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Anybody who reads a photo mag surely can’t help but notice the adverts for photo tours/ photo courses in the rear of the mag (typically Outdoor Photography has about five pages of these ads). So, are they good value or not? I happened to look at one for Glencoe in winter (Feb 2013) and they are charging a tad under £1000 for 4 days !! (and that doesn’t include travel to/from Glencoe).
Also, what happens if the weather is unsuitable (after all it is Scotland in winter).
If you fancy overseas, then a trip to Colorado and Utah with the same company will set you back £3500 for 10 days (excluding flights to/from USA which would push it well over £4000).
My own opinion is that you (as a group) are marched from location to location and told where to put your tripod (!!) thereby ensuring that every tog gets virtually the same shot.However, I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has been on one i.e what are the benefits; what did you learn etc. However, probably best not to name the company you went with.
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Depends on your level of experience and the benefits you expect to gain.
Beside camera skills there are some undefinable skills it takes a while to pick up while out taking landscape and wildlife photography which probably aren't in books. Such skills also contribute to your success.
I've been on three - all in Scotland, and all different to each other. One was a very well known company which had a superb, inspirational tutor who, through no fault of his own had 16 bodies to look after. It was inevitable that the  absolute beginners and  relative newcomers got most of his time and left me unhappy with the tour. If there had been 6 in total it would have been very different.
My second trip was a maximum of 4 but the tutor was more informal - almost laddish - and we got to see some places I would never have found. I learnt little but had a great time.
My last was a single day at the start of a weeks holiday where 3 of us were chauffeured around a well known Sottish Island [no, not that one!] to 5 or 6 spots that, again, I would have found difficult to find. Not much learning but a good day out that allowed me to revisit them later that week and do a proper job at my leisure.
I say again: Depends on your level of experience and the benefits you expect to gain.
Some of the tours on offer are good, others terrible. I have a maximum of 8 people on any photo shoot or course. I try and keep it even below that amount if I can and a lot of my photo shoots are 1 to 1. Therefore, the photographer gets 100%. Being flexible is also a big plus, as I tend to ask the photographer what he's looking for on a photo shoot, which also makes my job easier, as who wants to take a photographer to somewhere he/she has no interest. Out here in Tenerife, the weather is excellent all year round and very rarely get poor weather, but it has been known. You can get flights out with various airlines, but it's best to go through them all to get the best deals. You may find a cheap flight coming out with one airline, but expensive going back and vice versa, so you have the flexibility to mix and match. There's also a lot of accommodation out here, with some good deals. One I looked at for November for a client was, £282.50 all Inclusive per person at a very good 4 star hotel. A return flight for 1 adult with a well known budget airline for the same period £99.98. So, for 7 nights All Inclusive 4* hotel + return flights + a 5 day 1 to 1 photo shoot would cost less than £900!!! Tell me where you can get a better deal than that!
Having ran SPT for 4 years, I like to think that there are two types of tours - the ones where you are "tutored" and the ones where you are "inspired".
The tutored tours are all about learning and we generally always tried to get a group of similarly experienced togs together on this one. The inspired tours were more about getting people to places to allow them to get pics for themselves - with very little input from me. So very much a beginners and experienced photographers tour - though as Simon says, getting a mix of the two was usually a disaster.
There are people who excel in putting together 2 hour slideshows every night after dinner or spending 4 hours a day teaching you LR or PS techniques. Again, great if this is made clear at the outset, but not everyone wants to spend 4 hours doing PS work inside with the Scottish Highlands outside. This is typically what happens on a very poor weather day, so better asking about this before you book.
I always saw myself as more of a guide than a tutor, though I wasn't a bad tutor. We did something that nobody else was doing (our USP) and it worked well, but the truth is that the pricing was beyond most peoples reach and therefore it was always going to be a niche service. The prices you're quoting are at the level you need to be turning a profit, so don't be surprised at that.
