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Workshop, Tour, or Photo Walk – Which is Right for You?

It has recently come to my attention that there is some confusion between photography workshops, photography tours, and photo walks. So in this article, I'll outline exactly what is the difference between them and help you decide which is right for you at this time.

Photo Walks

A photo walk is a social event where several photographers gather and join together to literally take a walk together. They are usually short, a couple hours is standard, and are done entirely on foot.

The goal of a photo walk is to just get out, take some photos, and hang out with other photography enthusiasts for an afternoon.

You can find photo walks that are organized by camera clubs, Facebook or Flickr groups, on Meetup.com, or the official Scott Kelby annual Worldwide Photowalk which takes places in hundreds of cities simultaneously and sponsors provide prizes.

Look for photo walks in your area that you can join if you feel like shooting with some new friends, or create your own.

Here are some images from a photo walk I did with James Maher in NYC in 2016:

Here is the group that we took around the city. As you can see photo walk are NO fun at all!
On a break during a photo walk, you can meet other people and maybe make a new friend.
Three lovely ladies on our walk. People come from all walks of life, with all different kinds of cameras, even some with just cell phones.
I noticed this reflection of a bike in a cafe window and waited for the other biker to go by. I decided to focus on reflections on this walk and ended up finding quite a few. You can give yourself an assignment or theme for the walk to push yourself a little creatively.
Selfie reflection.
Puddle reflection.
Reflection of one building in the windows of another.
Reflections in sunglasses for sale.
Window shadow reflection.
Window selfie reflection – I usually wear these little antennae on my head so people can see me and find me easily on a walk. Makes a good conversation starter as well.

We enjoyed that walk so much, we did it all again in 2017!

James giving out the route info before we get started.
A photo walk is just that – a walk to take photos, done with a few other people.

The theme for the year – love. I had just come from a camp with 400 people where the mood and energy were all about love and I kept seeing it everywhere. So I photographed it!

 Create your own photo walk

You don't have to be a professional or a photography teacher to create and lead a photo walk, you just need to know the area and a few other photographers.

Plan a short route for walking in an area that will have some interesting things to shoot. I recommend no longer than about 1km (0.75 miles) as photographers are easily distracted and your 5km route may take 6 hours to complete!

Make a Facebook event or send out invitations by email to other photographers you know. You can put a cap on how many attendees you have if you want, I recommend 20 for your first one. Make a map with a starting and end point and hand them out to people on the walk.

My obligatory reflection selfie from the 2017 walk – with antennae!

You can even book a table at a cafe or restaurant near the ending point to meet up afterward and share images.

It's fun to see how everyone looks at the same subjects along the way but takes entirely different images. It's a great way to interact with each other, get some creative ideas, and have some fun.

Make your own prizes

Something fun I did with photo walks that I hosted a few years ago was that we made our own prizes.

How you do that is collect $10 from everyone that shows up and put it all into a pool. Create a Facebook group for your photo walk and have everyone upload their best three images. Everyone gets 3 votes (cannot vote for their own images) by “liking” their favorites. The one with the most votes after a predetermined time wins the pool of money.

Photography Workshops

The main focus of a photography workshop is for you to learn something.

A workshop is often based on a particular topic or theme such as street photography, camera settings for beginners, or using Lightroom or post-processing in general, night photography, etc.

Expect to get a lot of practice shooting during a workshop.

Workshops are generally a few days long (3-7 days is a common length), and are held in one central location.

