As a photographer that thrives on variety, one of my favorite genres is travel photography. And as many of you know, I also enjoy teaching about photography. Combining these two pastimes makes leading photo tours a great way for me to share my enthusiasm for photography along with travel to exciting destinations.

Fresh off my most recent photo tour, Majestic Bhutan 2024, I thought it might be beneficial to share a bit more about the photo tour experience to those that have never been on one, or that have not been on one of my tours.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour participants & Michelle Greengo (far Right)

What is a photo tour?

The purpose of a photo tour is to give a traveler the best opportunities for capturing a wide variety of high quality images while also discovering a new location. The events that are organized, and the way that time is spent, will reflect the desires and organizational skill of the person leading the way.

With a photo tour you can expect to spend most of your time in the field exploring a particular location and capturing images. The schedule and routine is not visibly much different than a traditional tour. As you dig deeper into what is done and how time is spent, it can become significantly different from a photographer’s perspective.

A good photo tour will maximize the quality and variety of opportunities for everyone in the group. Knowing where and when to go, and how much time to spend at a particular location, is the key to a great photo tour.

A traditional tour may stop at a viewpoint for 15 minutes in the middle of the day so that everyone can capture a few images. A photo tour, in contrast, may make a special sunrise visit at 6am and allow for an hour of shooting.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour participants
Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha Valley

A typical stop on a photo tour will involve a brief description by the local guide, a bit of advice from your photo guide and then a set amount of free time to capture images. How you spend your time is up to you. You can capture landscape, portraits or chat with a local.

As your photo guide it’s my job to brief you on what to expect and what to look for. I give advice on what equipment and techniques may be most beneficial. Out in the field I’m available for every sort of photographic question and advice. Troubleshooting camera problems, adjusting menu settings, and providing help with composition is all part of the job of a photography guide.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour participants
[image credit: michelle greengo]

How is a tour different than a workshop?

Photo tours and workshops share many similarities, like focusing on photography, and they are frequently held in inspirational and interesting environments. Workshops, however, have a primary focus on education. Significant time is usually spent in the classroom with lectures, photo critiques, or working on images. Photography in the field is often focused on particular assignments for to capturing images for use in the classroom workshop sessions.

Workshops are better if education is the goal; tours are better if discovering and capturing the location are the primary objective. Both can be highly beneficial and fun for a photographer, just in different ways.

The devil is in the details

If you’ve thought that you could take a standard tour and take great photos along the way, well, I suppose it’s possible, but it will be difficult for sure. Traditional tours try to appeal to a variety of interests: history, food, culture, and scenic snaps from time to time.

I remember leading my first photography tour where the local guide, not familiar with photo tours, took us to a particularly un-photogenic location and then proceeded to go into a history lesson on the location. I quickly had to impress upon our guide that we needed to prioritize our shooting opportunities and maximize our down time. This meant that historic information could be delivered while we were on the bus heading to our location. When we arrive on location, everyone could be given a great amount of free time to search for images. Of course the local guide is then available for further information whilst on location at a travelers request.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour participants
[image credit: michelle greengo]

Benefits of working with a group

There are pros and cons to every size of photo travel group. Traveling alone is the most versatile in terms of freedom of time. But traveling alone can be prohibitively expensive, logistically difficult in certain locations, and not knowing the local area can mean you don’t know where to go. 

Sharing group travel expenses makes sense in certain difficult locations. If you wish to photograph the Antarctic, you’ll likely end up on a ship with a 100 or more people. It’s not ideal, but it makes sense from a logistics and monetary point-of-view.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour participants
Punakha Dzong
[image credit: michelle greengo]

The financial sweet spot for tours is often in the 8-14 person range. This size is both good for the traveler and the operator. With this number, the transportation, accommodation, and meal costs can be brought down due to shared costs.

Camp for adults

One of the best aspects of many of the tours I’ve lead is simply the people that showed up and made the tour a wonderful experience. Going on tour, for me, is reminiscent in some way of going off to camp as a kid. You’ll have a new schedule, do new things, and do it with a new group of friends.

