Beginners’ photography holidays

“Seascapes are fab for learning how to compose creatively.” Geraldine Westrupp, of our specialist operator Wild Photography Holidays, is reflecting on the ideal locations for beginners. “We do that all the way through in northern Spain – days are spent exploring this beautiful stretch of coast, we review in the evenings, identify scope for improvement, and then the next day head to another beach to improve and build on skills. It’s great for advanced photographers too of course, but with beginners we tend to see rapid progress.”

It could be argued that practically any photography holiday is suitable for a complete novice. If you’ve got the necessary equipment, got the money to pay, got the energy to keep up on sometimes long days of shooting, there’s nothing stopping you from going along and having a great time. However, there are some beginners’ photography holidays that have been designed by expert operators which are specifically aimed at those with limited experience. In all likelihood these holidays will prove far more rewarding and useful for you than joining a tour with an ambitious, fast-paced itinerary for which you might not be completely ready.

When you’re first learning your craft, getting a feel for your equipment (stop sniggering at the back), you want a relaxed, supportive atmosphere and the ability to take your time. Perhaps most of all, you want guidance from an expert able to help you advance quickly, without skipping any steps when it comes to the theory behind the practical stuff. And, of course, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have all this in a spectacularly beautiful place, with excellent food, and welcoming locals that will be happy to point out lesser-known locations for you to get some unique images.

Which is where we come in.

Because at the heart of travelling responsibly is the desire to forge deeper connections with the environment and the people of a place. And by its very nature photography demands that you pay attention to the details, engage with locals, and find new perspectives.

What does a beginners’ photography holiday involve?

No experience necessary

Firstly and most importantly, no-one is going to expect you to be capturing professional-looking images either before, or during, the holiday. In fact, tutors actually relish helping complete beginners take the first steps towards producing photographs of which they’re really proud. You will probably be asked to bring a few of your own images along with you, to help the tutor get a sense of your abilities and interests. And if you don’t really know what any of the buttons on your camera do, or much of the terminology leaves you confused, you need have no fear of asking a question because most of the group will probably be around the same level.

Expert tutor / guides

Your instructor will usually also serve as tour leader, perhaps with the help of a local guide. They will be chosen not only for their expertise in photography and ability to share that expertise, but also because they are familiar with the destination – sometimes very familiar. Take Geraldine Westrupp, for instance. She and her husband Martin moved to Iceland for the landscapes back in the 1990s and have been leading tours in the land of ice and fire ever since, developing unrivaled relationships with local people and discovering no end of off-the-beaten-track locations.

Small groups

Photography holidays are typically small group trips, with numbers capped at around 10-12 people. That enables you to stay in smaller, often family-owned accommodations, and to have less of an impact on communities that can be fragile. But it also means that every member of the group can, over a week or two, get all the one-on-one time they need with the instructor. Travelling as part of a small group also makes for a very sociable and supportive atmosphere, and photography holidays often have a large number of solo travellers, there to follow their passion. But non-photographing friends and partners are, of course, more than welcome too. It’s also not uncommon for there to be more women than men on a trip, “which is great,” says Geraldine Westrupp. “Traditionally photography has been quite a male dominated industry, so it’s nice to have that ratio now. Several of our tour leaders are women too, which we’re very pleased about.”

Less travel

On a holiday aimed at more seasoned photographers, you may be in quite a remote, rugged destination, regularly moving from place to place. That can pose challenges for anyone still unfamiliar with how their camera really operates, or how to properly protect their equipment. In contrast, a beginners’ trip will likely focus on just a handful of locations, clustered within easy reach of the accommodation, perhaps a maximum of an hour away by car. Such is the case with holidays in Slovenia, the Lofoten Islands off Norway, or the coast of northern Spain. With less travel time involved, and the ability to easily visit the same locations twice or more, you have much more time to practice, review and improve at a relaxed pace.

Reviewing your work

In many cases, what people find to be the highlight of their holiday is the opportunity to have their efforts reviewed by the tutor and other participants. There will probably be a couple of evenings set aside for a slideshow, where you’ll be discussing the technical and creative aspects of each others’ images. As well as offering a positive and supportive environment to have your work honestly assessed, these sessions can be incredibly useful, with practical advice forthcoming so that you see rapid progress in the field the next day. Photography holidays aren’t about getting award-winning photos (although some people do use them for exactly that). At their core, they are about improving technically and creatively.

Subjects

This naturally varies widely and is dependent entirely on where, and when, you travel. In Iceland, you’ll definitely be focusing on landscapes, but perhaps also macro photography and, if there in winter, hopefully capturing the Northern Lights. In northern India you might be combining epic Himalayan backdrops with intimate portraits in villages, monasteries or festivals. And in coastal areas, such as Spain’s gorgeous Asturian region, it will definitely feature seascapes. “On the beaches in particular we’re looking at long exposures, or how to photograph seascapes meaningfully” Geraldine agrees. “We’re after smooth, soft images of the water.”

Equipment

You’ll receive a full list of both essential and recommended equipment well before departure, but one thing you’ll almost certainly want is a laptop or tablet with editing software such as Lightbox installed. And it may surprise you to learn you don’t actually need a camera. “We love smartphones,” emphasises Geraldine, “and we’re as happy to help with them as we are top of the range cameras. Our tour leaders are skilled at teaching them both.”

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 £3250 10 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 30 Oct
2021: 7 Feb, 28 Feb, 1 Oct, 22 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Photography or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Fitness

Again this depends on where, and when, you’re going. In Northern Spain, for instance, you’ll need to be relatively fit and able to cope with some steep paths down to the beaches. There will be uneven and rocky terrain to negotiate with camera bags and tripods. Everest Basecamp, an incredibly desirable destination especially for experienced photographers, is another matter altogether, and you’ll need to be comfortable trekking for long distances, at high altitudes and in cold weather.

Flexibility

Hey, if you want to do a little yoga in the evenings, no-one’s stopping you. But the flexibility we’re talking about here refers to your itinerary. Photography holidays are based in the outdoors and, as such, they are always guided by the elements. Since the best light is often at dawn or dusk, you can expect some early starts. But you’ll be heading out to take advantage of all weathers – from bright sunshine to moody storm clouds. Your guide may pick up news of impromptu celebrations in a nearby village, or that whales have been seen off the coast, and immediately change the plan for the day.

Flexibility, expert tuition, reviewing your progress and basing yourselves within easy reach of several locations – these are the keys to a successful beginners’ photography holiday. They make an ideal way to dip your toe in the water of this kind of trip, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can progress in knowledge and ability in just a short space of time. Expect to return with new friends, new skills and a new portfolio you’ll love to show off.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: © Wild Photography Holidays] [Intro: © Wild Photography Holidays] [No experience necessary: © Wild Photography Holidays] [Less travel: © Niall Benvie / Wild Photography Holidays] [Fitness: © Geraldine Westrupp / Wild Photography Holidays]
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