As a keen travel photographer, investing in experience in-the-field is far more important than owning a small fortune worth of unnecessary gear. –David Lazar
FAQS – Frequently Asked Questions
Excellent question! The easy answer is that they are another form of “learning holiday”, where the emphasis is on travel photography. These trips are not designed for relaxing on the beach drinking umbrella cocktails and taking a few snapshots at Golden Hour. We have a lot of fun, but it comes through action, comradery, and the ongoing excitement of the next shoot. Those umbrella cocktails or golden pints taste best after sunset!
There are a lot of new people out there getting enthusiastic about photography these days. They are looking for various opportunities to increase their knowledge, improve their skills, and either put together a first portfolio or take their current portfolios up a notch or two. And the photo tour workshop can – and in our opinion should – be high on that list of opportunities.
Why? Because experience in-the-field is what it’s all about. You can have all the most expensive gear, read all the instructional articles and attend the best traditional workshops, but if you cannot put it all together and make it work for you consistently in-the-field, it doesn’t do you much good. In our opinion people spend entirely too much of their allotted photography dollars on equipment, and not nearly enough on actual experience, which is where the real fun and satisfaction is!
In essence, an LJ photo tour workshop offers sunrise to sunset (with breaks and free time) photo opportunities w/ professional guidance. We offer true inside access to an array of great locations and people. Some image opportunities are iconic, but many if not most would be very difficult if not impossible to get on your own. We open the door wide for you to step through and take your photography to the next level, whatever that level may be.
You! Most of our participants are intermediate level photographers looking for a fun and rewarding photography adventure, along with the opportunity to take their photography to the next level. All skill levels are very welcome and well accommodated, novice to advanced to semi-pro. Rest assured that novice photographers will never feel left behind, and advanced snappers never held back.
For anyone new to photo tours, please note these are not just your standard travel tours where photography is just a loose “theme”. It’s about the photography first and foremost, and the exciting challenges and image making that come with its pursuit.
The age range is wide, from the occasional teen keen on photography on up. The average age about 55. Big credit goes to our oldest ever participant, the great Walter who did Vietnam at age 86, with gusto! We get a mix of couples, friends and solo travellers, but usually more solos.
Another excellent question – boy you are really on your game today! Not enough people pay attention to the quality of leadership when photo tour shopping, and really should. It’s the most important factor in making or breaking any photo tour, no matter how fantastic the destination.
All LJ photo tour leaders are top flight, major award winning professional photographers who either live in the country in which they work, or have extensive experience in those countries. This experience pays off in many ways, perhaps the most important being the deep level of local knowledge and long trusted relationships that result in the type of TRUE INSIDE ACCESS and intercultural engagement that make LJ photo adventures so special.
Without exception our leaders are extremely knowledgeable, personable and generous with their time on tour. They sincerely appreciate the fact that you have trusted in them to deliver a memorable and rewarding experience, and they take your evolution as a photographer very seriously. Our guys always put your image making first and foremost, not their own! This is very often not the case with many photo tour leaders out there, so it’s wise to be wary when doing your research.
Another skill often overlooked, is the mastery of small group dynamics. LJ leaders, while they all have different styles in this regard, are outstanding in helping to generate an esprit de corps that is both supportive and inspirational. It is extremely rare that personality conflicts arise among our guests, and in fact many new and lasting friendships owe their beginnings to Luminous Journeys photo tours!
All that said, perhaps it’s more instructive and convincing to hear it from LJ participants themselves. When ready, please visit our TESTIMONIALS page. You may also learn more by accessing our PHOTOGRAPHER BIO pages.
The first thing you can expect, is a greatly improved portfolio! You may even end up winning some awards, as many of our past participants have.
In a nutshell, you can expect to take your photography to the next level in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.
You can expect great food, hotels and seamless logistics.
Expect long photography filled days that usually begin before sunrise, with more impact and rare image making opportunities than you’ve likely ever had.
Expect a blend of people and landscapes, historical landmarks, markets, villages, indigenous tribes, culture in action, free shooting and arranged photo sessions with locals.
Expect a rich, rewarding, and unforgettable all around photographic journey in the hands of leaders who sincerely care that you become a better photographer, and have a great time in the process.
The first thing to note is that the instructional aspects of our photo tours are not mandatory and always informal. For the most part instruction takes place individually and IN THE FIELD, where it’s most applicable and effective.
Since everyone is different and has different needs and preferences, the level and type of instruction you receive is completely up to you. Some participants are looking for more personal guidance than others, and some are not looking for any at all! Rest assured your leader(s) will always do their very best to make sure you are getting what you came for.
