Published Articles
I know what you are thinking. I wrote this article to encourage you to join me on a photo tour or workshop. Well, yes and no. Far more important is finding the program and instructor that best suit your needs.
A quality photo tour or workshop can be an opportunity to enrich a normal travel experience, an exciting way to learn new skills and sharpen existing ones, and meet new friends with common interests. I often hear from photographers and potential students that, when involved in non- photo-oriented group travel, they feel rushed and miss many photo opportunities. Many say they are often disappointed with the images they return home with after spending a great deal of time and money on the trip.
Choosing a Photo Tour or Workshop
(This article appeared in Marco Polo Magazine, Fall, 2000)

Article and photographs by Karen G. Schulman

The right photo tour or workshop can help develop your "art of seeing," especially when in a new environment.
Whether you have just purchased your first 35mm camera or have been "shooting" for years, a trip exists for you. Here are some questions that I encourage you to ask yourself before making a decision:

Would I prefer a photo tour or workshop?
During a photo tour you usually travel to one or more destinations with a photo instructor/tour leader. Photo processing may not be available and subsequently, you may not be able to review photographs taken during the trip.
Most photo workshops offer photo processing. Workshops tend to be more in-depth, offering classroom time for review and critique. Either one can be an enriching experience if you are willing to do a little legwork first.

What are my expectations?
What do I wish to learn?
What are your motives? Do you want to get a lot of technical instruction? Do you need a creative spark? How important is photo processing and review during the trip? Are you more interested in cultural or historical aspects of a location? Do you prefer more free time to wander and explore? Do you need or want the one-on-one time with an instructor that a small group can offer? Will your non-photo partner or significant other be welcome and, if so, is there a price adjustment for him/her?
Do I choose a location or instructor first?
That depends. If you have always dreamed of visiting a particular destination, check into the location at one of the sources below and look for an instructor who seems to fit your needs. For instance, I may receive a call from a person who wants to visit Steamboat Springs, Colorado, during the summer months because they have been here to ski and have heard how beautiful the Rocky Mountains are in the summer. So the location will drive the inquiry. At other times, it will be a visit to our web site that sparks interest because my teaching philosophy or photographic style is appealing.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of taking the time to have a brief chat by phone with the instructor who will lead the program, even if it's a large organization. After all, you will be making an investment of your time and your money. You should know up front if you feel comfortable. The instructor should be willing to suggest other options, if this one doesn't seem appropriate.

A successful photo tour or workshop experience is like a marriage. During the trip it is important that ideas, philosophy and personalities mesh. The more this happens, the more productive and enjoyable the experience will be for all.

Some instructors run their own programs or own their own travel companies. Others affiliate with an existing travel company that offers photo-oriented programs. Either way can work well when the trip or workshop is run professionally.
If an instructor has a lot of experience and connections, they may choose to make their own travel/lodging arrangements. This can be a great advantage when the instructor knows the "locals" and how to best get around. On the other hand, some instructors prefer to concentrate on the photography end and leave the lodging and trip details to a travel professional. This is particularly advantageous when traveling to remote locations or when the instructor has minimal experience at the destination. Don't hesitate to ask about the qualifications of the local guide if he/she is someone other than the trip leader. After all, the instructor's girlfriend probably isn't the guide you had in mind.
How is trip/workshop preparation handled?
Your instructor/tour leader should provide a pre-trip checklist, particularly when the trip is gear dependent. I make up a pre-trip or pre-workshop checklist that includes such items as clothing, special gear, photo and camera essentials, how much film to bring and even such obvious suggestions as running some film through the camera and changing the batteries to make sure the equipment is working.
As an instructor, I also like to mail out a pre-trip questionnaire. This helps me to learn about the skill level of the participant as well as their goals and expectations. I like to know before we depart if there might be a possible problem, such as if this will be a "first-time" foreign travel experience. If there are any particular fears to overcome such as air or water travel and we will be using these means of transportation, I need to know this. It's an invaluable tool to have in advance and helps to make the experience a better one for all.
How do I find out about photo tours and workshops?
Ask friends with similar interests. Consult the Workshops section of Photographer's Market, a Writer's Digest book, which is updated annually, or visit Shawguides web site at You can search by destination, ability level, season, month you wish to travel, or focus of the program.

Making a photo workshop or tour a part of your upcoming travel plans could be a rewarding experience. I have heard from workshop participants that these programs have changed their lives. When we enjoy traveling, working and playing together, bonds are created along with travel memories that can last a lifetime.

Whatever you choose, be honest about your photo experience and your motives. Match your interests and your budget with the photo tour or workshop. Take the time to do a little research beforehand on the area to which you are traveling. Have a chat with the photo instructor/trip leader. And most of all, enjoy yourself. Happy Trails!
Before setting out to find a tour leader/instructor, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What should I look for in an instructor/tour leader?
  • Does the instructor have leadership experience?
  • Will there be various skill levels in the group? How will the instructor handle this?
  • Am I comfortable talking with the instructor?
  • Does the instructor emphasize developing technical and aesthetic photo skills?
  • Do I feel inspired to join the group and create?
  • Does the instructor have experience at this destination? If not, will there be a local guide to cover the cultural, regional and historical aspects of the destination?
  • Is the instructor a specialist in the particular skill that will be emphasized? (i.e., wildlife photography, photojournalism)?
  • Am I drawn to the way the instructor "sees"?
  • Is the photo instructor a passionate educator? Or is he/she using teaching as a way to travel to exotic locations and have his/her trip paid for by the trip participants?
  • What group size does the instructor prefer to work with? Am I comfortable with a group of this size?
  • If photos will be neither processed nor reviewed during the trip, will the instructor review my photographs upon return?
  • Will the instructor be handling the travel/tour arrangements or working with a travel specialist?
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