Sometimes as a photographer it’s easy to get into a rut. You just can’t seem to make that next step to push your photography further. Photo tours or workshops might be expensive, but they also offer a really great option for people to expand their photography knowledge. On a recent tour, one guest pointed out that often for amateur photographers, spending a couple of weeks photographing is the most amount of photography they might do in months! Like anything, the more you do it and the more you are guided, the more likely you are to improve as a photographer. But beware because not all photography tours are the same and I have come to know many a horror story. So here is a checklist of 5 things you should check before booking a photo tour.
Is it a photo tour?
Silly question you may ask, but with the explosion in the demand for photo tours, it has meant that everyone is trying to get into the act. Sometimes tour operators simply package up a normal sightseeing tour as a photo tour.
A photography tour is unique and should be designed specifically for photography. In the same way as putting together a shot list for an assignment, a photo tour has to not only go to the locations but at the best possible time of day. A good photo tour would have been designed with this in mind but also with possible locations and scenarios that you wouldn’t normally find on a regular tour.
Don’t just look at the price
It’s understandable that anyone wanting to go on a photo tour will want to do so as cheaply as possible. But not all photo tours or workshops are the same. Just because something is more expensive doesn’t make it better. But at the same time if a tour is much cheaper than others you should ask some questions as to why?
For example, compare the time of year that the tour will be running. Often some tours are deliberately moved to the low season to avoid higher rates but that in turn means you might end up with days of rain or fog. Also, check what is included and what is not. Are meals included? Do you have to pay anything extra for things like entrance fees? Even internal transport like flights and trains might not be included in the costs. All of these little costs might add up to make the tour more expensive when you are there.
Check the standard of accommodation
Another factor in the cost of a photo tour is the standard of accommodation that you will be staying at. Is it 5-star hotels, Air BnB or hostels? There is nothing wrong with any of these. But if one tour is more expensive than others it could be because they are staying in better locations and at more comfortable accommodation. Ask the tour provider to give you a list of places that you will be staying at and check them out for yourself.
Who is the photo tour guide?
You are going to be paying a lot of money so you should ensure that your photo instructor is going to be able to help you improve your photography. Look at their work and see if it’s the sort of style that you like. Are they a professional photographer or just a hobbyist? Again, there is nothing wrong with either option, but you should know the person who will be teaching you.
Are they cutting corners?
Whilst most of the above points are about preferences, the more serious question to ask is about safety and logistics of a tour. Many photographers choose to cut costs by not having the adequate and correct insurance to cover the tour. So, in the event of an accident this can not only mean that you will not be covered but also that your own personal travel insurance might become invalid.
For example, a photographer may decide to drive the tour group themselves. But they don’t have the correct insurance and licence for chauffeuring or driving groups. If they have an accident it may mean that your own travel insurance will not cover any costs as you were not in an insured vehicle.
There is also a logistical issue as well. Some places like the National Parks in the US require special permits for photo tours to be conducted. If a photographer doesn’t have this they could be arrested and thus meaning that the tour would not be allowed to continue.
So always make sure that you ask if the tour guide is he has adequate insurance and they use professional and properly licenced guides and drivers.
As someone who has run photo tours and workshops for many years, I have seen and heard all manner of experiences from guests. Some have told me of the lack of teaching from their instructors whose sole focus was their own photos. Others have talked about more serious incidents. But don’t worry there are plenty of tour operators who run fantastic workshops and tours that will not only help you become a better photographer but also mean you have a great time as well. Just always make sure you do your research and choose the best option, not the cheapest.
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