Venice and the Magic of the Carnival

Venice, Italy. February 8-13, 2021

€3,300 / $3,700

Join me in Venice, as we explore the romantic city during the days of the Carnival, a festival of colors, perfumes, and music that has no equal in the world.

Venice is a wonder every day of the year, but during the Carnival it also becomes a stage upon which hundreds of performers turn their fantasies into reality. Imagine, if you will, being transported to an enchanted land, inhabited by charming and mysterious characters who move with grace and elegance.

The Carnival of Venice is an event that attracts thousands of photographers from all over the world, each one of them hoping to photograph the beautiful and rich costumes that people wear during those days. Expectations are high, but without in-depth knowledge and the right resources, photographing the Carnival can be a frustrating experience, as everyone has to fight for their spot and their time with the models. Popular locations can be very crowded and it is almost impossible to get a good shot, with the best light and a nice background.

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Frederick Fenyvessy San Antonio, TX

Amazing photography tour in Venice. Ugo is both a great teacher and guide. I attend multiple photo tours/workshops every year and this is one that will go into my "I really want to travel with Ugo again". Great balance between photo time and free time - and he allowed me to see a side of Venice which I missed in previous trips. It being Carnival - he placed us in a great position to create images, provided timely and creative feedback and made the entire experience not only fun but a deeply creative experience.

We Stand Out From The Competition

What I offer with this tour is an experience that is completely different from the rushed and confusing one you would get by going to the Carnival on your own. Thanks to the many Carnivals I and my partners have spent in Venice, we have developed personal and intimate relationships with the best models, those who wear the richest costumes and who are accustomed to posing for the best photographers. This means having their undivided attention, dedicated to you and your small group for all the time necessary.

In the past, we have also scouted some exclusive locations, like hotels, palaces, and theaters, where you will be able to photograph the models in beautiful settings, amidst ancient furniture and tapestry, without having to share the rooms with many other photographers.

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Chris Lord New York City, NY

Thoroughly enjoyed the recent workshop in Venice. The Carnival is a wonderful event to photograph as is the fantastical city of Venice. Ugo got us to all the right places at the right times for an incredible photography experience. Certainly a top recommendation!

Tour Highlights

By joining this tour, you will be able to enjoy a two-fold experience:

  • One experience is all about the beauty of Venice, its churches, palaces and canals. We will explore the city together and I will show you its most iconic locations in the best light, together with some less well known, but equally stunning spots.
  • The second experience will coincide with the days when the Carnival celebrations are in full swing and the most elaborate and precious costumes are on display. Thanks to the closely-knit relationships we have built with the A-list models, you will have the opportunity to photograph them in hotel suites and palace halls in the course of private sessions, while avoiding the crowds.

We are not giving here a detailed, day-by-day plan of the activities, because we want to be flexible and prepared to adapt our schedule to the timing of specific events, the availability of models, and the vagaries of weather. However, we have a general plan that includes all of the following:

  • Private shooting sessions with the best masked models of the Carnival.
  • Exclusive access to rooms and halls with exquisite furniture and decorations.
  • A gondola ride with masked models, where everyone gets plenty of time on the boat, not just a few minutes.
  • Photo tours of the most picturesque Venetian locations.
  • A trip to the multicoloured island of Burano.
  • Private access to the laboratories of artisans that still build gondolas, marionettes, glass jewelry, and other artifacts according to methods developed centuries ago.
  • Individual and group sessions of critique and post-processing.
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Sherry Benjamins Los Angeles, CA

Imagine having an opportunity to photograph some of the most incredible locations and people in the world’s most romantic city, Venice. And, during Carnevale! It was wonderful in every way. From the first email with Ugo, I could tell he was a caring, highly professional and experienced photographer and tour guide for us. He knew this city well and shared a lot before we were there.

I am so glad we chose Ugo and it was very special – my husband is still talking about it. There was so much to learn and interspersed with seeing a boat builder (gondolas), meeting the only professional puppet maker in Venice – and seeing how glass jewelry is made. Photo shoots were morning and night – you have to appreciate and be patient with the models. They are stunning.

The food also was wonderful – Ugo knew the best places. The group was small and allowed for intimate discussion and ease. We are so grateful for a truly immersive and learning experience in a magical city.

The Masks

If you've been to Carnival celebrations in other parts of the world and you've built your expectations around what you've experience there, prepare to have them shattered. There is absolutely nothing like the Venice Carnival, anywhere in the world!

Hundreds of people, from all corners of the world, spend a whole year making their own outfits, of which they might bring three or four to Venice, where they spend one or two weeks, being dressed in costume from dawn to the wee hours of the night.

Styles range from the historical, with costumes based on accurate research of the fashion habits of two hundred years ago, to the fantastic, to cosplay, to funny, to absolutely outrageous. What you can count on is that every costume will be fabulously rich and detailed.

You can see some examples in the gallery below.

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Judith Pannozo Racine, WI

What an extraordinary experience to participate in a photography tour and workshop with Ugo Cei Photography Tours, in Venice, Italy during the Venice Carnival. His knowledge of Venice along with the right place to be at the right time made this perfect. Add to that his technical and lighting knowledge and then to top it off the perfect local eateries and local interests. It was days full from daylight to evening at a manageable pace with likeminded new international friends. So glad I took the leap and participated.

The City

Every corner of Venice is a photo opportunity and sometimes I just love wondering around, getting lost, and taking photos of whatever strikes my fancy. If you are short on time, however, it is great to be with one who knows Venice very well, like me, and can take you to the most Instagram-worthy corners of it at the best times of day.

