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Are Guided Photography Tours Worth It?

by Wendy Perrin | March 3, 2015


Wendy, I’ve been browsing through National Geographic’s guided tours, particularly the small-group photography trips. Do you have any experience with these? I’m typically an independent traveler, but the photography aspect sounds really enticing and I’m just wondering if you would recommend them. Thanks for your great site!  –Becca


Becca, I’ve heard mixed reviews. One great photographer I know, contributor Susan Portnoy of The Insatiable Traveler, took a National Geographic photo tour to Morocco in 2010. She says that, although she had fun and it ran without a hitch, it was disappointing from a learning-about-photography perspective: “It was clear to me that they used one of the general itineraries, added a professional photographer to the tour, and called it a day. Nothing was altered to consider the special wants/needs of photography, especially where light was concerned, which is the crux of successful images. We were having breakfast in the morning when the best light was available, out in the field when it was harsh, and then in museums at sunset. After being on other photographic tours since, I am very aware of the things it lacked.” Check out Susan’s article Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Travel Photography Tour.

Another great photographer and contributor, Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo, has had a different experience. He’s taken three National Geographic photo expeditions—to India in 2008, Burma in 2013, and Ethiopia in 2014. He also did Nat Geo’s Tuscany Photo Workshop in 2005 and its Santa Fe Workshop in 2008, and he’s headed to Japan with them in November. Eric has also written advice that I’m sure you’ll find eye-opening: Photography Trips: What You Should Know First.

Whatever you do, Becca, be sure to choose a destination you’ve always dreamed of exploring and a photographer you like and admire. Good luck with your decision, and here’s hoping the photo trip you pick will be the first of many!

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  1. Linda Kolb

    We took a “photography” tour with Frontiers North in Churchill, primarily to see and photograph polar bears. The photographer with us added nothing to the tour, in fact, she was a less experieced guide than one of their regular tours would have had. The trip, itself, was wonderful but paying extra for a photographer to come along with us was a waste of money. I’d be very careful to know exactly who the photographer was and what he/she was experienced in before I did this again.

  2. Andrea Ross

    We’ve found that some guests love a good photography tour…if it’s really based around photography! Photographer Joel Collins leads a Strabo Tour to Thailand and Cambodia with us and he designs it around his needs for good light, time to go over results and just added time in certain temples so guests don’t feel rushed. I love that these tours often get guests into a temple away from the crowds and their travelers seem to get a lot out of the experience both from a travel perspective and a photography perspective. The other thing we’ve had guests do recently is include a local photographer as part of the tour. In Cambodia Anna Bella Betts offers a one-day photo course where she goes over basic camera settings or gets more technical if you’re more advanced. She also offers a post-production course at the end of the day that to me seems the most valuable! She also knows the hidden temples and how to get away from the crowds. We have these one day classes available in a lot of our cities and guests love it…a little instruction, but not a full tour. Hope this helps and happy travels!

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