I remember urging Meangreeny to stand in the rain at Glen Sligachan, waiting for the clouds to clear - and as they did, the Glen was filled with a magnificent rainbow which we all took great pleasure in trying to capture. So that ability to use the camera is important, but having someone that can read the weather and the light and react to it for the benefit of the clients is a good thing too.
So, decide what you want out of a tour and try to get one to fit your idea. But avoid laddish leaders at all times!
If you've been on three you must think they're worthwhile ! As for what benefits, speaking for myself, I really don't know. I suppose you would have to balance the perceived benefits against the cost. For instance, there would have to be considerable benefits (for me anyway) to justify a cost of £1000 for 4 days in Glencoe!
Quote: Tell me where you can get a better deal than that!
I can't; but it certainly compares well with a trip to Glencoe! Coincidently, myself and 'she who must be obeyed' were talking recently about a holiday in Tenerife next year as they have just started flights there from my local airport (off to Lagos, Algarve on Saturday )
Why would anyone want to pay someone else to be little more than a guide. Once upon a time, maybe (if you were really unadventurous) but in this day of the internet, you can research every aspect of your proposed trip, including the iconic and also the less common photo opportunities.
Earlier this year my wife and I did a 7-week self-guided and self-arranged tour of the western USA that took in 8 National Parks. Between us we took 4,600 photographs - which is quite enough to bring home and edit!
Basically, the cost was economy flights Edinburgh-LAX and SFO - Edinburgh. Car hire (which is very cheap in USA). Petrol (also very cheap) for the 5000 miles we drove and motels and food along the way. I don't think there is a single "improvement" that could have been obtained by using a "photo tour" service.
Anyone can organise a fly-drive but It's the local knowledge of the leader that makes it. Remember the prices include your accommodation meals and transport, so are usually good value.
For those who mainly want local guiding and knowledge with cheap overheads and and no course fee, and the guaranteed best of crack, you can't do much better than going on an epz meet -take it from a veteran...
Quote: there are two types of tours - the ones where you are "tutored" and the ones where you are "inspired".
Good point. Maybe some togs are prepared to pay for the tutored tours. But why would you need to be inspired?
Quote: Why would anyone want to pay someone else to be little more than a guide
Exactly. Last year I did a 20 day trip which included Yellowstone NP, Tetons (Jackson), Arches NP, Canyonlands and Monument Valley. The Park Rangers in Yellowstone provided me with all the info I needed and guide books provided the 'local' knowledge for the other locations. All in all, the trip cost approx £2300 (including flights from Manchester) which is a lot of money for me but I fulfilled a boyhood dream. I don't believe a guided photo tour would have achieved any more (especially at the cost involved).
[quote]Why would anyone want to pay someone else to be little more than a guide.
You can plan as much as you want, but an experienced guide and a pro photographer can make your photo shoot/holiday that much more rewarding. Why do you think pro photographers pay fortunes for a good guide? You may have taken 4,600 images, but are they the best locations? You may well have gone to all the popular tourist spots, but I'll bet you anything you missed out on the unknown. I take my clients to destinations when the tourist don't tend to go, as they are hidden away and we are not glorified guides, we also teach both beginners workshops as well as helping the more experienced photographers.
Quote: [quote] Why do you think pro photographers pay fortunes for a good guide? .
You have drawn me back on to one of my favourite hobby-horses on this Forum.
I don't know if pro photographers pay fortunes for a good guide but, if they do, then it is because of simple economics. Pay money to save money. They must have calculated that getting in quick and out quick by using a guide is more cost-effective than spending more time doing it themselves. Nothing wrong with that.
But that is the HUGE difference between we enthusiastic amateur photographers and the professionals. We do not have to measure anything in cost-effectiveness terms. We can afford to enjoy our hobby, develop our art, pursue personal satisfaction and, yes, even indulge ourselves with cameras we "want" rather than "need" precisely because we don't have to worry about the balance sheet at the end of the year. I probably have 50 framed photographs, either on my walls or "resting". Each one, if I did the sums honestly (don't tell my wife), might have cost me £1000. But they give me great satisfaction and I am very proud of them.
