3. How many people are on the tour?
Pick a tour with the smallest number of guests for your budget. It can be difficult to cultivate the camaraderie that makes trips of this nature so much fun in big groups. “The more, the merrier” is also not conducive to capturing a location; it makes it difficult to take a decent photograph when you’re jockeying for a good position.
Large groups are distracting or intimidating to local communities, locals may be intimidated by a large pack of camera-toting travelers, and it may limit your opportunities for valuable one-on-one time with the lead photographer.
4. Is the itinerary crafted to make the most of my photography?
Unfortunately, some larger travel companies market their standard tours to photo enthusiasts by inserting “photography” in the title and adding a big-name photographer to the mix — without modifying the itinerary.
What should you expect? Worthwhile organizations craft their itineraries with the following in mind: the photogenic qualities of the locations, the time of day you’ll be shooting in relation to those destinations, and the customs and habits of the locals.
For example, any professional photographer will tell you that lighting can make or break an image. If you shoot a temple bathed in the glow of the rising sun, you’re more likely to take an image that will make you proud. If you don’t leave the hotel until 10 a.m., the light will be too harsh.
I’ve had the best luck with boutique companies owned and led by the lead photographer because they design their trips according to what they would need if on assignment.
5. Has the photographer leading the trip been to my destination before?
One of the many great things about photography tours is that you don’t have to worry about wasting time scouting locations.
Ideally, your leader has been there before and knows what looks best at certain times of the day. They know where the hidden gems are in addition to the tourist hot spots. They know the area like you know your own neighborhood, meaning you’re bound to capture more successful pics than not.
I won’t go as far as to say that joining a photographer who hasn’t been to your destination is a guaranteed bust, but I prefer that they’ve spent time in the destination.