Beyond all the photographic benefits, it’s this new group of people and the variety of life experiences and personality that they bring to the table that can help make for a wonderful experience. I suppose you’re thinking that the opposite can also be true, and I suppose so, but from all my tours it seems that I’ve attracted a certain type of crowd to my tours that know how to get along and have fun with photography.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour participants
Archery shoot, Thimphu
[image credit: michelle greengo]

The bus and dinner conversations can run the gamut of photography, life history, work, and play. Some are new to photography; some have been doing it for 50 years. Everyone has their own point-of-view and, for a week or so, it’s a lot of fun to mix things up and have a shared experience.

Photo reviews and seeing improvement

One of greatest benefits of traveling with other photographers is what you can learn from someone else’s point of view. No matter their experience level, their age, or what camera they use, there is a benefit to seeing images from those that may have the same experience as you, but capture very different images. I’ve seen more experienced photographer (in technical terms) learn composition techniques from a ‘newbie’ photographer.

Image reviews, where everyone submits a few images and shares their views on a particular location or subject, will open your eyes to new ways of seeing. It’s hard to express how it feels to photograph a subject, feel like you did everything you could to get a great shot, and then see the result of someone else that picked up on something that you missed.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour participant
Jangsa suspension bridge, Paro

At every one of these image reviews there are numerous “ah-ha” moments where ideas and concepts are shared. A bit of helpful advice is frequently given and discussion about composition and technique are discussed. These reviews are engaging, fun, and perhaps the most valuable learning sessions you’ll ever experience.

Spouses of photographers

Traveling is frequently a shared experience with spouses, and on photo tours where a couple is in attendance, there is often one spouse that is more interested in photography than the other. I’ve fielded a lot of questions from prospective clients trying to determine if their spouse is welcome on the tour and how much they will like it.

How much an uninterested spouse will enjoy the trip will completely depend on their way of thinking. On my most recent tour we had four couples attend. Three couples had one member that was either new to photography or only interested in a limited way.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour participants & John Greengo (far right)
[image credit: michelle greengo]

Each of these “new” photographers chose to participate in some way and I’m so glad that they did. Despite being new to photography, and having a lot of questions, (which is perfectly okay and kind-of the whole idea of a photo tour), they were able to share something different, and everyone was the better for it.

When deciding if it’s right to bring a spouse along, it will depend on how much they are willing to indulge in a focus on photography and how they might like to fill time allotted for photography. A frequent feature of a photo tour is free time to photograph. If they plan to try their hand at photocopy or entertain themselves, like talking with the guides or locals, they are likely to enjoy the trip.

If the spouse has no interest in photography, is tired of hearing about the subject or needs 100% of their time filled by non-photography related organized activities, then the photo tour is likely not right for them. From an experienced photographer’s perspective, and even a tour leader, it’s perfectly fine to have someone with a different perspective on the tour, as long as they are agreeable to going along with the group tour goals.

Are you interested in a tour?

If you love traveling and photography, a photo tour may be for you. I strive to make my tours highly photogenic, efficient, and fun. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make a tour run smoothly. I would like to thank my wife, Michelle, who has stepped up to take control of many of the moving parts of the operation. The two of us work as a team to provide the best possible service, but our ears are always open to ideas and feedback from you.

Our commitment is to provide a tour that is easy and fun for all involved. Every trip is unique and every tour group has been an honor to be a part of. If you have a further interest in the available tour options I encourage you to check the tours page for all upcoming photo tours. Over the next year I have several tours planned: Kenya Safari (August 2024), Wild Galapagos (October 2024), and Majestic Bhutan (March 2025). Please feel free to contact us at if you have any questions about the tours.

majestic bhutan 2024 tour group
RinPung Dzong, Paro


Become part of John’s inner circle

Sign up for the newsletter here — it’s free.

Want to become a better photographer?

Check out John’s selection of photography and camera classes here.

In Other News...