A few months ago I downloaded a PDF produced by Photoshelter and The Photo Educate about tips for people to chose the best photography workshop for them. You can download it following this link. I spent most of yesterday in airports so I finally took the time to go through it. As Pics of Asia is now expanding dramatically I am taking a good look at the photography tours and workshops industry, and what other companies offer. Even though this guide is very much orientated to the North American market and landscape photography workshops (but not only), I did find some very useful information that I’d like to share with you.
The first part of the guide is about finding the right photography workshop for you. Nothing too complicated here: chose a workshop focusing on a type of photography you like, and make sure you like the instructor’s images. So far so good.
The part I found the most interesting is when photography instructors described the types of students they have on their workshops, and this did resonate in me. It is true that there are many types of people joining photographic tours and workshops and not everyone joins for the same reason. Some people are ready to be pushed around (my favourite kind) while others are more on the tour for the photo opportunities it creates. As I run photography workshops (and not just photography tours) I get more excited when people are very open to being taught and not just walk around with the group.
Here is a short summary of the most interesting tips I found in the guide:
- be open-minded and do not expect anything specific from the workshops, except of course to improve your photography and vision
- Listen more than you speak
- Ask many questions, but not only the questions that we can answer. Ask questions that will lead to more questions, and will help you figure out what your real interest is
- Get out of your comfort zone and fail. Fail again and again but see the positive in it as it will allow you to grow as a photographer
- Be curious
Over the last 10 years running photography tours and workshops in Asia I have found that the most curious people are the ones who learn the most. They are interested in everything, not only the photography part, and this helps them have a global understanding of where they are, what they like to shoot and how they’d like to shoot it. The more you know the better prepared you are to analyze a scene and make the best of it. On the contrary, people joining the tours will all the gear, already “knowing everything” end up taking the same photos through the tour and improve much less. And they usually take the worst images, to be honest.
Now there were also some interesting articles from various photographers, on the guide, talking about their experience of running photography workshops. I’d like to quote some of them as you may find it useful in your quest to become a better photographer.
Here is a quote from John Paul Caponigro:
“Everyone is creative. Everyone can improve. I’ve seen people make quantum leaps. This has less to do with education, intelligence or age and more to do with wonder. The most important thing you can learn is to recognize, cultivate and deepen your authentic voice. This is a unique journey for every one of us.”
Here is a quote from Peter Hurley, answering the question “What do you think are special attributes that make for a good portrait photographer?
“You have to love it and you have to have drive. I think creativity is important, but I never felt I was the most creative being. But I’ve got drive. You have to be hungry and you have to go out and get it. You have to also have a very strong idea of what you want as an artist because a lot of people are going to try and sway your opinion on what your images should or shouldn’t be. I’ve always had in the back of my head a clear sense of what I wanted my images to look like, and I think you have to have a firm hold on that”
And now the last quote, this time from Jeffrey Chapman. I never met him but after reading that I really like him! His idea resonates with me and my vision of the ethics of Travel Photography.
“Cultivating these authentic encounters and connections – as opposed to constructed, set-up photographs – has been a goal and hallmark of my photography. I don’t photograph from a distance. I strive to immerse myself, to get close. I use my camera to build bridges and to break down barriers in order to create compelling photographs with personal connections during authentic, unconstructed moments.”
So what questions would you have before joining a photography workshop?
Nice post. It’s important to know what the physical demands of the workshop will be and how to prepare yourself for the possible environmental conditions. Because if we don’t know these things then it would be a waste of money and time to embark on a workshop.
Thanks Don, it is vital indeed!