7 Reasons to Join a Photography Tour

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Whether you are a traveller who takes photographs or an amateur photographer who travels, a photography tour is a great way to improve your skills whilst exploring new destinations with like-minded people.

I usually choose to travel solo.  I love the freedom it creates with the ability to adapt to my surroundings with a flexible itinerary and mind-set.  I find it easier to meet other travellers and befriend locals.  And as an outgoing introvert, it allows me to selfishly balance social interaction with time on my own. 

Solo travel is also compatible with my passion for outdoor photography.

So if I’m such a fan of solo travel, why do I find myself joining a photography tour once or twice a year?

 

7 Reasons to Join a  Photography Tour

 

1. Meet Like-Minded People

Photographers don’t make great travel companions for those not interested in viewing the world through a lens.  We set the alarm for stupid o’clock, we wait patiently for the light to change just to capture one shot and not only do we forsake happy hour for a sunset shoot, we keep taking photographs in the dark if there are stars in the sky.

It’s one of the reasons I often travel alone.  It’s also the reason I gravitate towards photography tours when I tire of my own company and want to share my hobby with like-minded people.  A photography tour provides a great opportunity to meet travellers from all walks of life with at least one thing in common: a love of photography.

And if you are worried about joining a photography tour on your own, don’t be.  The majority of people I’ve met on these tours have left their partners and friends at home and joined as solo travellers.

TIP #1: Check the group size before you book.

My experience is that smaller group sizes are better.  Not only are there less people to compete with for the best vantage points at a location, there is more opportunity to learn from the tour leader and from each other in a small group.  The tours I’ve enjoyed the most have been with groups of 5 or 6.

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2. Improve Your Photography

One of the worst reasons I’ve heard for not joining a photography tour is “I’m not a good enough photographer”.  The best way to improve your photography is to practice and to learn from the pros – and a photography tour gives you the opportunity to do both.  Not only will you be shooting from dawn to dusk but you will have the unique opportunity to shoot alongside someone who does this for a living.  Improving your photography is inevitable when you are fully immersed in it for a short period of time.

TIP #2: Who is the trip aimed at?

Most tours are open to photographers of all levels: beginners, hobbyists and even professionals.  But ask the question before you go to ensure the tour you have chosen is designed to meet your expectations.

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3. Access the Best Locations at the Best Time of Day

Joining a photography tour run by someone with a connection to a destination you are visiting is a great way to access the best locations at the best time of day.  Your tour leader may introduce you to ‘off the beaten track’ gems that only locals are familiar with.  They may provide entrance to locations not normally accessible to tourists.  Or their experience with the local conditions may help you optimise the light and be in the right place at the right time.

TIP #3: What is the tour leader’s connection to the location?

Are they a local?  Have they lived their?  Have they run tours there before?  And if not, do they engage local experts?  If the answer to all of these questions is “no”, you may not be getting the local expert knowledge you think you are paying for.

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4. Maximise Available Time

Scouting potential photography locations leading up to and during a trip is part of the challenge, adventure and fun of outdoor photography.  But it takes time.  A photography tour helps you maximise time when you don’t have a lot of it.  It does the planning for you and it makes sure you are spending more of your time photographing subjects instead of looking for then on the trip itself.

TIP #4: How much travel is involved?

Most photography tours will provide a general itinerary with the disclaimer of being flexible if adverse weather requires it.  But keep your expectations realistic by asking how much of this itinerary includes travel time.  Outdoor photography requires travel – that is inevitable – but the extent of it may influence the particular photography tour you choose to join.

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5. Learn a New Skill

Photography tours usually focus on a specific location, a particular style of photography or both.  This can provide a great crash course in a type of photography you haven’t explored before, for example: shooting wildlife, coastal long exposures, star trails or the Milky Way.  My first experience of the Northern Lights was on a photography tour that not only taught me how to look for them, but how to photograph them for the first time.

TIP #5: Is it a tour or a workshop?

A tour focuses on the location itself with practical advice offered whilst shooting.  A workshop may include training, critique and feedback sessions throughout the trip.  Both offer pros and cons and depend on your photography level and what you want out of the experience.

Star Trails - Drakensberg, South Africa

6. For Inspiration 

Inspiration manifests itself from a number of different sources on a photography tour: through the leader’s enthusiasm and experience, from the location or subject itself or through the different photography styles of other travellers.

One of the things I love most about photography is that it provides an outlet for the creative interpretation of a scene or event: there are no hard and fast rules.  I’ve often stood alongside other photographers, looked at the same scene or subject and discovered later that we’ve all created a completely different image.

A photographer likes to inspire and be inspired – a photography tour creates the opportunity for both.

TIP #6: Who is the tour leader?

A photography tour leader can make or break an experience.  So jump on-line and start stalking.  Does their photography style inspire you?  How long have they been running tours?  Do they also run workshops?  What other photography work do they do? Are there positive reviews from prior trips? Do they offer practical guidance whilst shooting or is their priority to capture their own shots first?

Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia_Kellie Netherwood

7. Learn How to Go It Alone

If you are a beginner, a photography tour gives you the skills and confidence to go it alone.  I’ve learned technical skills, I’ve learned that a beautiful view does not always create a beautiful photograph, I’ve learned how to scout for and approach new locations and I’ve learned how to optimise the light and work with the weather.

These are all skills I now apply to my solo photography trips.

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Have you been on a photography tour?  What are the pros and cons?

 

 

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. This was just the blog post I needed!

    I have been um-ing and ah-ing over booking a photography tour in Iceland for 2015 as I have never done one before…having never been to Iceland and it being such a photographical place, I think the benefits from taking a tour far outweigh going solo the first time I visit.

    Thanks for the push!

    • Sounds like I posted this at the perfect time for you! There are definitely pros and cons to going solo v a photography tour, but I agree with you, for a first time to a place as photogenic as Iceland, a photography tour is a great idea. You’ll see the best the country has to offer, learn how to photograph it…and can then return again on your own if you want to. I joined a photography tour in September in Iceland and also know another local guy who runs them, so let me know if you want any contacts for tours.

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