How to Plan a Photography Trip

How to Plan a Photography Trip


Photography. Travel. Adventure. For many enthousiasts, the opportunities available for photographers seem nothing short of exotic. But how many have the budget to spend 4-10k on a photography trip with the Maine Workshops or National Geographic?

That’s what I thought.

When your budget doesn’t look like the late American stimulus package, how do you manage a summer photography trip to include a variety of exciting and visual opportunities?


A workable photo trip is manageable. You simply have to proiritize what things are most important to you, and what you can compromise on. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before booking that plane ticket:

1. Do you want your trip to be just vacation, or working vacation?

Many non profit groups are happy to pay the expenses of a photographer while they are in country if you just get yourself over there. While you may not be entirely flexible and in control of your schedule, there are just as many opportunities to shoot – and you may come back home with a deeper experience.

2. Do you mind heading out of the country out of season?

Tourist season is the most expensive for traveling, but depending on your location, you may only have to deal with more humidity or a few additional rainy days.

3. Do you want to travel alone or in a group?

Sometimes group fares can be more reasonable than for an individual. While traveling in a group may provide better rates and additional safety, the disadvantages include sightseeing according to the entire group, and less alone time.

4. Do you want a posh experience or a clean bed?

Hostels internationally are typically the least expensive way to find rooms. You don’t have to settle for a run down, ghetto hostel either. Quality and prices cover a wide range. Checking out is a great way to find whatever quality and price you are looking for.

5. Do you want to take taxi’s or walk?

Before you head out on your trip, make sure you know in country transportation. Taxi’s can get expensive fast, but if you can find your way through the subway systems you may find a faster and more economic way of transport. To find maps of the rail ahead of time, check out any major cities website. While you may not be able to take pictures out the window like a cab, many rail stops are near your typical tourist sights.

6. Do you want to cover an entire country, or make your hub one particular city?

Exploring one city is by far the least expensive way to plan a photography trip. While you may think that there could be less variety and photo opportunities, don’t be fooled. Major cities have a plethora of sights, experiences, and places that could take up weeks of your trip.

7. Do you want to brave a new way or take the reliable route?

A few hours of research on the internet and you will find a number of tips from travelors who have already explored your destination city. From the experience of others, you can often find the best and most inexpensive ways to travel, places to eat, and sights to see.

8. Do you want to bring all your necessities or are you willing to backpack?

Typically, backpacking trips require more sense of adventure and a willingness to rough it on occasion. You bring fewer things to give additional portability, but glizt and glamour is not the main goal. You may be able to travel inexpensively and live on the go, just remember that everything you bring, you carry.

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Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography and leadership with

Some Older Comments

  • pavankumar June 6, 2009 03:05 am

    wearing a photographer jacket solves my problem.I carry a 50mmlens,a 17-35TOKINA,&28-300with my 5D.

  • peter k June 6, 2009 01:58 am

    Fine article and comments that helped me think about the needed gear again. In two weeks from now I fly for a week and a half to Rotterdam, Haarlem and Hoorn (in Holland), that means both city and nature. I think I should consider a good fast lens, like a 70-200 f2.8 (and I don't have it!) and a classic telephoto, like the 100-400mm from Minolta (and I don't have it either !!), so I'll have to do all the work with a good fast 50mm f1.7 and a walk around 16-105mm. I'll sure have to move more to find the right distance, but maybe this will help me improve my photos in other aspects also, such as angles, quality of light and composition. Anyway, a whole shooting vacation... it's almost like a dream that comes true!

  • India Temple Tour June 4, 2009 05:09 pm

    Nice post about photographic travel, adventures.

  • Tyler Ingram June 4, 2009 02:44 am

    I'll be heading to Costa Rica in December (birthday + new years) and will be bringing at least 2 lenses. My kit lens (18-55mm IS) and my 70-200mm f2.8L IS. I plan on sleeping with my L lens, but since we'll be doing a bunch of jungle tours and such I didnt NOT want to bring it.

    A vacation without photos and without my camera (to me) is not a vacation ;) haha

  • af June 3, 2009 11:06 pm

    Thank you for pointing out that hotels come at different price points. I would never have known that had I not read this wonderfully informative article. Keep up the good work.

  • Nikhil Rasiwasia June 3, 2009 04:20 pm

    Can you elaborate more on the NGO paying for expenses? Any examples on how to pursue this forward?

