Photography vacation tips


Responsible Travel’s
advice for photographers

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.”
This oft-repeated saying is understood by many to be the ethos of responsible tourism, but at Responsible Travel, we’re not quite so sure this is the case. Snapping and leaving is not what our photography vacations are all about; ideally, as well as a photograph of someone you should have learned a bit about them and their life, their family, their job. In return, you may want to share with them something about your own life, or to purchase their flatbread or pho, or send them a copy of their portrait once you have printed it out back home.
Part of being on a photography vacation is learning how to take photos of people respectfully and ethically. Ultimately, the happier your subject is, the better the final shot will be. Always request permission before taking someone’s photo; if they are unsure, just thank them and don’t try and change their mind. And, just as back home, never photograph a child without their parent/guardian’s permission.
Even better, strike up a conversation – about the produce they are selling, the food they are cooking, the artwork they are creating. If you don’t get a photo, you’ve still learned about the local culture (and local people are encouraged to see tourists as people they can engage with, not just people who come along, take a photo and leave). And if you do get a photo, you’ll have a lovely story to accompany it as well.
Except in certain circumstances (Ethiopia’s Omo Valley being a notorious example), you shouldn’t offer money for photographs, or give sweets or trinkets to children. Sometimes it may be appropriate to give gifts to a village elder or local guide to distribute later on. However, if you are taking a photo of a stallholder or craftsperson, for example, it’s a nice gesture to purchase something from them. Alternatively, in more remote regions where people rarely have the opportunity to take pictures of themselves or their families, you could offer to send them the printed photos, but only do this if you are sure you are going to follow up on your promise.

Research your vacation

Geraldine Westrupp, from of our supplier Wild Photography Vacations: “Check out the people who’ll be working on the trips, have a look at their website thoroughly and see if you like the style of images that the tutors are putting out. Phone the people up and talk to them – ask them questions and really find out what you’re getting into before you pay you money. Make sure it is a proper, committed photography learning vacation because a lot of companies nowadays have jumped on the bandwagon of saying ‘photo tours’ – and they’re just glorified bus trips where you hop out and take photographs. So ask hard questions of what you learn and how it’s structured.”

Tips for solo travelers

Lesley Schofield, from our supplier All Points East, shares her photography vacations advice for those going solo:

“Most people come on these tours on their own – even people who are not single. Sometimes they say it’s their husband or wife’s idea of hell – but they want to come on this tour. A lot of people choose it because it’s their hobby – and one doesn’t always share one’s hobby with their other half. This makes them quite nice tours to meet people. Typically, they’re not going away to meet other people in a social way, they’re going because they’ll want to talk to other people about photography. And most of our travelers have a wide interest in other places – so they’ll look at other photography they’ve done, or wildlife for example, and discuss that in the evenings. There are other likeminded people there, people that have gone off to pursue an interest rather than just going off on vacation.”

Safety first

Geraldine Westrupp, mountain guide, photographer and founder of our supplier Wild Photography Vacations, says safety is as important as photography:

“Most of our staff have an impeccable mountain background. They’re excellent photographers, but they also know how to look after people. And that’s prime, because the environments we’re operating in are wild and remote and we need people who are used to dealing with groups in wild places. Because of my background, I know a lot of photographic people who come from that background so all these guys that you see are used to looking after people, and that is important, especially when you’re standing on a glacier or an icy beach, you’ve got to know how to take care of broken legs and all sorts.”

Learn a new language

Nathan Horton, our photography vacations supplier in Southeast Asia, recommends thinking about the words you use:

“You’ve got all these words about how to 'capture' images, how to 'shoot' photographs. These all sound a bit like hunting: capturing images and shooting people. One of the first things I try to teach people is how to get that language out of their heads, to try to talk about creating images or making pictures rather than taking them. Don’t 'shoot' people; try and engage with people. Unfortunately, a lot of the language we learn as photographers makes us sound like hunters, and we don’t want to come across that way.”

Health & safety



  • Visit your GP or travel clinic 6-8 weeks before departure to ensure you are up to date with any necessary vaccinations.
  • Malaria may be present in some regions – particularly Africa and the Amazon. Check with your GP or travel clinic if you need to take antimalarial medication to visit these areas.
  • Be sure to buy comprehensive travel insurance that includes emergency evacuation/repatriation. If you are an EU citizen, you can apply for a free EHIC card online which means you will be eligible for free or reduced cost healthcare within the EU.
  • Photography is absorbing – you may forget how long you’ve been standing in the sun, especially if you’re at altitude or the temperature is cooler. Be sure to keep reapplying sun block and drink plenty of water. A hat is also a great idea – and it’ll keep the glare out of your eyes.


We highly recommend getting insurance that covers your camera and any other equipment you are taking with you. Even if nothing happens on your vacation, it’s worth it for the peace of mind.
When photographing wildlife, don’t get so engrossed in taking the perfect shot that you forget your guide’s advice. Safety always comes first.
Never feed wildlife to encourage it to come closer. As well as being potentially unsafe for the animals, it’s always dangerous to alter their behaviour and associate humans with food.
You may be on a photography vacation – but that doesn’t mean the usual tips about not walking around with valuables on show don’t apply. Your tour leader shouldn’t take you anywhere dangerous – but markets, crowded tourist areas and backstreets are always at risk from pickpockets, no matter which corner of the globe you are traveling. The same goes for public transport; be discreet, and know when to hide a camera which is worth more than a local annual salary.

Photography vacation tips

Recommendations from those who have been on our trips

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful photography vacation advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your camera bag.
Make sure you get enough sleep before coming - the opportunity to capture fantastic landscapes will keep you busy! - Nicola Heffernan

Weatherproof cameras are advisable and photographer's gloves are useful. Your hands will definitely get cold. Silica gel can be handy as an additional method of protecting equipment from moisture after use.Tania Skye, Iceland

Specific camera insurance might be a good idea. Stand by your equipment, one of the group lost his camera when his unattended tripod fell over into the water.Eileen Young, Iceland

Make sure you take your thermals and good footwear! Remember, you're at the mercy of Mother Nature and Lady Luck.Kym Barlow

Even if you are a photography beginner, go for it… you'll learn very fast.Mary Gledhill

Maybe do not weigh yourself down with too many lens, comfortable shoes and make the most of the review sessions.Rob Innis, Andalucia

Traveling in a small group offers the opportunity to take nice pictures. - Robert Hoorn, SE China

Approach with an open mind to cultural differences. Be prepared for some potentially long days on your feet, with your camera gear!Garron Hilton, SE China
Photo credits: [Top box: All Points East] [Safety first - single: Erik Söderström] [Learn a new language - double: Nathan Horton] [Review 1 - Suzanne de Pelsenaire:] [Review 2 - Graham Goodman: Maureen]
Written by Vicki Brown
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Photo credits: [Page banner: MAKE IT KENYA PHOTO / STUART PRICE]
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