Photography vacations guide

Photography vacations guide

2 minute summary

As cameras give way to mobile phones and darkrooms to Instagram filters, it’s easy to dismiss photography vacations. Do you really need to learn about all the manual settings on your camera? Do you even need a camera? But just as photography never truly replaced painting, so the iPhone has not destroyed photography. In fact, it’s made skilled photography even more special, an “old” craft, whose value increases as the number of adept photographers shrinks by the year.
A photography vacation isn’t about taking professional-quality photographs; it’s about improving your images technically and creatively – an achievable goal for anyone. Traveling to the most inspiring settings, at the most glorious time of day, you’ll pause to analyse the light and shadow and notice the smallest of details: a footprint, peeled paint, an unusual piece of jewellery. It pushes you to engage with your surroundings – and the local people – like few other vacations can, in the company of an expert photographer, local guides – and a group of passionate creatives with whom to share your newly created art.
Read more in our photography vacations guide
Go if…

  • You want to get closer to the places you’re traveling in. Photography forces you to look – hard – at where you are, to notice the small details, engage with people and see scenes quite literally from a different perspective.
  • You don’t know your aperture from your shutter speed. Photography vacations attract both absolute beginners and seasoned travel photographers. Tutors love nothing more than teaching a photography newbie to take photos they are genuinely proud of – and creativity is valued as highly as technical know-how.
  • You DO know your aperture from your shutter speed. It’s not all about technicalities; if you already know your stuff, this is a chance to get out into environments chosen for their photographic potential – in the best season and the best time of day.
  • You only have a compact camera. Many of our trips are open to those who haven’t taken the technical – and financial – leap to a DSLR yet, so chat with the vacation company to find out if your compact camera is suitable.
  • You’re traveling alone. Photography vacations have high numbers of solo travelers, as they come to indulge in their hobby – an interest not always shared with friends or partners.
Don’t go if…

  • You need your photos on Instagram as soon as you’ve taken them. Not only will you not be using your phone or tablet to take a picture, making instant uploads impossible, but you’ll also likely be far from a WiFi connection when you’re out shooting.
  • You want candid shots of locals. Forget shooting from the hip, or pushing your lens into people’s faces. You’ll learn how to engage with people and make them feel at ease in front of the camera. A happy subject = a happy photographer = a much better photo.
  • You’re planning on packing your selfie stick. This is about learning how to capture your surroundings, not capturing yourself with as few chins as possible.
  • You want a lie-in. Dawn – and dusk – are often the best time of day for photography; you’ll get softer light, emptier streets and more wildlife before the heat of the day kicks in.

Photography vacations travel guide


A photography vacation is all about being guided by the elements – by the shadows and the storm clouds, the sunset time and the freezing point of sea ice, the seasons and the festivities. You’ll have an itinerary – but you can’t schedule weather, or wildlife – so flexibility is key.
Your photographer guide will be attuned to the location and know when and where to get the best shots – but each traveler is left to photograph as they please, given technical assistance rather than being told where to stand and how to frame a shot – explore your creative side!
Local guides understand weather patterns and know how to adjust the itinerary to put you in the right place at the right time; they can also act as interpreters and assist interaction with local people. As the guides visit the same locations repeatedly, they’ll know many communities, and tour groups are made to feel welcome.
If things turn soggy and unphotogenic, this is a fantastic opportunity to step inside for a tutorial, or perhaps a laptop review of the day’s images to share what you’ve done well, and discuss what you can do better. As well as learning about your camera settings, many trips also include sessions where you’ll learn how to edit your images in Lightroom or Photoshop to ensure you return home with a brilliantly crafted portfolio – and have the skills to perfect your photos in future. Group sizes are kept small, so once out in the field you should have plenty of time for one-to-one chats with photographer, for advice tailored to your own interests – and your equipment.

The most full-on trips are the ones involving astronomy and the Northern Lights – as you’ll literally be taking pictures day and night, leaving little time for sleep – but the rewards are worth it. Some tours – such as those in India – may involve long drives, while vacations with a wildlife focus can mean very early starts. More relaxed trips will stay in just one or two places, venturing out each day – you may still be heading out to catch the sunrise but the pace will be more relaxed.

Travel photography inspiration


“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”
– Dorothea Lange, photojournalist
Before booking your photography vacation, it’s worth taking a look at the work of some great travel photographers to help you choose your style of photography, your subject and your location. Just flicking through a few copies of National Geographic should be enough to inspire you to pack up your camera bag and jump on a plane – but we’ve picked a few of our favourite travel photographers to get you started.Read more ▼
Photo credits: [Top box: Prachanart Viriyaraks] [What does it entail: Charlie Stinchcomb]
Written by Vicki Brown
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