The hidden benefits of a photographic workshop

Besides our much-loved photographic workshops guided by David Rogers, Photos & Africa books safari holidays for our clients all over Africa. Of course, you can visit many of our favourite photographic destinations on your own, at a time most convenient for you, and we’re happy to help organize your itinerary and bookings. But, there are a few benefits to joining a photographic workshop beyond the obvious prospect of getting special advice from a pro on how to improve your photos.

1. Have a seat

One of the non-obvious but extremely important advantages of a private photographic workshop comes down to your seat on game drive vehicles. When you book in at most safari lodges, even the fanciest ones, they group you with other travelers for your daily activities.  You’ll more than likely share a game drive vehicle with one to three groups of other guests. Good lodges try to group you with people with similar interests and schedules.

This is fine for the casual safari-goer, but for a photographer, it can be agony. Some lodges pack nine guests onto the back of an open safari vehicle. A middle seat leaves little room to maneuver a camera, let alone keep a few lenses at the ready. Bobbing heads and waving arms, binoculars and lenses will frequently invade your viewfinder. By contrast, on our photographic workshops, we limit the number of guests so that no one gets a middle seat.

At many lodges, you can pay extra to get a private guide and vehicle, something we recommend for ardent photographers. A private vehicle often costs $500 per day and more, which can really cut into the budget for a single traveler or a couple. Many lodges operate under strict limits of how many vehicles can be out on the concession or national park at one time, so even those willing to pay can’t always get a private vehicle, especially in high season. On Photos & Africa workshops, we always reserve private game drive vehicles ahead of time, which means we share the cost and guarantee availability of a vehicle.

2. The power of shared interests

Mixing guests interested in photography with those chasing birds, flowers, the big five, or relaxation is a recipe for conflict and frustration, and this isn’t infrequent when you gamble with a shared vehicle on safari. On the other hand, when you join a photographic workshop, you know you’ll seek out the best subjects for photography and spend plenty of time when the light is good. There’s no need to compromise with more generalist safari guests who want to rush around ticking as many sightings as possible.

On our workshops, we often get a little more latitude from lodges, a bit of special treatment. We can arrange to get off the vehicle to set up a landscape shot of try to get a lower angle of view on a certain sighting. Often, we can arrange to head out earlier in the morning or stay out later.

One of the most frustrating things for a photographer is sharing a game drive with other guests who oversleep or want to spend an extra half hour at the breakfast table during the golden hour. The same goes for sunset when vehicles rush to designated ‘sundower’ spots for refreshments. On a designated photo workshop, we can opt to have our sundowers on the go, still chasing the best light.

3. Surprising lessons

Your photographic workshop leader has decades of experience and is always on hand to share tips on settings, composition, or equipment in between wild stories from life in the bush.

But it’s surprising how much you can learn from your fellow photographers on the trip, no matter their skill level. It’s very rewarding to share the same sighting with a group of photographers and later compare photographs to see how each captured the scene differently. Sometimes it looks like guests were on two different game drives.

It’s a valuable learning experience to see what works and what doesn’t and how you might have shot the scene differently. It’s also fun to see what equipment other photographers are using and to chat about the finer details—you know, those conversations that cause your friends back home to stare into space with glazed over eyes.

If you’re interested in joining us on a photographic workshop, take a look at our upcoming departures. Or, contact us to put together a private itinerary and help you get a private vehicle.