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How to Choose a Photography Tour Abroad

How to choose a photography tour.
Photo Wikimedia Commons: Ter-burg, adapted by Transitions Abroad.

If taking a photography tour has crossed your mind, don’t hesitate for another moment.

A photography tour gives you a hands-on opportunity to develop or polish your skills as a photographer, brings you together with individuals with similar interests, and gives you a unique perspective on a destination you may have visited many times.

Whether you are a professional photographer or a novice with your first camera, there is a trip for you. Tour operators and photography instructors offer a range of custom-designed tours that cater to every traveler’s needs. Here’s a checklist to help you make your choice.


Ask yourself why you are going on a photography tour. Are you expecting technical lessons? Do you want plenty of free time to explore on your own? Are you prepared to spend hours indoors in critiques of your work, or would you rather develop your film at home?

This past October I took my second photography tour of Ireland, this time with Taylor & O’Neill and Focus Adventures. I went on the trip knowing exactly what I wanted to accomplish: to come away with as many written and photographed images of Ireland as possible and to take side trips to off-the-beaten-path places.

Photographic Instruction

Once you know what you want out of a photography tour, start doing your research.

Karen Gordon Schulman with Focus Adventures in Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a teacher with a great amount of technical knowledge. Her trips and workshops focus more on the art of seeing, an approach that appealed to me.

Keep in mind that some photography instructors may ask you to complete a variety of assignments, drop film at night, and spend time in critique the next day. Some instructors may also expect you to have a certain level of experience. Don’t be intimidated by this, but be honest about your skills. An instructor like Schulman will take students from those with their first point-and-shoot camera to professional photographers.

Ask what your group size and group ability will be. A tour on a bus with 50 people will be a different experience from one in a van with five people.

Photography Tour Arrangements

If you are going on a trip to Ireland, for example, you want to travel with someone who knows Ireland. Some photography instructors may handle their own destination details, but others let the travel experts handle the particulars. Since I wanted to learn as much as possible about the country through my photography and my writing, I needed a tour operator who was knowledgeable about Ireland.

Clare O’Neill at Taylor & O’Neill in St. Paul, a photographer herself, works with individuals and small groups in planning trips to Ireland. O’Neill has spent her lifetime traveling to Ireland and knows much about the local history and color.

Photography Gear

If your photography instructor does not have a pre-trip checklist or equipment requirements, ask her to put some information together for you. Focus Adventures and Taylor & O’Neill provided my group with an extensive checklist and general information that were invaluable packing tools for the trip.

Schulman recommends that you err on the high side and pack extra film. Her general rule is at least three rolls of 36-exposure film per day. Most instructors will let you use whatever film you want but they will also give you pointers as to what brand and exposure to buy.

Always check your photography gear and bring the owner’s manual and spare parts and batteries. Some instructors require a tripod, filters, and flashes. Ask to be sure.

Be prepared with cleaning accessories, notebook, pens, and plastic zipper bags. If you are going to sell your photographs some day, bring model and property releases as well. Contact your photography instructor or tour guide before leaving if you have any questions.

For More information on Photography Tours Abroad

Focus Adventures offers a variety of workshops worldwide.

Toscana Photography Workshop (TPW) offers workshops worldwide and a calendar of options for the coming year.

National Geographic Expeditions Photography Workshops are offered worldwide, with some of the finest photographers.

KIM LIPKER writes from Steamboat Springs, CO.

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