In-the-Field instruction may involve any or all of the following topics on a situational basis: visualization, composition, camera setting combinations, lenses and filters, working with different types of light, working with local people, working with professional models, working a scene. It may also include creative techniques such as long exposure, motion blur, motion painting , light painting and star trails.
Image Review is available on an ongoing basis on request. Often we are our own worst critics, and that can cut both ways! Sometimes we think better of an image because we have a personal attachment to it, and other times we might think worse of an image because we don’t. Having a knowledgeable set of fresh eyes who won’t kiss your ego (thanks anyway, mom!) can be very helpful indeed. It’s a subjective world, but not all subjectivity is equal.
Photoshop and/or Lightroom tutorials are available on request as time allows in the schedule. This can be individual, small group, or in some cases, the whole group!
No, not at all. All our tour leaders are very patient and generous with their help. Although we often get advanced photographers and even the occasional professional, it’s those who have less experience who stand to learn the most from more experience. The advanced shooters are mostly there for the inside access image opportunities and comradery, but even they pick up a new trick and/or technique or two, as nobody knows it all.
Photography is not rocket surgery, although some would have you think so. It’s actually quite simple to learn the basics and be able to capture some excellent images with that basic knowledge. Fancy expensive equipment is not required to make pro quality images. And you would be amazed at how many famous photographers are relative dunces when it comes to technical expertise! That said, the more time you can spend picking up the basics and becoming comfortable with your equipment before the tour, the more your image making skills will advance during the tour.
To be clear, our travel photography tours are not regimented courses. They are fun adventures that everyone enjoys and learns from in their own way and at their own level. There are no exams, no grades, and no teacher’s dirty looks. Everyone at one point was a beginner, and fellow participants tend to be very supportive of each other on tour.
What camera equipment do you have? By that we mean there is no reason to go out and spend a lot of money on new gear for the tour, IF what you already have is adequate. We go into more detail on recommended equipment in our photo tour info kits sent out to all participants, and are more than happy to discuss options with you by email or phone.
Let’s start here with the barest minimum gear:
3. More than enough memory or film (for you old schoolers)
That’s it! Now of course you can improve on the barest minimum in quite a number of ways. You could also end up with a maxed out credit card and a backpack the size of a small condominium complex. We tend to lean toward the philosophy of “less is more” when it comes to travel photography gear, but the choice is yours.
In addition to the barest minimum then, we do advise bringing the following:
4. Lens or lenses covering the 24 – 200 range
5. 3 stop (0.9) soft-edge graduated neutral density filter for landscapes
8. Back-up hard drive
Remember – it’s not the equipment that makes the photographer, it’s the photographer! That said, you will want to have gear good enough to handle the wide range of shooting conditions a travel photographer may face, including low light. With the excellent all-around performance and amazing ISO capabilities of many of the newer prosumer digital cameras, it’s not necessary to buy high end gear in order to shoot pro quality images, even under more extreme lighting conditions.
We realize most of you will bring more than the above minimum, and that some of you will have that small condo strapped to your back. No worries. Excess gear for a particular shoot can always be left in our secure vehicles. In trekking situations, porters will be available for hire. Your main issue would be excess baggage charges by airlines. Most of the airlines have 20 kg allowance for checked bags, and 7 kg for carry-on. India is an exception however, at 15 kg and 5 kg. So plan accordingly.
The short answer is no. Model releases are not necessary for the publication of editorial work, only commercial. Having each participant asking local persons to sign releases they cannot possibly understand would not only be awkward, but would gum up the works.
Concerning any photo contests that claim they need model releases for editorial work, they don’t. We advise contacting them before submitting your images to find out if any such a rule is actually enforced, and/or if it applies to your particular image categories.
If you sell your work commercially and need model releases, and have a phone application for that purpose, we can probably accommodate you. Just let us know beforhand.
Groups sizes range from 4 – 10, with 4 as the minimum and 10 the maximum. The overall average is about 7.
This varies with destination and number of participants. Normally with a group size of 8 – 10, we will have two professional photographers traveling with you, along with one logistics coordinator.
In Vietnam, India and Bali, there is one logistics coordinator that travels with the group. In Myanmar we usually use station guides, which means a different coordinator at each major destination. All are outstanding and ensure seamless, hassle free travel, so all you have to think about is photography!
Of course, and are very happy to do so! Feel free to inquire with any and all questions or concerns you may have. We will give you a prompt and earnest response, and are have no problem keeping the dialogue going. Deciding to invest in a photo tour in a far off land is a significant decision, and it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident in doing so. (Be very wary of photo tour companies that won’t answer your questions until AFTER they get your deposit! That’s just laziness or worse, and does not bode well for the type of photo tours they run).
