In the hands of an expert, even a simple box camera can produce striking reminders of vacation pleasures. But all too often advanced equipment costing hundreds of dollars gives disappointing results in less-experienced hands. As a result, more and more amateur photographers are seeking out the experts to learn the proper techniques for documenting a trip with competence and artistic style.

Tour packages designed for photography buffs -- to destinations in the United States and around the world -- are offered regularly by tour operators and working photojournalists. They combine interesting photogenic journeys with professional instruction, sometimes providing workshops along with the field trips.

The currently scheduled tours include:

* Thru the Lens Tours: This California wholesaler/retailer of photographic packages has been designing and operating trips since 1952. It emphasizes small groups (maximum of 20 -- novice to expert), which facilitates mobility and permits individual attention from professional photographers and teachers.

Among the tour leaders are Dr. Wayne Lynch, a Canadian wildlife photographer, former physician, author and instructor in advanced field photography who has been published in major nature magazines; and Judy Dater, an American photographer, recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, whose pictures have been exhibited in galleries and published in major magazines.

Travel arrangements are planned to coincide with favorable weather conditions and the time of day that provides the best lighting. Besides visits to famous landmarks, time is allotted for snapping local scenes and unscheduled happenings. Native dances and other special events are prearranged.

Hotels are deluxe or first class where available; lodging in remote or primitive areas may be "very plain," but will permit guests to photograph cultures that otherwise would be excluded.

This year's packages are divided into three major categories: Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, and North and South America. Aside from a few exceptions, all meals are included on foreign tours; on domestic trips most meals are omitted to permit a choice of restaurants, except where the tour lodge or inn is considered the only or best place to dine.

One example of these photographic adventures is "The Burma Road," departing Nov. 8 (and Feb. 8, 1986) from San Francisco to China, Burma and Thailand. The 25-day journey includes visits to Hong Kong; Kunming (to shoot one of China's natural wonders, the Stone Forest); Xishuangbanna, near China's border with Burma (to explore and visit local hill tribes); Pagan's Burmese temple ruins; Mandalay and Bangkok. Cost: $3,480 per person, double occupancy, for land arrangements, about $1,550 for air fare. Group limit: 17.

More information: For a free four-page flyer describing each of the firm's 29 tours this year, with prices, write or call Thru the Lens Tours Inc., 5855 Green Valley Circle, Suite 206, Culver City, Calif. 90230, (800) 521-LENS. A 58-page full-color catalogue is also available for $10; the price will be refunded as a rebate on the first tour booked.

* Victor Emanuel Photo Safaris: Victor Emanuel, which has been conducting nature tours since 1976, began operating this new subsidiary in January. It was created to provide natural-history photographic tours and expeditions in North and South America.

The trips are aimed at putting the photographer-travelers in the best location at the right time, and providing an expert to guide them through the shot. Most tours cover a variety of types of photography -- wildlife, macro, scenic and even photojournalism; a few concentrate on wildlife or scenery.

Leaders include Jim Bones, whose photographs have appeared in Audubon and Natural History magazines and in many U.S. galleries; Randy Green, former associate editor, writer and photographer for Texas Highways magazine; and Robert Taylor, an internationally published photographer-naturalist from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

This year there will be 17 packages, including a study of coastal bird life in Louisiana rookeries and trips to Big Bend National Park and other wild country in Texas, the Canadian Rockies and Ecuador's Gala'pagos Islands. On most trips, field excursions are made by van from first-class base accommodations, though backpacking or camping may be required on a few of the more primitive wilderness expeditions. All meals are included.

A typical safari, "Churchill," June 24-July l, begins in Winnipeg and is the summer counterpart to the firm's "Churchill and Polar Bears" tours that offer close-ups of this Arctic animal in the fall. The summer trip offers opportunities to photograph birds, landscape, flowers, ice formations and more. Several blinds will be set up at bird nests to facilitate the study of close-up work. The emphasis will be on observation, planning, composition and lighting. Cost: $1,095 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from Winnipeg to Churchill. Group limit: 12.

More information: For a free brochure, write Victor Emanuel Photo Safaris Inc., P.O. Box 33008, Austin, Tex. 78764, (512) 477-5091.

* The Purcell Team Camera Safari: Local photojournalists Carl and Ann Purcell, who have logged more than 3 million miles in worldwide travel, have designed their third field seminar in wildlife photography, Sept. 1-18, in East Africa.

