These tours come with something special: A photography instructor

Nothing quite matches the feeling of coming home from a trip with great photos to show for it. Not only is it satisfying to have images you’re proud of, but it keeps the experience alive for years and years to come.

Increasingly, travel companies have been focusing on photography, having top photographers lead the way in destinations all over the world. The trips typically are geared for all skill levels, from those who are just learning how to shoot to pros looking to hone their skills. Programs typically include lots of shooting, with guidance, instructional work (lectures, presentations) and reviews and critiques of each participant’s work. It all adds up to a truly memorable trip.

Here’s a sampling of some of the best trips around. Prices quoted do not include transportation to and from destinations and are per person based on double occupancy unless otherwise noted. Some of the trips include meals. Check individual Web sites for more information.


For trips of one to two weeks, you can choose from a wide range of destinations around the world—the rugged cowboy country of Wyoming…the historic squares and landmarks of Paris…the epic landscapes of Mongolia. Some examples…

National Geographic 10-day itineraries in the Galápagos Islands are offered several times a year, starting at $4,750 and limited to 25 participants. Participants zoom in close to the islands’ wildlife (including blue-footed boobies, seals, iguana) and dramatic volcanic scenery. (select “Photography” under “Trip Types”).

Popular Photography Mentor Series in Iceland for 10 days in late August for $4,100. On these “treks,” there is one photography instructor (mentor) for every 20 trekkers. Participants travel through the country’s tremendously varied landscapes (lava fields, glaciers, black-sand beaches) and can view geysers, boiling mud pots and hot pools, taking spectacular photos along the way.


Some programs focus on specific types of photography…

The Santa Fe Photographic Workshops’ High Desert Light focuses on New Mexico’s magnificent high desert. This five-day workshop in late September includes classroom time at the year-round educational facility in Santa Fe, as well as plenty of in-the-field shooting—$1,095 (lodging not included).

Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge. Come February, you can learn two skills at the same time—dog-sledding and winter photography—in Ely, Minnesota. Five nights, $1,575.


Zooming in on architecture and culture in American locales is the focus of several weekend workshops.

National Geographic offers four-day photography trips in New York City, San Francisco, New Orleans, Tucson and Washington, DC, on various weekends throughout the year, starting at $1,395 (excluding hotel accommodations) and from about $1,875 with hotel (depending on which city).

Popular Photography’s Mentor Series has a three-day trip in Key West, Florida, starting at $1,175 (lodging is extra). You can take photos of sea turtles from a plane or shoot a palm tree–lined beach at sunrise.


The difference between a ho-hum shot and a “let’s enter this in a contest” photo isn’t usually about the locale—it’s about how you take the shot, such as which angle you shoot from. Here, what the pros recommend…

Before you go…

Choose your camera carefully. While a point-and-shoot camera is less expensive, smaller and lighter, you have limited control over aperture, shutter speed and focus. With a Digital SLR (DSLR), you have full manual control. For learning purposes, many of the organized travel photography trips and workshops expect participants to use a DSLR. However, there may be some exceptions. Each company has an equipment packing list.

Select lenses carefully. To keep it simple, carry a zoom lens that will go from wide angle to telephoto. That way, you don’t have to worry about changing the lens to capture the image you want.

Travel with several high-capacity cards. With today’s high-capacity digital storage media, no one should have to delete images on a trip to make room for new ones. All too often this can lead to mistakes (such as deleting a special picture). Solution: Take twice the number of cards that you expect to need.

Pack a back-up device. A small netbook, external hard drive or other storage device can hold all the photos you take on your trip. Get in the habit of backing up every night. You don’t want to learn the hard way that once images are gone, they’re forever lost. You could lose a camera, drop it into water or inadvertently delete images.

Take a power strip. This way you can charge your cell phone, camera battery and other family members’ electronics at the same time. Be sure to also take along the right plug adapter for the country you’ll be visiting.

On the road…

Shoot in raw. If you’re planning to use Photoshop or any other editing software, by shooting in “raw” photo format (which is available in the settings of most DSLRs), you’ll have greater flexibility when editing the images.

Ask permission to take photographs of locals. This simple courtesy can turn a frown into a smile very quickly. Take one shot, show it to the person on your camera and offer to e-mail it to him/her.

Go hunting for photos. Don’t just wait for something to happen in your path. Go off exploring—wander down little streets or climb over sand dunes.

Shoot toward the sun. This is a classic photography no-no, but the fact is that you can sometimes get great silhouettes and other special effects by pointing your lens in the direction of the sun.

When shooting wildlife, get down and dirty if you have to. Lay in the mud, hide in the tall grass—the best wildlife photographs often require going that extra mile. But always keep a safe distance.

Avoid the temptation to capture people and an entire building or landmark in a photo. If you’re photographing a person in front of a pyramid, don’t expect to get the whole person and the whole pyramid. Instead zoom in close to the person, and show just the edge of the pyramid.

Back home…

Tell stories with your photos. While you might be tempted to post all 276 photographs of the elephants crossing the river on your Africa trip, take the time to edit them down to just a handful of shots. Put them together so that they tell a story. And if you’re sharing on social-media networks (such as Facebook), take a moment to identify where the pictures were taken and who or what is in them.

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