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Tag Archives: Education
I’m sure a number of you reading this have a few stories you can tell about photography workshops. Some good, some not so good, some maybe a little embarrassing (Matt Gibson and Bryan Allen, if you’re reading this don’t say a word). A few months back a friend and former workshop participant called me while he was returning from another workshop. He called to tell me that he wanted to take my workshop again and that he appreciated how I did things. He didn’t appreciate the workshop he just attended, primarily because the instructor was not in a good mood. Then I recently took a workshop in which the instructor was incredibly nice, talented and accomplished, but lazy and very wasteful of our time, and there was a bit of a mismatch between how the workshop was pitched and my skill level. Back in October of 2009 I assisted a friend with his workshop and it was clear that all the participants thought it was an amazing experience.
And let’s not put it all on the instructor’s shoulders. Have you done everything in advance of the workshop to make it a great experience? Here are 5 issues that I think are very important in considering your next (first??) workshop (and I’m sure there are more you can share in the comments section):
1) Does the instructor have a good reputation as a teacher? If you haven’t heard it before, hear it now. A very well known and talented photographer does not necessarily translate into a great workshop instructor. Educating, inspiring, and motivating individuals organized into a group is a special talent. A GREAT workshop leader will create multiple opportunities for you to learn, practice and reflect on the process, seeing and drawing out into the open your strengths and weaknesses.
2) Does the instructor spend time shooting for him/herself? Not everyone is bothered as much by this behavior as I am, but it really sends a message about the instructor’s intent and concern for your experience. In a landscape workshop, for example, if I’m shooting for myself then I can’t be giving you any attention, assistance or support. In a portrait workshop, I may need to shoot to illustrate a teaching point. In any event, don’t be afraid to ask the instructors if, as a matter of practice, they will shoot for their own portfolio during the workshop and decide for yourself how you feel about it. You pay a lot for workshops – you deserve a lot in return.
3) Does the instructor’s personal or professional work and vision inspire you? This issue helps you decide if there is something you can learn from the instructor. Its easy to image that the more advanced you are, the fewer people are out there who can actually teach you something new. The instructor’s vision and talented will most likely be reflected and shared throughout the workshop experience. This is far from a deal killer for any particular workshop, but its important to consider on your own workshop journey.
4) Have you considered what you want from a workshop? Here is a laundry list of things you MIGHT want from a workshop: building/improving upon your eye for the subject matter, new field techniques, basic and creative technical skills in post-processing, building your confidence and inspiration with a new subject, networking, exposure to a new subject (ie. the north shore of Lake Superior or Fashion Photography), or maybe you just want a fun vacation. The list could go on and not every workshop and workshop leader is going to provide a one-stop experience for you, but at least you can begin thinking about what you want from your experience and set priorities that fit with a workshop.
5) Are you prepared to receive it? This may be as important a factor as the instructor - and maybe more so. Its critical to do the following things, if possible: get plenty of rest ahead of and during a workshop. The better instructors will push you mentally and physically (within reason I hope) and rest will allow you to absorb the maximum from the experience. Also, have your equipment ready. Is your computer and software ready to handle the raw files your new camera produce’s? Do you know HOW to use your camera or have your owner’s manual close at hand? Do you have the ability to bring backup camera/computer equipment? Have you double checked with the instructor about equipment, computer and software requirements of for the workshop? Things are tight and its tempting to skimp on critical items to save a few bucks. Budget and save for your next workshop so you can be as prepared for the experience as possible.
No doubt we can add to this list. Feel free to do so in the comments section of the post. If you’re looking for a workshop on location portrait photography, then I urge you to consider:
Bryan Allen Photography – a premier educator and amazing photography talent.