The best way to make first contact is via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you prefer to talk by phone, please indicate in your email the best time and date for us to give you a call. We are based in Southeast Asia. You can reach our travel director, Ms. Soe Soe Lwin, in Yangon at 95–959–2552. She is GMT +7.5. You can also leave a message on our U.S. number (+1 503-664-4248) with your location and best time to return your call. Again, email is best to start.
The complete list of inclusions and exclusions can be found on each tour page. Either scroll down, or jump to it via the link in the Details box at the top of the page. Rest assured we don’t engage in any sleight of hand on our photo tours, and deliver on everything we promise and more. For example, all in-country flights are included, and we don’t skip any meals and make you pay out of pocket like a lot of the competition does. All meals are included starting from your welcome dinner on Day 1, through breakfast on departure day.
The main things not included to be aware of are: most gratuities, health/trip cancellation insurance, international airfare, and drinks at meals. (We supply more than ample bottled water in our air conditioned vehicles during the tour).
This is an easy, TWO part process.
1. Go to the main menu under “Book My Photo Tour” and click on the “Tour Registration” link. Filling out the form only takes a few minutes. Have your passport info handy.
2. Once you click the “Submit” button after completing the form, you will automatically be linked to the deposit page where you can use your credit card on Paypal, or Paypal account. Your reservation is not guaranteed until minimum deposit (USD $1500) is received. You will receive a personal confirmation email from us soon thereafter, normally within 24 hours.
On your registration form there is a box to indicate how many persons in your party. Start with that. Then once you submit your information, simply hit the back button and fill out the form for the next person. And so on. Once the last person’s registration has been submitted, select the correct number/deposit amount from the Paypal drop-down menu and click.
Once on the deposit page you will see a Paypal drop-down menu. Select the correct amount and click the button. You will be linked to Paypal where you may use your credit, debit card or Paypal account. It’s not necessary to have a Paypal account.
We cover the Paypal fee for minimum ($1500 USD per person) deposits only. If you choose to pay more via Paypal, please add 4.4%. US accounts 3%.
When your $1500 USD deposit is received, your reservation is confirmed. We will contact you by email with official confirmation, usually within 24 hours. (If you submit a registration without making a deposit, your reservation is NOT yet confirmed).
For publicly offered small group photo tours, final balances are due 90 days prior to tour start date. If booking within 90 days of tour start date, the full amount is due at time of booking. But please go ahead and make your depsoit to secure your spot first. You will receive final balance payment information with your invoice.
For private photo tours, final balance is due 60 days prior to tour start date.
For private, one day photo tours final balance is due 10 days prior to tour start date.
All participants will receive their 30+ page tour Trip Notes approximately 100 days prior to tour start date. These will include detailed itineraries, visa information, equipment suggestions, packing suggestions, clothing advice, electrical outlet types, tips on photography travel in your chosen destination, tips on tipping, useful phrases, recommended books, and much more!
For the most part, YES. Sometimes 5 star. It should be noted that the criteria for hotel star ratings can vary markedly country to country and hotel to hotel. On occasion we might use a great 3-star over an average 4-star, simply because we know it to be a better hotel in a better location. In remote locations we use the best hotels available, which are adequate with en suite bathrooms and air conditioning. Not evey great photo location can be near a nice hotel, as most all photographers worth their salt understand and appreciate.
Complete List: We understand that there are a few less than reputable operators out there who are shifty or just flat out cheap concerning hotels. So of course we are more than happy to provide a complete list upon earnest inquiry. Hotels are listed the tour Trip Notes that we send out to all participants appoximately 100 days prior to photo tour start date.
Yes we do. Our tours are priced on a share room basis, but a single supplement is available. Please check your particular tour for the exact amount.
Yes you may. Sometimes solo travelers prefer to share and save the cost of the single supplement. When registering, simply choose this option and we will let you know if and when someone of the same sex has also made this request. Please note that most solo photo travelers choose the private room option.
Unless otherwise requested, couples will have one large bed, usually king or queen. Singles sharing a room will have two beds, often twin size but sometimes double or queen.
There is WIFI access in all the hotels we use, though speeds can vary from very fast to extremely slow. SIM cards, international calling and data are readily available and inexpensive. Therefore creating your own phone Hotspot to access the internet is usually more reliable and faster. If you wish to use your home SIM, be sure your phone company has roaming agreements with the country in question.