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Arthur Wolkovier Sao Paulo, Brazil

It was a great joy to participate at the Ugo Cei workshop in Venice.

A pleasant, kind and generous person, always ready to share his knowledge about the Venice and carnival. The organization was impeccable, the sessions with the models was done in a very professional way, the tours around the city were incredible. He knows every corner of this charming city. My wife and I came back with 5,000 extraordinary photos. An incredible experience, I recommend!

If I could I would give 6 stars!

Arts and Crafts

Would you like to photograph one of the two remaining boatyards in Venice, where gondolas are still built by hand? Not the fake ones that are put inside a warehouse just for tour groups? I can take you there.

Would you like to visit the workshop of an artisan that creates beautiful wooden marionettes, each one a unique piece of art? You can, if you come with me.

Would you like to see a little laboratory where an artist makes incredibly detailed glass jewels? Again, not the fake ones that are made in Hong Kong and sold all over the place? I've got you covered.

In all of these cases, you will not only be able to photograph at leisure, but to talk to the craftsmen as well, to hear their stories and the secrets of their craft. All of this as part of a very small group and taking all the time you need, instead of being herded by an unscrupulous tour guide. I personally take a lot of pride in being able to offer you those kinds of authentic experiences.

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Patsy Latscha Newport Beach, CA

I had a wonderful experience in Venice with Ugo. I learned new things while enjoying the wonderful city. I have some special needs which he was able to accommodate perfectly. I highly recommend his company for photo tours.

What You Can Expect

This is an intensive tour and you will be shooting a lot, sometimes form the early morning, if the weather is favorable.

You will photograph indoors and outdoors a variety of subjects at varying times of the day.

Depending on the circumstances, we will use natural lights, a mixture of natural or artificial continuous light and flash, or flash light alone. We will start with one flash and then add another one or even two, in a progression from simple to complex lighting schemas. We will also experiment with light painting.

Me and my team pride ourselves in being able to organize sessions that only our group will have access to. I have purposefully limited the group size to eight students in order to give everyone maximum attention and a lot of time with our models.

We will sometimes attend one of those gatherings where dozens of masks and photographers show up, but we don’t do this to get good photographs. Sometimes I go to those gatherings and I don’t take a single photo in the crowd, as I know my results will be mediocre. The reason we go there is to socialize with the models and with the other photographers, knowing that the Carnival of Venice attracts some of the best photographers in the world, which you will have a chance to know personally. I think this is a valuable experience, in small doses.

Come prepared to be presented with a lot of information and to go from session to session in a fast paced way. You will learn a lot during this tour, but it is highly recommended that you know your camera very well and understand the basics of exposure. This is not the place to come with a new camera whose workings you still have to figure out. I assume you know how to quickly set aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focusing modes and that you can shoot in manual mode. Everything else can be learned on the spot.

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Lynda Rubin Greenberg Toronto, Canada

Ugo was a wonderful teacher and host in Venice at last years’ Carnival. He takes all the time you need to get your shot and to help with the camera settings when needed! Ugo was very generous and took us out for dinner two times, beginning and end of the workshop. And, he’s fun to be with!!

Physical Fitness Considerations

Getting around in Venice means having to walk a lot, as the boat buses only travel along the Canal Grande and around the city. While venice is flat, going from point A to point B usually requires going up and down the steps of a number of bridges in order to cross the numerous canals. If you have difficulties walking and have severe respiratory problems, this is probably not the activity for you.

That said, even elderly people, as long as they are reasonably fit, can join me in Venice, as they have done in the past. Whenever we have to walk, we always do so at a leisurely pace.

Tour Price

The cost for attending this 6-day tour is €3,300 ($3,700 USD), inclusive of VAT and taxes.

This is for tuition only. Accommodation is NOT included.


A deposit of €800 is required in order to book a seat.

What Is Included

  • Photography instruction in a small group setting (max. 8 people) by a team of skilled professional photographers.
  • A welcome dinner and a farewell dinner.
  • All entrances to museums and attractions that we will visit together as a group.

What Is NOT Included

  • Accommodation. We usually stay at a very nice and central 3/4-star hotel from which we can easily reach all our shooting locations. We will reserve a block of rooms at a special rate, but you are free to choose a different hotel, if you prefer. To give you an indication, the rate for 2020 was 165€ per night for a double room, inclusive of breakfast.
  • Your flights or trains in and out of Venice.
  • Transportation to and from Venice airport or railway station to the hotel (I can organize private taxis for you on request).
  • Local transportation tickets. You can acquire a weekly pass that covers all boat services within the city of Venice for 60€.
  • Private gondola rides. We will organize private, half-hour rides with one student, one instructor and one or two models in costume. These are optional and cost 80€ per ride. 
  • All meals not listed above.
  • Any tips or personal expenses.
  • Travel insurance (I strongly recommend you stipulate a personal travel insurance to cover cancellations and accidents).
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Diana Hatfield Denver, CO

I have done 3 photo tours with 3 different guides and locations, this has been the best of the three. Ugo was definitely the best of the three guides. His attention to detail with setting the scene and location with models, suggestions on camera settings were helpful for me, a novice with portrait photography. I would definitely recommend any tour with Ugo, he is an excellent photographer willing to share his knowledge, experience and secrets of special places he knows to make the entire photography experience a lifetime memory.

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