You or I can spend £500 on diesel and three weeks of our life pursuing exactly the right light conditions in exactly the right weather in exactly the right location just to get that sunrise over the estuary that we know is the ultimate photograph for a camera club competition. An image that will give us immense satisfaction but earn us nothing other than the approval of our peers. No professional can afford to do that.
Quote: You may have taken 4,600 images, but are they the best location
Absolutely. You did not read what I said about research.
Quote: You may well have gone to all the popular tourist spots, but I'll bet you anything you missed out on the unknown. I take my clients to destinations when the tourist don't tend to go
You certainly lost that bet. In fact quite the opposite. Guides tend to take their mug punters to the well known spots. At the Tunnel View overlook at Yosemite I laughed as over 30 of the said mug punters, under the "tuition" of two different guides, all lined their tripods up against the parapet waiting for sunset. If they had shown an ounce of good old British pioneering spirit, they would have clambered down a couple of hundred feet of easy descent away from the hordes and found an infinitely better vantage point.
There are always exceptions to any generalisation but most of the guides I have encountered (and quickly by-passed) have seemed to be money-grabbing ignoramuses, preying upon naive and pathetic tourists. As I say, there are bound to be exceptions and you may well be one of them.
Maybe one of these days you will fall from your so-called hobby horse and fall flat on your face!
There are many reasons to hire a guide; in some places it is compulsory, in others it can be for safety, or to save the trouble and expense of hiring transportation and camp facilities yourself. I wouldn't mind too much one or two in a group, but I don't appreciate someone saying "come on, let's go," when I'm not ready. I've been a loner all my life, and it's a habit.
I do know people who regularly go on photographic trips, some of them at great expense, bringing back great images, but do get the feeling that many of them have been spoon fed.
As raw beginners Martin and I went on a week long trip to Menorca and learned a huge amount about the basics - we certainly weren't 'given' the shots, but were given masses of tuition and taken to locations where we were let loose to find our own. At a cost of about £800 inclusive it seemed extremely good value. We are going to Venice next March with the same guy, with that trip being designed for more experienced photographers and the cost is roughly the same, although it is a shorter trip.
We have just come back from a two day 1-2-2 in Dorset from which we also learned a great deal. While we certainly could have found the locations ourselves we did need to learn the technicalities of landscape photography and almost certainly would not have got the timing right without guidance.
The one trip I would dearly love to go on covers the more remote areas of China, not the place to travel independently unless you speak reasonably good Mandarin, as I know from experience. The only alternative is to go on a regular tour and end up totally frustrated as you are rushed from place to place, possibly not even stopping where a photographer would really want to.
I think if you use these trips as a way of learning skills which you can then use when travelling independently (my preferred choice) then they can be extremely good value.
Quote: covers the more remote areas of China,
That's a good point - in countries such as China I would say that you definitely need a guided tour and a guide that speaks Chinese!
Quote: There are many reasons to hire a guide; in some places it is compulsory
Agreed.In Monument Valley there is only one desert trail ( about 20 miles long) for vehicles and one footpath track (about 4 miles long) that are open to the public. If you want to go anywhere else you have to hire an official Navajo guide which I couldn't afford. That said I got all my shots from the trail and footpath.
There are always exceptions to any generalisation but most of the guides I have encountered (and quickly by-passed) have seemed to be money-grabbing ignoramuses, preying upon naive and pathetic tourists.
I think that is very insulting to both the photo tour industry and their customers !!! As far as I'm concerned if somebody wants to earn a living from providing a photo tour service then good luck to them. Subsequently, if people wish to pay then thats up to them; I certainly wouldn't call them 'naive and pathetic'. I've never seen any articles in the photo press about customers being ripped off by photo tour guides but I have seen plenty of horror stories about wedding togs!
Good luck to scottishphototours and puertouk --- hope your businesses are doing well
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