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Cutting the Cost of Getting Your Photographs

As photographers we like to be out and about taking photographs at any opportunity we can but this can be a costly exercise and we may have limitations due to the amount of available disposable income we have. So in this article we are going to take a look at how we can reduce our costs of getting those photographs we want by concentrating on cost effective ways and methods of getting around the UK and Ireland, reducing the amount of money we spend when out looking a methods of reducing accommodation costs, and entry fees.

The best place to start in your research for finding this out is to use this website, Photographers Resource as here we have various articles relating to reducing costs and those methods you can use to do this. From the Location Guides we have you will be able to identify which of them have FREE Access - look out for the   symbol on the index pages, or those that are a part of the Tesco Clubcard Deals scheme (highlighted with a T on the locations lists), and those that are marked with symbols (English Heritage), (National Trust) and others that will be free to members of those organisations.

Not all involve entry fees, and some that do like railways can often be photographed without the need to spend a penny. Windmills, canals, a lot of our architecture, villages and towns, many wildlife situations and bird reserves can be photographed without the need to pay any entry or membership fees. Local photography may also not involve you in any transport costs.

Getting into UK Attractions Cheaper or for FREE

There are many visitor attractions, and tourism within the UK is a growing marketplace.  Many of these attractions are managed by many different organisations, government departments and private enterprises. Some of those that are not private enterprises have free access, such as those run by the National Museum of Wales which includes St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff. While others can give imply FREE entry by allowing it as part of a membership benefit, or by taking part in a voucher scheme such as the Tesco Clubcard Deals , or City Passes. In most cases commercially run attractions can only give discounts and this can be done in various different ways.

As well as the methods mentioned here there are other methods to consider which can reduce the cost of entry fees. These are such items as discount vouchers/tokens which can be found in leaflets, brochures, and other marketing promotions. They can be available in Tourist Information Centres, Motorway Services, local businesses, accommodation facilities such as hotels and B&B's and other local attractions in the same area. Many of these offers will give a discount off the entry fee usually around 10%, or some will have '2 for 1' offers, or adults pay and children free etc. Even if you live locally to the attraction they will still be available to you, pick up the leaflet and take it along with you.

There is also the option of becoming a member of the various UK organisations looking after our heritage and wildlife and take out annual membership with them. For most if not all of these one of the benefits is to have free access to most if not all their properties and centres. Of course if we were to take out membership of every organisation at once it would not be that cost effective and in reality you probably wouldn't be able to see everything on offer in one year. However in most cases after about 4 visits you will have recovered your membership fee. With so many the best option is to look at what is available and decide which areas are of interest to you and what you may want to focus on and then look at rotating the membership of these to keep the costs down, so that for example one year you might have membership of the National Trust and another year membership of English Heritage.

Some of the organisations you might want to look at include:

  • English Heritage - over 400 historic properties to visit including abbeys, castles, ruins, stately homes and palaces throughout England.
  • National Trust - more than 300 historic places, landmarks, open spaces and gardens to visit throughout England and Wales.
  • National Trust for Scotland - With 16 islands, 76,000 hectares of countryside, 7 national nature reserves, 26 castles, palaces & country houses, 4 battle sites, 35 gardens, 72 holiday properties, and 4 birthplaces of famous Scots.
  • Cadw - which is now the Welsh Assembly's historic environment division. It looks after historic buildings, ancient monuments, historic parks, gardens and landscapes as well as underwater archaeology. The Wales equivalent of an English Heritage.
  • Historic Scotland - an executive agency of the Scottish Government and the Scottish equivalent of Cadw and English Heritage.
  • Historic Houses Association - represents 1500 privately owned historic houses, castles and gardens throughout the United Kingdom, of these 350 are regularly open to the public on a commercial basis. They have two types of membership, the main is obviously for those people who own the properties, but they also have a Friends membership for individual and family members of the public who would like to support them and get free access to those properties that are open to the public. Their website is good and you can search the properties by region to find something to visit.
  • RHS - Royal Horticulture Society - a gardening charity with a commitment to gardeners, through flowers shows, 4 of it's own gardens across England, advice, research as well as lectures and demonstrations.
  • Woodland Trust - a woodland conservation charity who conserves, restores and re-establishing native woodland. As at 2008 they have over 1,000 woods.
  • Wildlife Trusts - there are 47 local Wildlife Trusts across the whole of the UK, Isle of Man and Alderney.

