Photography holidays guide

As cameras give way to mobile phones and darkrooms to Instagram filters, it’s easy to dismiss photography holidays. 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.
Instead of encouraging us to spend yet more time viewing places through a lens, photography does the opposite – encouraging us to really observe the unfiltered world around us.
A photography holiday isn’t about taking professional-quality photographs; it’s about improving your images technically and creatively – an achievable goal for anyone. Travelling 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 holidays can, in the company of an expert photographer, local guides – and a group of passionate creatives with whom to share your newly created art.

Is a photography holiday for you?

Go on a photography holiday if…

You want to get closer to the places you’re travelling 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 holidays 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 holiday company to find out if your compact camera is suitable. You’re travelling alone. Photography holidays have high numbers of solo travellers, as they come to indulge in their hobby – an interest not always shared with friends or partners.

Don't go on a photography holiday 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 local people. 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.

WHAT DOES A PHOTOGRAPHY HOLIDAY ENTAIL?

A photography holiday 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 traveller is left to photograph as they please, and 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 have built up relationships with local 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 own 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 holidays 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.

Our top Photography Holiday

Northern Lights photography holiday in Iceland, coast & ice

Northern Lights photography holiday in Iceland, coast & ice

Photographic trip in the stunning west and southeast Iceland

From £3150 to £3250 10 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 1 Feb, 15 Feb, 30 Sep, 10 Oct, 20 Oct
2020: 9 Feb, 21 Feb, 1 Mar, 30 Sep, 30 Oct
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Photography or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

Travel photography inspiration

A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.
– Dorothea Lange, photojournalist
Before booking your photography holiday, 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.
You’ll all be familiar with Steve McCurry's work even if his name doesn’t ring a bell; his most famous subject – the ‘Afghan girl’ – has become far more of a household name than her photographer. However, McCurry’s impressive – and moving – portfolio stretches far beyond his renowned National Geographic cover. His first overseas job was in India, in 1979, where a chance encounter with some Afghan refugees resulted in him travelling overland through Pakistan – disguised as a local – to document the political unrest in Afghanistan, and make a name for himself as a photojournalist. While much of his work documents people scarred by conflict, his photographs also cover more benign yet fascinating subjects, such as the Indian monsoon and Buddhist monks.
A conservationist and photographer, California-born Ansel Adams (1902-1984) developed a passion for landscape and nature photography during trips to Yosemite National Park as a teenager. Adams’ work is distinctive; black and white landscapes using strong contrast and striking composition – almost painting-like – with his skill in the darkroom as important as his expertise as a photographer. His most famous images are of the western USA, its national parks and wildernesses – for which he was an outspoken advocate.
Another photographer who works almost exclusively in black and white is the Brazilian Sebastião Salgado. Expertly capturing landscapes, people and wildlife, one of Salgado’s most famous bodies of work is Genesis, hundreds of photographs taken between 2004 and 2011, on every continent of the globe. The images – all taken on film and hand-processed – are astonishing in both their incredible beauty – evidence of Salgado’s skill and talent – as well as their subject matter. He has sensitively photographed traditional communities living in harmony with their natural surroundings, as well as landscapes still untouched by the human hand. Previous work focused on coffee plantation workers, and the catastrophic effects of famine in Africa.
For a rare female perspective of the world, take a look at the work of Ami Vitale. A competent writer as well as a photojournalist, Vitale's blog reveals the fascinating stories behind her images, which provide sensitive insights into people and communities. Her work also incorporates wildlife and landscapes, often abstracted. She is a member of Ripple Effect Images, an organisation of journalists, photographers and filmmakers who document the lives of underprivileged women and girls around the world - and programmes that empower them - in order to raise awareness and increase funding.
Martin Parr does travel photography with a difference, and is a brilliant example of how to tip the typical travel shot on its head. In contrast with those who travel far from the beaten track to photograph exotic scenes and tribes, Parr typically visits the most clichéd holiday destinations - British seaside towns, the Great Pyramids, the leaning tower of Pisa - and then photographs the tourists, rather than the locals. His photos - garish, oversaturated - are witty and revealing, rather than traditionally beautiful, but in capturing today's 'modern tribes' and turning the camera back on the white, western traveller (usually the creator, rather than the subject of the photo) he has succeeded in pushing a different kind of boundary, taking the viewer into new territory.
Sir Wilfred Thesiger (1910-2003) was a pioneer of travel photography - and indeed of travel. Having spent his childhood in Ethiopia he returned to Africa in his 20s, leading expeditions and serving with the Sudan Defence Force, before travelling across Arabia. He spent many years in Iraq's marshlands and in northern Kenya, where he lived alongside local tribes, adopting their lifestyle entirely. His collection of 38,000 negatives, now with Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum, are therefore utterly unique; documenting places rarely visited, at a time before travel photography was commonplace, and observing the tribes from within, rather than as an outsider. His book Arabian Sands is described as a master travelogue with maps and photos to illustrate his tales.
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: MAKE IT KENYA PHOTO / STUART PRICE] [Go if...: Alif Ngoylung] [What does it entail 1: Jakob Owens] [What does it entail 2: Sead Dedi?] [Inspiration: Martin Jernberg]
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