  • MeiTeng June 3, 2009 03:41 pm

    I can't agree more with Lisa. It's true you can have a vacation anywhere and not necessarily half way across the globe. I have been visiting a number of places in my own country (Malaysia) and it's to my own shame that I have never discovered the fact that there's so much to see and experience until recently when I picked up photography. This new found passion has brought me to places I would have otherwise dismissed in favour or places elsewhere. I am not against vacationing outside of one's home country though.

  • michael June 3, 2009 02:32 pm

    I'll take different lenses but only use one a day. It's amazing how different a street can look when you only have a 50mm or 100mm lens on your camera. Unless I'm doing nature photography and schlepping the whole kit with me at unholy early hours, the other lenses stay in the hotel.

    If you prefer taking staged shots with a tripod then primes are good. Birds, buildings, landscapes, and macro photography lend themselves to primes. However, f you like candid photos, try a wide range, walk-around lens. Tamron and Sigma both have 18-250mm lenses. Haven't used the Sigma but find my Pentax licensed Tamron covers an amazing range of situations. If I were traveling light, I'd be happy to go with just this lens. I'd lose the macro of the 100mm and the speed of the f1.4 50mm prime. I'd have no extreme wide angle or long telephoto, but still cover 90% + of situations. Surprisingly, the optics are sharper than any kit lens I've seen on any brand. I have a friend who swears by his Nikon 18-200mm lens for the same reason. The new Sigma has optical stabilization if you don't have it built into your camera body.

    No, these zooms are not as sharp as primes, but mine is still more than good enough. With a little post processing I can get nice crisp prints that fit any space I can find on my walls. And for candid and street photography the versatility makes up for it, and shooting is fast. Don't forget fast. From having my camera slung over my shoulder, I can turn it on, slip the barrel lock off, zoom, focus and shoot in three to four seconds. No worrying if I have the right focal length. No wishing I could stand in the middle of a street to get the right distance. No trying to get close to skittish subjects. No missing the moment because I don't have the right lens for the situation attached to the body. No digging through my bag when I'm in a hurry to catch a special moment.

    I carry an extra battery and a card or three in a pocket and maybe a flash if I'm wearing cargo pants or a vest. I'll use a polarizer if I'm doing nature or water photos. Add a small plastic gray card on a string around my neck and I'm off and running. Simplicity can free you from concentrating on gear and focus more on taking pictures.

  • LisaNewton June 3, 2009 02:12 pm

    I totally disagree with Ilan. I live in the city, photograph the city, and write about the city. Currently I only own two lens, my 18-50 and a 70-300, and I use both of them liberally.

    Although I'm never against a vacation, I truly believe "vacations" can be found in your own backyard, or city in my case....................:)

  • Martin June 3, 2009 11:05 am

    I'd like to see a followup post looking at what camera gear you should take on such a trip.

    With regards to lenses, it really depends what sort of photography you'll be doing. I recently spent a few weeks in the Canadian Rockies, and took three lenses - wide angle, long zoom, and mid-range zoom.
    I used the wide angle most, primarily for landscapes. The long zoom got a fair bit of use for wildlife shots, and the mid-range zoom got a small amount of use too.

  • EnglishTeacher June 3, 2009 11:02 am

    I both agree and disagree with Ilan. Christina did indeed tell us important information about planning a photo tour. I know because I have used most of them myself. My favorite place to shoot: London and anyplace I can reach by England's excellent train service in a day. I also agree that thought has to be put into what equipment will be necessary.

    I would suggest that looking at the area to be visited via Google Earth is a good idea as is exploring the internet for photos taken in your chosen destination. Both provide excellent ways to preselect photogenic places to visit.

    Christina, how about a follow-up article assisting us with some of these choices?

  • Ilan June 3, 2009 08:31 am

    These is an interesting article, but I'm not totally sure that it's 'photo related' - Most of this tips are good for any kind of person who just wants to plan a vacation.
    It's very important to remember to understand what kind of place you are going too - If it's a city, there is little need to take many lenses. Mid-range lenses will cover most of needs.
    For example, on my last trip to Barcelona, I knew I'll need only wide/mid range and I took a 17-50mm by Tamron. Here is one shoot taken with that lens
    If there are 'treks'/nature/camping involved, there is also a need for a good tele-lens. Above all that, thing that can ruin the whole plan if not considered - A comfortable bag. To carry lenses, body(ies), flashes if necessary and of course a light but sturdy tripod.
    Too bad these thing are not mentioned here, there is much to discuss about it :)