Wildlife organisations - such as:

  • WWT - Wildfowl and Weltands Trust with 9 centres across the UK promoting wetland habitats and wildlife.
  • RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Although there is free entry to the majority of their sites being a member does allow you to get in free to those reserves that have admission charges amongst other things.
  • Scottish Wildlife Trust - as at 2008 they have 120 reserves and 3 visitor centres spread throughout Scotland. One of these visitor centres is at the Falls of Clyde in New Lanark, where they have CCTV beaming live action of peregrines and the Corra Linn Waterfall.

We have put together a Membership Benefits of Organisations page which identifies the membership benefits of all those listed above and from here you can link direct to the membership page of their website to get further details on membership rates etc.

This is only a fraction of the various membership organisations around the UK, that offers additional benefits to its members including many special interest groups such as Heritage Railways where some over the ability to get Lineside Passes at a discount allowing them to access the railways and get super shots of steam trains in the countryside. See our article on Photography on the Railway for more on this.

Other ways to get cheaper, discounted and in some cases free access into visitor attractions is via either voucher and discount schemes or from City Travel Passes, both of which we look at here.

Voucher and Discount Schemes

  • Tesco Clubcard Points - Clubcard points can be used in a number of ways but are four times as valuable when used for obtaining Deals Vouchers, this includes entry fees to a wide range of places, the cost of meals in many restaurants and cafes and much more. We have an article covering this, Tesco Clubcard Deals . They can also be used to pay for membership to organisations such as English Heritage - see our Organisations Membership page to find out which ones, they are marked with a (T).
  • Airmiles - This scheme is run by the British Airways Group and can not only be used for taking flights around the world, but you can also use them to get cost effective days out when converting Airmiles to attraction tickets. Our Airmiles   page will tell you more.
  • SmartSave - 20% off entrance to attractions or restaurant bill from participating venues. You simply visit their website, printout out a discount voucher which you take with you and show a SmartSave code to the ticket counter or waiter before you pay and that's it.

Local and Tourist Passes

These Passes are special cards you can purchase for a fee and then you can get free access to the participating attractions, or discounts of meals in restaurants and in some cases discounts on travelling as well. They can be purchased in a range of formats and can be for periods of a single day to multi day versions. Some of these include:-

  • The London Pass allowing you to purchase a 1 to 6 day card to get entry into 55 of London's attractions, plus discounts and offers on restaurants, cafes, shopping etc. You can also incorporate a travel element to allow you travel around on the London Transport Network.
  • Visit Edinburgh Pass - free entry to over 30 attractions, free return airport and city centre bus transport, free comprehensive guidebook and 25 exclusive offers, including car hire, restaurants, gift shops and tours.
  • York Pass allows you to purchase a card to get free or discounted entry into 30 attractions in and around York.
  • Isle of Wight all in One ticket - is a combination of ferry trip from the UK mainland and then bus and/or train travel around the island, it also covers other options from other companies.
  • Liverpool 3 day Mini Break Card - free entry to some attractions, plus free unlimited travel on the S2 and S3 city bus routes as well as discounts on meals taken in some bars and restaurants.
  • The Cornwall Tourist Pass - is a discount card giving discounts on attractions, accommodation, meals and shopping in Cornwall.
  • Historic Scotland Explorer Pass - An all in one pass for their properties, as well as the pass covering the whole of Scotland there are also 3 regional passes which are for Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders and Orkney and cover the participating Historic Scotland properties in these areas.
  • The Dublin Pass   - Free entry to over 30 of Dublinís visitor attractions, transport from the airport to the city with Aircoach and access to over 25 special offers and discounts in shops, restaurants, leisure pursuits, tours and more....

The VisitBritain website has details on a number of 'sightseeing passes'. There may well be more local discount cards for towns and cities like the visitor cards for Cambridge, Oxford, Bath and Brighton usually valid for 3 weeks and available from local Information Centres. See this link for the visitor cards currently on offer.

