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Choosing a Photo Workshop

More than a thousand photo workshops are offered each year on every conceivable aspect of photography. If you want to learn how to use masks in imaging programs or do lighting for portraits it’s fairly easy to choose one because those are highly specific subjects. It  becomes more difficult, though, if you want to attend a workshop that will help you improve your picture taking ability by teaching you to think and see creatively.

Some “workshops” are just get-togethers where photographers gather at a location for a weekend and shoot away. These can be a lot of fun but you may not learn as much as you’d like because it’s more of a social event than a learning experience.

Others are “photo op” workshops where locations (and shooting viewpoints) are pre-chosen to make sure everyone gets perfect pictures. Unfortunately, with everyone taking almost-identical shots, it’s a stretch to claim that you did anything more than click the shutter along with dozens of others.

Even if you enroll in a workshop where your group goes to a location and you have more time to meander around, there’s always a lot of pressure to conform to what others are shooting or to the personal tastes of an instructor who might promote certain kinds of images.

I hate group-shoot workshops because I’ve seen how it can stifle creativity and actually prevent you from learning how to develop the “seeing” skills needed for individual expression. For example, if everyone’s shooting a subject from nearly the same point of view, there’s pressure to do the same rather than take your time to come up with something different.

More than ten years ago, I rejected that concept when I put together our first workshop. I’d had years of previous experience as a photographer and had also taught photography at domestic and foreign universities where I had developed a technique that allowed students to improve their photography rapidly in both the short and long term. And I’d come to the conclusion that:

If you’re serious about developing photographic skills that will allow you to begin creating dynamic images that are uniquely yours, you need to learn to wing it on your own.

That’s the kind of workshop we give and the results are remarkable. All pictures at the links below were shot by attendees during our workshop without an instructor present. After just two days of classes, they began to “get it” and then go on to shoot images they never thought they could create.

How do we do it? To begin with we don’t waste a lot of time with simple things that can be learned before the workshop begins. All attendees receive a short list that explains essential camera functions they should be familiar with before they arrive.

Next, we’ve set up a special web site with ten lessons on basic photography that include shooting exercises. It’s optional, of course, but it’s available in advance to attendees who want to become familiar with different types of photography or brush up on certain techniques.

Classes are structured so that attendees get a mix of both dynamic presentations and hands-on experience. They are able to immediately use what they learn in class and apply it to images they’ll be taking as the workshop progresses. It is this relationship between what’s learned in class and how that knowledge can rapidly be applied that results in images that become more imaginative and powerful each day.

The most valuable and enjoyable aspect of the workshop are the viewing sessions when instructors comment on work that’s been shot, and questions and answers fly back and forth. This process is critical to rapid learning. By having their work and that of others reviewed, and by listening to the instructor’s technical and esthetic advice, attendees begin to develop a knowledge base that’s invaluable and which can be applied to all future pictures they’ll shoot.

When the workshop ends, attendees have acquired a portfolio of many beautiful images that are uniquely theirs. They are encouraged to keep in touch by email if they have any questions. Best of all, they’ve learned how to “see” and, at the same time, have acquired creative methods they can use to keep improving long after the workshop is over.

If you’re serious about becoming a better photographer, this is the kind of workshop you should choose. Learn more about our DSLR Photography Workshop Cruise here.

You can see images that attendees took during our last two workshops here: 2007 2008

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