Workshops often involve some or all of the following:

  • They are aimed at amateur photographers who are at a  beginner to intermediate (or advanced) level with their skillset.
  • Workshops usually include some classroom or lesson time.
  • You may get practice exercises to do on site, for the instructor to evaluate your images during the classroom sessions.
  • Different shooting locations (usually near the central location, less than an hour drive).
  • Image review time so you can get feedback on your images.
  • Post-processing demonstrations and tips.
  • Q&A sessions.
  • One or more photography instructors (there are NO tour guides for workshops).
  • Some workshops may also include one-on-one time with the instructor.
  • Usually a small group with sizes ranging from 5-10 people – do your research before you select a workshop. You will get more individual help in a smaller group but you will also usually pay more for those workshops. We limit our workshops to 8 participants when there is one instructor and 12 if there are two. Some specialized workshops may be less (5-6 max).
  • Accommodation may or may not be included. (We include it in our workshops).
  • Meals may or may not be included. (We include most meals with our workshops).
Shooting the sunrise during our Drumheller workshop.
Bob the ex-coal miner, our model during the Drumheller workshop.

Photography workshop or class?

A workshop is usually more intensive than taking a class, the latter of which involves more lecture/classroom time and may or may not include shooting time. Look for workshops that have a good balance of both on location shooting and classroom or instructional time. Also, ask if the instructor is available between scheduled shoots for questions and help.

Our workshops

Currently, we offer two photography workshops – one 3-day workshop in Drumheller (southern Alberta, Canada) in the spring and fall, and one in the fall in the Okanagan Valley (Penticton, BC, Canada) for 5 days of photography and wine! Get more information on our photography workshops here.

Shooting in the ghost town – Drumheller workshop.
Ghostly group portrait – Drumheller workshop.
Painting the Hoodoos with light – Drumheller workshop.
A lucky sighting of the Northern Lights – Drumheller workshop.
Shooting in the grape vines – Okanagan Wine & Photography Workshop.
Sunset over the valley – Okanagan Wine & Photography Workshop.
A lucky encounter with a timid model – Okanagan Wine & Photography Workshop.
Shooting a stream – Okanagan Wine & Photography Workshop.
Lunch with a view – Okanagan Wine & Photography Workshop.
Fall colors – Okanagan Wine & Photography Workshop.
The raw materials at harvest time – Okanagan Wine & Photography Workshop.

Photography Tours

The main goal of a photography tour is for you to have an experience of the place you’re visiting, and come home with great photos. You’ll see interesting things, and have the opportunity to photograph locations at the best times of the day (early morning and later afternoon).

Tours are generally a bit longer than workshops (7-15 days or even longer is common), and you move around the country or area where the tour is taking place.

Morocco

Photography tours usually involve the following:

  • Travel to a new place, sometimes outside your home country.
  • Appropriate for both amateur and professional photographers to attend (even on the same tour).
  • Moving around the country to a variety of different spots, and transportation is usually arranged for you (plane, train, bus, etc.).
  • There is often NO formal classroom or lesson time on tours.
  • Specially arranged photo shoots with locals and unique places you may not be able to access on your own.
  • A tour leader and a local guide to tell you about the country or place you're visiting.
  • Usually include a small to medium sized group of 8-16 people (again do your research, not all tours are equal). With our tours, we limit the group size to a maximum of 10 people with one photography tour leader and 12-14 with two leaders.
  • Most or all of your meals and accommodations are arranged for and included in the price (again look at the details of the tour carefully, see if there are any hidden costs, meals not included so you can factor that into the overall cost).
  • Photography tours usually have a pretty packed itinerary which is designed to show you the best that location has to offer, in the best light, with a professional photography teacher as your mentor to help you get better photos along the way.
  • May or may not include image reviews (time and space permitting with our tours).
  • Your photo tour leader is there to answer questions, give you tips, and help you if you are having difficulty. They have usually visited the place before and have planned the itinerary to take you to the best spots for photography.
Shooting the view from the bell tower in Granada – Nicaragua tour.
Photographing the leather tannery in Fez – Morocco tour.
Interacting with and photographing the locals – Cuba tour.

Benefits of photo tours

Some of the other benefits of photo tours are more subtle.

You could find a travel buddy (if perhaps your spouse doesn't like to travel or isn't patient while you take photos), or get paired with a roommate and make a new friend. We've had some of our past tour attendees visit each other, and become quite good friends. We've also had many repeat tour members who've joined us on multiple tours so we've really gotten to know each other as well!

