this against the published images.
They should offer links to student galleries or photos. If they don’t then you can’t be sure tour students are achieving the kinds of photos you hope to get. If it’s about photographing people then how will this happen exactly? What kinds of photos of people will you hope to get? The tour information should indicate the type of photos you’ll have access to, be it reportage or portraits and the kinds of opportunities you’ll get. For example is the local responsive to cameras and has access to people been pre-arranged giving you the maximum chance for great photos?
Perhaps you want to challenge yourself by taking different photographs. This is often the case and why not acquire a new skill set? Let your tutor know in advance what you want to achieve from the tour via email so it’s clear and then that can be one objective for the trip.
Price – surely more means better
This very much depends on personal circumstances of course but no one wants to pay too much. It’s human nature to think that a cheaper tour will mean a less effective one but it helps to look into some factors that affect pricing.
One key factor to consider is that tour leaders or companies who are based in the country or close to the tour’s location will offer better value as their own costs will be cheaper – they won’t need to fly themselves. Secondly is there a middle operator who you are going through. That will offer some reassurance but will keep the costs higher. Smaller bespoke operators offer better value but they don’t have the big company name to perhaps reassure you.
Group size – how big is too big
We only run photography tours for up to 6 people so I can’t envisage how a larger group would work. Logistically any size can work for a trip but for photography, there’s often only limited space at some locations to photograph. For a landscape tour with two tutors, a large group could work very well.
Photographing people in their homes it’s a different matter. Firstly space becomes a premium and no one should underestimate how other photographers mark someone else’s photo with their back or profile. So small groups are essential if this is the kind of tour you are planning to go on. Also how large is the vehicle and is there enough comfort for the size of the group advertised for the tour.
Accommodation – will I get some sleep?
The tour should state the standard of hotels and whether rooms are en-suite or twin. It makes a difference at the end of the day to have your own space and sharing may be reflected in the price. Ideally, individual hotels will be listed on the itinerary so you can check on them.
One word of caution here. Some websites in developing countries are not sophisticated and don’t always show the accommodation in the best light so check out reviews to read between the lines. Once again TA is a good starting point.
Darren Lewey runs Photography Tours in Morocco which are designed for both beginners with some knowledge of how to use their cameras, as well as more experienced photographers. To find out about how we can take you to the next level read about Morris under ‘stateside – the caddie role’ via our student stories page. Here you’ll find links to his review and images. We’ve run more than 20 High Atlas and desert tours in Morocco and our tour itineraries are carefully crafted and constantly tuned for you to get the richest photographic experience from the 10 days. Tours can also be extended to 14 days to include the medina and port town of Essaouira.