Travelling the UK

Once we have decided where we want to go we could jump in our car and make our way there, but with petrol prices rising and car parking charges, and more people becoming more 'Eco' conscious it may be time to think about other ways of getting around the UK. Normally the pace of life sees us in a hurry, we take little time to relax and reflect, but most times when we are wanting to take photographs, that's just what we are trying to do - take time out, relax, enjoy our environment and countryside. Taking that once in a lifetime picture is one of the reasons we are going, we are not trying to see how many pictures we can bag in one day. However that said, if when we are out, because of the area we have chosen to visit, we are able to get a lot of nice quality images, then that's a bonus. So in this section we are going to take a look at how, if we take other methods of transport instead of our 4 wheels, we can do this economically and in some cases for FREE.

Travelling  by Bus or Coach

Free travel, Yes I really did say FREE - well this is an option for those who have acquired a greater experience of life, or who have an 'eligible' disability. Since April 2008 it is now possible for individuals aged 60 and over and 'eligible disabled' persons of any age to get a FREE bus pass. It is not means tested, so is available to all over 60, men and women. There are different operating rules in terms of where you are resident, when and where you can travel to and from and in some cases other benefits are available. In theory a person living in Brighton could take a series of free buses to the Lake District, but you may need to allow a few days. The one place this is really an advantage is photographing in your own local patch or counties, which is totally free, and once you start looking you may find there is more than you thought available to photograph near your home. For more information and ideas see:

Other options for the 60+ include:

  • National Express and the Over 60's - have a senior card which means you can get a third off coach travel all year round. See here for details .

  • In Scotland if you're over 60, are resident in Scotland and have a concessionary travel pass you can travel free on Scottish CityLink throughout the day including the rush hour. They also have various other methods of saving costs for others whether resident or visitors when travelling around Scotland,  check their website for more details.

Concessionary Fares for Young People (16-25)

  • Scotland has a Young Scot National Entitlement Card for 16-18 year olds plus young full-time volunteers up to age of 26, where you can get concessionary rates while travelling on buses, rail and ferries throughout Scotland. For example a third off bus and rail fairs, but if you live on a Scottish Island you also get two free return ferry journeys to the mainland each year. See here for details.  

  • National Express Young Persons Coach Card - is available to everyone aged 16-26 as well as full time students and gives you up to 30% off coach travel. However some special offer fares will are not covered. See their website for details.

For everybody else

Special Fares and Cheap Tickets: Many local bus services have cheap daily fares if trips are taken outside the rush hour, as well as Rover Tickets which allow you to buy a number of trips for a period or say a week or more, buying these when you want to do a lot of travelling can prove more economic than the normal daily fare.

There are Coach Cards which operate in the same way as Rail Cards, you pay for an annual card and then get reduced fares or offers on your travel for that year. For example the National Express Family Coach Card has two options one for 2+2 where the two adults pay the full fare but both the children travel for free, the card in 2012 cost £16. On the Family 1+1 one adult pays the full fare and one child travels free and in 2012 costs £8.

City Sightseeing Tours. In the UK they cover 30 cities/towns covered. They operate as a Hop On and Hop Off as much as you like service at any of the bus stops on the route as well as allowing you to see all the best sights and attractions that the town or city has to offer.  This may be a good way of getting around some of our cities as well as a cost effective way to see and photograph the major tourist attractions of that area. Being Open Top buses if you sit on the top in some towns/cities they will go at a slow enough speed that you will be able to photograph as you are travelling along. For more on where you might be able to read City Sightseeing Tours.

Another option is to look at coach companies who offer Coach Day Trips and Holiday's by coach. These may be away for you to get to a place in the day with the company of others and when stop offs are made to jump off and take the opportunity to take your photo. Day trips normally go to the coast, or historic houses, other historic places of interest and sometime just to a large city like Cambridge to do shopping, these are normally cost effective and usually includes the entry fee of where you are going to visit, the only thing you're not in control of is the time you are there as you have to follow their programme. Going further a field still, you could have a weekend break say to Blackpool, where the coach takes you there, transports you around the lights and includes hotel accommodation and meals, but during the day the time is yours to do what you like. Via this same route you could take a week or multi week break for example to Scotland or around the continent. For details on some of the companies I have been able to identify offering these sorts of breaks take a look at Coach Companies offering Days Out and Holidays

Travelling by Rail

Let the train take the strain. Travelling by train isn't necessarily quicker than going by car, they do not always run to where you want to go so in a lot of cases you will have to use a combination of transport methods to get around and it can be expensive. However we have identified some ways where you can make savings travelling by train and some methods you will be aware while others you may not even have thought of including the use of Railcards for families, the disabled, 16-25 year olds, over 60's, special city passes, combination offers and more. I have put together a separate page covering this - Ways to Cut the Cost of Rail Travel .

