Photographic & Experience Holidays
While we can get a lot of experience on our own or on day courses, we can get a whole raft of experience by attending a week or longer training and experience holiday. In this article I want to look at some of the points that you may like to consider, and how you go about deciding what is ideal for you.
We each have different interests, needs, objectives and priorities so what is the ideal choice for one person will not be for another, so the start point perhaps is identifying the general options and by this narrow down the type and style of experience events that you look at in detail.
We also want to highlight the factors you need to consider and how to go about producing a comparison, when different offerings include different combinations of included and extra costs.
Lets look first at primary considerations.
The first point perhaps to consider is, if you are looking to get the most experience per pound, the most within a time limit, or time is of no value to you and you want to achieve things at the lowest net cost, maybe waiting around for days, and using cut price hostel accommodation.
Next consider if you want a personal 1 to 1 option where you get the tutors undivided attention, can choose where you want to go and when, and make other choices, or if you prefer to go with the flow as a part of a group, and if you find the group appealing the size of the group you would be happy in. At the same time you need to consider the transportation provided, for example if the holiday includes a driver and tutor and 4 people in a vehicle as many do, this means usually three in the back seat and one in the fold up seat in the boot area. With larger groups you may be in a van or minibus.
If you want to learn, and gain tutored experience then, as with other training 1 to 1 will allow you to achieve so much more, and understand what you have done completely. If its a course then there should be some time in the programme set aside in the day for tutorials at the beginning, without this its just practical experience rather than training. You have to establish the basics, before you move on to practically putting them into practice. Evening chats, reviews and critiques are interesting but you won't learn that much from them, its also easy to be wise after the event, rather than assisting you to get the right photos at the time. If the company of people also interested in photography is your experience, while this is also well provided on a 1 to 1 basis you should be able to get this cheaper with a group, as you then have shared costs.
Also think about the level of activity or fitness involved especially if you are with a group as all have to make the progress of the slowest, and you don't want to be the slowest, as they tend to become unpopular.
Ideally choose an event or course that has a wide variety of opportunities, the wider the better, and its a good idea to discount the top three attractions and see what's then left to get a comparison of coverage. I have seen events where you have a 2 week break and spend only 20 minutes on the headline item, with nothing much else besides a lot of travelling. Ideally you want to be taking photographs every day, and for many of these to be including more than one topic.
Lets consider how organisers can cut the costs, and offer you a lower priced deal, or just make more profit. As this also helps you to look out for this and to add back in the costs to get a fairer comparison of what is on offer.
It's not difficult for organisers to halve the cost by shifting costs to extras. So a lower cost holiday is not often as cheap as it first looks and often will be in less than ideal facilities and support.
Other costs that are often not included and you need to allow for:-
So if you compare the best, such as the Camera Images VIP Plus, where everything except the fares is included, and to have tailored 1 to 1 experience with a top tutor, with an air conditioned 4WD with driver/guide as well, staying in the better hotel rooms, to a discount offering that falls far short of this, you will see the difference, and often when you add back in the missing items, get a room upgrade throughout, you end up spending as much but without the same 1 to 1 advantages.
With a good 1 to 1, as long as you take notice of the advice you are given and drink the bottled water provided for you rather than local water, you should not have any tummy upsets. With a group event do your own research and know what you can and cannot eat and drink, plus take some snacks with you to cope with the occasions where you are being told to eat what is likely to give you problems. You may have to be quite firm over what you will and won't eat, drink or do and be prepared yourself, for example having a bottle of water handy when you want to clean your teeth rather than using the tap water. Others may make fun of you, but when they all have the dreaded tummy problems, that go with so many overseas holidays you will know it was the right decision.
If you want to just gain experience and expand your picture library collection, then why not look at leading a group yourself, many of the people organising these use a variety of leaders, and don't expect any specific knowledge beyond knowing which is the front of a camera and being able to do a few evening critiques. In the day with a group spread out, you can largely concentrate on your own photography. If you find there are people looking for support who may use up some of your time then you can pair people up, one experienced with one without and delegate the support. As most of these are fixed agendas the drivers will have been everywhere many times before, and companies will have everything pre-booked to maximise profit. The less pleasant parts are pushing several excursions, and explaining why you can't do anything about the sub standard accommodation, but if you are moving on quickly you can always suggest that you hope the next place will be better.
Overseas photographic training and experience has so much to offer, including a variety of scenery and changing topics to photograph, often predictable weather, and the chance to explore new cultures. Well planned, run, and with the right tuition and support it should become a chance to get a variety of exhibition photographs and a pleasant experience that you will never forget. You just need to select the option that is right for you.