After a flight from New York to London and two days in the British capital, the group will fly to Nairobi, where the safari starts. During visits to Nairobi National Park, the Mt. Kenya Safari Club, Treetops, Lake Nakuru, Amboseli, Mombasa and Mara Mara, there will be ample opportunities to photograph a variety of African wildlife. There also will be opportunities to relax at well-known lodges, swim in the Indian Ocean, take an optional hot-air balloon ride over herds of animals and go shopping.

Carl Purcell, who has visited 86 countries, is a professional photographer and free-lance travel writer whose column on travel photography appears monthly in Signature and Popular Photography magazines. The couple provides photographic assistance in the field; several camera companies have loaned high-powered telephoto lenses for use on the safari.

The package includes all hotels in London and Africa, full breakfast in London and three meals daily in Africa, photographic consultation throughout the trip, ground transportation by open-roof safari mini-buses with window seats for each participant, sightseeing, round-trip airport transfers, all taxes and round-trip transportation from JFK/London/Nairobi via British Airways. Cost: $3,620 per person, double occupancy. Group limit: 23.

More information: Words and Pictures, 5913 Skyline Heights Court, Alexandria, Va. 22311; or contact Travel Pointe, 1800 Diagonal Rd., Alexandria 22314, (703) 683-8515 or (800) 368-3005 outside Virginia.

* Wild Horizons Inc.: This Arizona firm, in its first year of operation, is specializing in six- to 18-day nature photography workshop/field trips in the United States, Mexico and Kenya. Its excursions combine slide programs, demonstrations, hands-on experience in the field and critiques.

The current catalogue describes eight packages. Instructor-guides are Wild Horizons president Tom Wiewandt, a professional photographer and film maker who has degrees in both zoology and ecology; and its managing director John Gerlach, a professional nature photographer and free-lance writer. Occasionally guest guides are added.

The Arches National Park in Utah, with the largest concentration of natural arches in the world, will be the location of a journey June 2-8. Field trips will be spent exploring and photographing Devil's Garden, Fiery Furnace, the Windows and Courthouse Towers. In addition, wildflowers will offer close-up subjects while prairie falcons, mountain bluebirds, white-throated swifts and other desert birds will provide further picture opportunities.

Another field trip will go to nearby Dead Horse Point State Park for a striking view of the Colorado River. The package includes six nights' lodging in Moab, ground transportation, park fees, lunches, horseback ride with cookout, closing banquet and instruction. Cost: $790 per person, double occupancy, land arrangements only. Group limit: 20.

More information: Wild Horizons Inc., 1836 E. Linden St., Tucson, Ariz. 85719, (602) 795-0038.

* Citizens Exchange Council: For more than 20 years, the non-profit, non-political CEC has been active in furthering educational and cultural exchanges between Americans and Soviets. From Oct. 14 to 28, CEC will sponsor its third annual "Photographer's Exchange in the Soviet Union."

This program, led by Cole Weston, internationally known landscape photographer and son of the late Edward Weston, is described as being suited for all levels of expertise. Participants will visit Moscow, Leningrad and Tbilisi, with time to wander around taking pictures and a chance to compare techniques with Soviet photographers. Weston, who has led a previous program, will give advice on the Weston tradition in black-and-white developing and printing, Cibachrome printing processes and the use of 35mm and 6x7 color formats.

In Moscow, the group will meet Dmitri Baltermants, photo editor of Ogonyok, one of the USSR's leading weekly magazines, which resembles Life magazine. Baltermants was a famous Soviet combat photographer and is well known for his photos of World War II.

At the end of the trip, a day and a half will be spent in Helsinki.

The package includes round-trip air fare from New York, all scheduled transportation, double occupancy in first-class hotels, all meals, visas, transfers, taxes, excursions and meetings with Soviet photographers. Cost: $2,069 per person. Group limit: 25.

More information: CEC, 18 E. 41st St., New York, N.Y. 10017, (212) 889-7960.

Many outdoor adventure trips, expeditions and wildlife safaris by other operators also include photography as one of the activities. However, in those instances the emphasis on film technique may be very limited and little or no individual professional guidance may be available.

Details on opportunities for camera trips are usually available from photography clubs and magazines, or see a travel agent for additional listings.