Secondly, there is safety in numbers. So traveling to places you may not want to venture yourself is easier and safer. Lastly, most of the logistics are handled for you (other than your international flight) so you just have to get there then sit back and enjoy the ride!

Our first tour group to Nicaragua, February 2014.
Second Nicaragua tour November 2014.
Third Nicaragua tour November 2016 – we even took my mom along!
Morocco 2015
Morocco 2016
Our second group in Cuba, January 2015.
Cuba 2016

Our photography tours

Currently, we offer tours to several exotic places including Nicaragua, Morocco, and India with more destinations being added annually (Vietnam coming soon). Get more information on our photography tours here.

We have had quite a few repeat customers join us on our photography tours – but none more often than Ann (she was on our first Cuba tour, first Nicaragua tour, second Cuba tour, first to Morocco and will be first in India). We've even been roommates in Morocco and will be buddying up again in November in India. She is not just a client and tour member – she's become a friend, as have many of our other guests.

Ann getting ready to hand out school supplies in Nicaragua.
Her newest boyfriend in Cuba.
Watching the sunset over Chefchaouen, Morocco.

So which do you pick?

Knowing whether to go on a photo walk, attend a workshop, or go on a photography tour all depends on you, your budget, how much time you have, and what you want to get out of it.

Photo walk: If you haven't got a lot of time or a large budget and your goal is to shoot more often – then a photo walk is likely the best choice for you.

Photography workshop: Choose a workshop if your main goal is learning something new. If you want to add a particular skill, such as night photography, find a workshop that covers that topic. Expect to pay more for a workshop than a photo walk or a class, but you will also get more value and practice shooting as well.

Photography tour: Get your passport ready and book a photography tour if a little adventure and a change of scenery are what you're seeking. Going with a small group photo tour with a custom itinerary is a very different experience than a large bus of 40 people with a standard tour (trust me I know – that is why I decided to make my own tours in 2011!). You'll see amazing places and meet interesting people and come home with great images and memories.

Here are a few of the things we've done and experienced together:

Classic car ride in Havana, Cuba.
Hiked up and slid down a volcano in Nicaragua.
Rode camels in the desert in Morocco.

Slept in tents in the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
Visited a rum factory in Nicaragua.
Released baby sea turtles in Nicaragua.
Visited the tobacco area and watched cigars get hand-made in Cuba.
Drank coconut drinks in Cuba.
Did steel wool fire spinning on the beach in Nicaragua.
Photographed the fishermen bring in their catch at sunrise in Nicaragua.
Hammock time in Nicaragua.
Served lunch at a school in Nicaragua.

We've had MANY great photo opps of unique and interesting things and people on our tours!

Morocco
Morocco
Sunrise over the dunes in Morocco is magical.
Morocco.
Morocco
Kids in Nicaragua love having their photo taken, and taking photos too!
Cuba
Alyssa is a professional photographer – she took instant photos and gave them to people. It was a big hit! – Cuba
Cathy (Nana) even sponsored a child with the group we support in Nicaragua. We give lots of opportunities to give back to the locals on that tour!

Some of the other things we've done include:

  • A boat tour in an estuary. – Nicaragua
  • Some people tried their hand-rolling their own cigar, which they smoked later. – Nicaragua
  • We made chocolate at a local farm (best ever!) – Nicaragua
  • We painted a school. – Nicaragua
  • Had a private photo shoot with models in an ancient palace. – Morocco
  • Drank mint tea in a 100s of years old Kasbah. – Morocco
  • Took salsa dance lessons. – Cuba
  • Had a private show and photo shoot with a dance group. – Cuba
  • Visited artisans working, making their craft. – Nicaragua, Cuba, and Morocco

Conclusion

I hope that helps clear up some of the confusion you may have had between photo tours, photography workshops (and classes), and photo walks. Whichever you choose, have a great time taking photos and learning new things. Perhaps you will join us for a workshop or tour one day soon – I'd love to see you.

Cheers,
Darlene-1-250x130.png


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