Photography holidays aren’t cheap, for the same money you could often buy another lens or other piece of equipment that you have had your eye on. So are they right for you and are they worth the money? Here I take an objective look at photography holidays and whether they will end up being worth the money for you.
I run a range of photography holidays so my view may be a little biased, but having run them for so long I also know the type of people who are likely to get the most out of them and how to find the right holiday for you.
This is absolutely the first question you should ask yourself as this will help determine which holiday is right for you. If you want to focus on developing your photographic skills, a group holiday may not be best for you for as everybody attending will learn at a different pace and also start the trip with differing abilities. If you are looking to vastly improve your skills over a weekend, having a broad range of people on the same trip can slow the learning down dramatically and you could end up disappointed.
Should however you just want to spend a weekend socialising with a broad range of fellow photographers, attending a 1-2-1 photography holiday on your own may not be best for you as you’d be socialising only with the instructor and not a large group.
Before looking at the vast range of photography holidays available, decide what it is that you want to achieve by attending and find a trip that will help you meet those objectives best.
There are certain areas of a photography holiday that the tutor will have zero control over, the weather being a great example. If you book on a landscape photography holiday to the Peak District and go with the expectation of learning good composition techniques, the best camera settings to use in certain situations, how to create HDR images, etc. then you won’t end up disappointed should the heavens open, the mist comes in and you don’t manage to capture those killer shots this time around as you’ll have gained the knowledge to do it in the future.
If however, you attend a landscape photography course with the sole aim of capturing amazing shots rather than learning how to capture them when the conditions are right, you may end up disappointed that the weather “ruined” your trip.
It’s so important to attend a photography holiday with realistic expectations of what can and cannot be delivered by the photographer running the trip, this way you’ll walk away happy with your investment in your photography learning.
There is zero doubt in my mind that the people who get the most out of attending our photography holidays are the people who attend with the right attitude.
I’ll use our example from a Snowdonia Photography Holiday we ran with 2 models and 4 photographers. I’d planned this trips for about 6 months in advance, we’d hired models, booked a cottage in the mountains, bought swords and armour and parachute dresses and put on a big-budget shoot to the best of our abilities.
What we could never have planned for was that the Beast From The East storm hit us just 24 hours into the trip, temperatures dropped to -5 degrees and we got snowed in. We will always carry on regardless and whilst everybody decided to head out with us and shoot, half of the group let the conditions ruin their experience. It was cold, we weren’t doing things how they normally did them and they didn’t really want to learn. The other half chucked themselves into the experience and walked away with some astonishing shots from the trip and new knowledge that will last them a lifetime.
If you attend with a positive attitude, be open to learning new techniques and exploring new ideas you will always get the most out of these trips. This leads us nicely into the next point:
Every photography holiday will be run by a photographer who has their own ideas about how the trip should be run. It is so important that you find the right photography tutor for you, who runs the trip in a way that you are going to be happy with.
I run our trips how I would run my own photoshoots and I’m not shy of telling people this up front, it’s advertised on all the holiday booking pages. For example, when I woke up in Snowdonia, snowed in and realised we were there with 2 models and a ton of swords and armour, I didn’t think once about not going out. How amazing were these shots going to be in the snow!
But I also know a lot of photographers who would have stayed in the cottage and organised an alternative plan because of the conditions. Neither is right and neither is wrong, it’s just a case of ensuring you have the same mindset as the photography tutor you are attending with.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone before booking and asking questions about how the holiday runs. If you look at it from the flipside, the photography tutor running the holiday will want likeminded people on their trips rather than taking people along who are unhappy with certain elements, so they’ll be thankful you did take the time to ensure you were both reading from the same page!
Take a good look at the photos available on the photography holiday website as this is the level they will be teaching you towards. If you don’t like the photos on the website selling the trip, you are not going to like what they teach you when you are there because that is their level of photography they are teaching at that point in time.
Photography information is available everywhere, on Youtube, in books, magazines, lectures, etc. When attending a photography holiday you are benefiting from experience in 2 ways; the experience of actually being there taking photos and the benefit of the photography tutors many years of experience.
There is nothing in this world that is going to make you a better photographer than actually getting out and practicing. If you want to be an amazing landscape photographer, you aren’t going to achieve this by simply reading books on landscape photography, you have to get yourself out and take some photos.
Photography holidays allow you to do this in abundance but have the bonus of having somebody along who may have done it 1000 times in their life prior and you can benefit from the many failings they have already worked through meaning you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
You could of course just spend the money you were going to spend on a photography holiday on a new lens or other pieces of gear that will give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
The problem with photography is, you don’t know what you don’t know and new gear never makes you a better photographer.
So your ability to get the best out of that new lens might have increased 10 fold by attending a photography holiday and learning new knowledge that would make you a better photographer and in turn have you taking better photographs. But if you just invest in gear, well you’ll have a lot of equipment that you may not be getting the best out of.
In my opinion, investing in photography experiences is always going to be better for you in the long run as opposed to always investing your money into new photography gear.
It all depends on who you are as a person, what your objectives are for attending, whether you set realistic expectations, whether you attend with the right attitude and whether you find the right photography tutor for you.
Should however you do your homework and find the right photography holiday for you, then yes, I firmly believe that they can play a huge part in a person’s photography development as education and experience are a photographer’s most valuable tool in their bag.