The best and recommended time to book your flight is when the tour has been officially confirmed, but it’s your call. Confirmation may occur as early as a year prior to tour start date, or as late as three months. Every tour is different. Generally speaking, a small group photo tour is viable with a minimum of 4 – 5 participants. If in doubt send us an email.
If you prefer to purchase tickets before trip minimum has been reached, it’s probably a good idea to book a refundable ticket. And/or be insured. There can be no reimbursement for international air tickets for any reason.
You can indeed, and you probably should. Why? Because we can almost always beat internet prices, and we can ensure that you won’t have to change rooms. We offer such bookings w/o any mark-up as a service to our much appreciated guests.
Yes! We are happy to offer the following:
Returning Clients: All returning clients from full length, publically offered photo tours now get an automatic $300 discount on any full length, publically offered photo tour. This discount cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers.
Group Discounts: We offer discounts for groups of 6 persons or more registering together, on a sliding scale. Inquire for details.
Referral Discounts or Commissions are offered on a case by case basis, so if you have something in mind please let us know.
Early Bird Discounts: We offer three types of early bird discounts, two on a permanent basis, and the other only on occasion.
Super Early Bird – Any persons sharing a room who book at least one year before tour start date will, on request, receive a $500 discount. Single travelers will receive a $250 discount, plus an additional $100 off their single room supplement!
Early Bird – Any persons sharing a room who book at least 9 months before tour start date will, on request, receive a $400 discount. Single travelers will receive a $200 discount, plus an additional $50 off their single room supplement.
The LJ Crazy Bird – Crazy Bird discounts are ONLY available to Luminous Photographers who have signed up for our free brochure and quarterly newsletter. This feathery whack-nut flies on a whim only, and often surprises with just how crazy he is with generosity! Click here to sign up!
Yes. This is a bit of a sticky wicket though, and as such not all operators do. Some don’t allow non-participants at all.
But before deciding to be a non-photographer consider this: Who doesn’t take photos these days, even if only with a phone? Books have been published using only phone images, and there are photo contests and categories for phones only. So why not learn a new skill and how it translates to a more enriching travel experience? You might be very pleasantly surprised! And would not be the first.
That said, if you have a partner who is truly not interested and won’t be participating in photo shoots, we do offer a $300 non-participant discount. They are free to tag along, but should be mindful of keeping clear of all the keen photography going on! The days are long, so when not feeling the many thrills of the shoot that energize the photographers, it could get tiresome for the non-photographer. For that reason we encourage engaging in activities away from the tour as well. Going shopping, enjoying the spa facilities at the hotel, take a cooking class, etc. We are happy to assist with guides, car/driver if so desired.
Bottom line – Yes non-photographers are most welcome, as long as they are aware of the above and have no issue with it.
Note: For one day private photo tours, there is no discount for non-photogs.
Yes we certainly do! But we do not recommend any specific insurance provider. The list below is offered as a courtesy, and you should conduct your own due diligence. Trip cancellation insurance comes in various forms, but in general it’s not expensive and well worth the price. “Any Reason” trip cancellation insurance removes your financial risk and will reimburse you regardless of the reason for cancellation.
Here’s an article to familiarize yourself on “any reason” trip cancellation insurance.
Here’s an article explaining why some claims are denied.
Please ensure your trip in case you have to cancel late for some unforseen reason, and be sure to read our cancellation policy on our Terms & Conditions page.
Please note that all participants will receive a 40+ page information kit on traveling for photography in your chosen destination, approximately 100 days prior to tour start date.
In the meantime, here’s a shortlist of steps to take:
1. Register for the tour and make your minimum deposit to lock in your reservation.
2. Decide whether to arrive early to get acclimated, and/or to extend after the tour before booking your flight. If either or both, please let us know so we can adjust/assist accordingly.
3. Check into international flight schedules to see what’s available. (Check to see if the tour has reached the minimum number of participants to operate before booking a non-refundable ticket).
4. Check into your health and travel insurance situation, including trip cancellation insurance, and make sure you are covered.
5. Most countries do not allow visa applications until 90 days prior to arrival date, so there’s no hurry. You may apply at the appropriate embassy or consulate in your home country, or do it the easy way online. Links will be included in your info kits.
6. Make sure your passport will have at least 6 months to expiration from your entry date into the destination country or countries.
7. Think about the equipment you might want to bring. If a new camera, get as much practice with it as you can before the tour. Showing up with a new camera you have no experience with is probably not a good idea!
8. Familiarize yourself with the country or countries you’ll be photographing in.
9. Keep fit or get fit! None of our tours have seriously strenous treks, but over the course of two weeks the cummulative walking adds up, so you want to be ready as ready as you can be.