There are also combination offers such as:

  • London TravelCard - for getting around London includes travelling on London Underground, London Buses, National Rail Trains, The Docklands Light Railway, Tramlink as well as a 33% discount on London River Services. London Travel Pass details.
  • London Oyster Card for paying for bus, tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and participating national rail travel in London - London Oyster Card details.
  • If you are travelling to the Isle of Wight then consider the Ferry, Bus and Rail combination pass - Isle of Wight all in One ticket will give you more details on what is on offer.

Travelling by Air

Most of us think of Air travel when we want to go further afield into Europe or across the Atlantic and beyond, but there are a number of services that will get us to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Isles of Scilly, Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Scotland and Scottish Islands. Many of the smaller islands like the Isles of Scilly are serviced by small commercial airlines, where as travelling to Ireland you can use the well known ones like RyanAir, EasyJet and BMI Baby. Many if not all of these airlines have their own websites and ordering your tickets (they call them e-tickets) direct online can give you some good rates. There are also many websites on the internet where you can buy tickets as well as getting last minute bargains the most well known of these being LastMinute.com, and last minute deals can also be picked up from travel agents in the high street. The one thing to watch with Air Fares quoted is that they do include everything, many of the discount airlines and tour operators quote low fares, but then add on taxes and other charges later - making the costs spiral before you leave. These can also in many cases take you to a regional airport some way from your destination and you have budget in the cost and time of travelling some distance to and from the airport.

Another option for some of these places is to use the Airmiles you've collected.

Reducing Accommodation Costs

When doing more than a day trip there are also accommodation costs to consider, and offers and considerable savings can be made by making use of the many websites on the internet. Whatever the type of accommodation you like to have there is usually a last minute, out of season, midweek offer available. It just requires some determination and time on your part to carry out the research. Also think about the type of accommodation you want, are you just expecting a bed for the night and to be out all day then is there any point in having a top quality hotel when good quality bed and breakfast establishments would do just as well.

Some of the Travel Pass/Discount cards that we've discussed above also have participating partners who are offering accommodation at a discount or offers such as 3 nights for the price of 2, or children staying free for full paying adults.

Another way is to use one of the Coach Companies that offer multi day breaks and include accommodation, they usually have their favourite good quality accommodation they use. Or if there are only adults in your party consider something like the Warner Short or Mini Breaks where you can get a B&B in a hotel and evening entertainment but the day time is your own.

You will also find you can purchase a special type of guide book that includes vouchers for FREE hotel accommodation providing that you purchase meals.

Also make use of the Internet, websites like lastminute.com that allows you to not only find latest offers on flights, holidays, hotels, city breaks but also Car Hire, going out, restaurants, theatre and days out discounts at UK attractions - so potentially can get yourself a bargain trip. There are many different versions of these and they are not all the same so it's worth checking as many as you can to find the best deal.

Overseas Travel

Most of what we have covered here has been based on us taking time out to explore our own country, the UK. However there were some offers I came across whilst researching this that would be useful to those of you who travel abroad. For example:-

  • Air Travel - see the Airmiles article to find out how to collect and use them and save on travelling abroad.
  • For Overseas Travel there is also a group of City Cards available for 35 European countries see the website featuring European City Cards www.europeancitycards.com for links to each of these countries offers.
  • Also there are Travel Passes for New York and Philadelphia in the USA.

For People with Special Needs

Those who have special needs such as a physical difficulty, medical condition  or learning disability or those who care for them have a number of other discounts and options available to them. We have a separate page For People with Special Needs . We try to show some of this information within location guides, but often there is more information on websites of attractions but it may be difficult to find. A good place to start looking beside the 'prices' page is the 'Access' page.

Overseas Visitors

For Overseas Visitors visiting the UK you can use many of the options listed here and accompanying articles, but there are also various options available for you and not available to UK residents - see our separate page 'Sightseeing for overseas visitors' covering items relevant to visitors from other countries coming to the UK.

To link to all the pages we have available on making your money go that little further go to the sub section Controlling Costs.

If you know of other specific deals and offers then please do let us know.


By: Tracey Park Section: Controlling costs Key:
Page Ref: cutting_collecting_photo_costs Topic: Reference and Organisation Last Updated: 07/2014

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