If you are thinking about booking a workshop in the coming year, how do you choose what one to book, and what do you hope to get out of the workshop?
Firstly, I am going to say this is aimed at landscape photographers and not studio workshops. That is not to exclude these types of workshops, but as I am not experienced in them except delivering them at college, it would be unfair to claim any knowledge.
So, on with booking a landscape workshop. You’ve got plenty of options out there, so what one to choose? For yourself, they can be schedule-dependent, cost-dependent, experience-dependent, but the main thing is what do you hope to get out of one?
Ask Yourself a Few Questions
Primarily, people go on workshops to enhance their photography and practice. Others go for the aforementioned reasons but also to meet like-minded photographers and to enjoy the location. Whether that is a local area within a few hours driving distances or further afield in different countries, where they may be taken to locations that they would not have normally visited. These types of tours are a great way to see a country from another point of view, and to be honest, highly recommended. I can’t count the times I’ve been in Iceland and wished I could’ve afforded to hire an off-road 4×4 to visit hard-to-reach locations. With these types of tours, it’s all included in the price.
With that is the first question: How far can my finances take me?
Next, is: “What do I hope to get out of the workshop?” In truth, only you can answer that one. You know where you are on your photographic journey, so what extra knowledge are you hoping to gain? I think it’s common practice for the delivering photographer to send out a quick questionnaire to ascertain your skill level so that they can plan accordingly or make note of it when they are delivering so that everyone is catered to. You’ll also get the itinerary of what’s involved on the days anyway, so you’ll know from that the areas that will be most valuable to you. But I’m sure you’ll always pick up something new, either from the photographers running it or the others in the course.
Why these photographers? Is it because you like their style? Their teaching methods? Their images? Their knowledge about the craft? I’d love to attend a workshop by Elia Locardi. I’m also very aware that even if I attend that workshop that I’m not going to produce images like him, as we all shoot differently, but instead gain some of his knowledge of the practice. Please note this article is not an advertisement, but just in case you haven’t seen them, check out Photographing the World series, as you won’t be disappointed.
Do you need top gear? The answer to that is a resounding no. It’s the impetus to learn more about your photography that matters. Sure, I’ve had an attendee with a basic point and shoot on a workshop, but I adapted the workshop to the camera and what they wanted to learn. Yes, there were camera limitations but none to such an extent that we couldn’t work around them.
Finally, these workshops are aimed at the participants, and for a lot of photographers, one of their biggest sources of income, so they will go out of their way to ensure that your day, week, or fortnight is of value to you.
These can be days of hilarity, good vibes, a good gathering of people with the same common interest, which opens up new friendships, and a positive learning experience for all, whatever the weather. I enjoy these types of workshops for the above reasons, plus you can still tailor individual aspects of the workshop to each attendee.
Group workshops can span from one day to a week and beyond depending on the location and how many photographers are teaching. The longer workshops allow for downtime and to let everyone get to know each other better. Plus, they allow for editing instruction and shooting at all times day or night. This type of workshop will almost certainly include hotel stays, and although those are more expensive, they will give you the time as an attendee to learn and understand better what you are seeking.
Depending on how many photographers are teaching, the participant amount could be in double figures, but at least you will get individual advice from each of the photographers while at the same time getting to know the others on the course.
In the last year, these have grown and grown to a point where they have overtaken the bookings of the group workshops. Mostly, however, I think that it is down to time constraints, where the attendee has only a few dates available in their calendar that don’t coincide with the scheduled workshop dates.
I also enjoy these workshops for a couple of reasons. You can get to know more about the person and their photographic interests and tailor the workshop to their individual needs. You can also adapt the workshop schedule and locations to what they want to shoot and to gain more experience.
So, I would consider this option from your chosen photographer if it’s available. If you would prefer a more tailored experience, the value in these is there.
From personal experience, I once completed a workshop where the attendees were not limited, and although it was a short four-hour workshop I learned so much in those four hours about engagement, attendee numbers, and vast landscapes. It was a positive one for myself, which enabled me to fully understand how much time you could devote to individuals to provide them with a positive experience with their valuable time.
The workshop was a promotional experience arranged by the company. I was asked how many attendees would be manageable by one person, to which I replied a maximum of 12, hoping that it would be less than that. Mistake number one. The numbers rolled in: 39, 40, 41… This was not controlled by myself, and the company was quite happy at the time with the numbers. My heart sank, though. There was no way any valuable landscape photography experience could be provided to that amount of people individually in four hours.
I like to take the time to talk individually to the people attending the workshops, as we all shoot differently and are at different paths on our photographic journeys. So, “set your camera to this and use this lens” isn’t the answer. The light and weather change constantly, so being able to adapt to that makes a massive difference.
The takeaway from this was to limit the numbers so that the people who are paying for the experience are provided with value for their time, learning something new or gaining a better understanding of what they are doing, and hopefully taking some stunning images.
Get One Booked
Now that you have done all your research into where and who you want the workshop to be with, it’s time to go ahead and book. Whether that’s a 1-2-1 session or a group workshop, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth and perhaps make some lifelong friends along the way. Workshops are a great way of meeting similarly minded people who are there to learn and progress. Aren’t we all looking for that extra knowledge to enhance our skills?
Most of the workshops I’ve been on have included folks of varying levels, and it’s great to hear everyone interacting with each other, sharing knowledge and funny anecdotes about their photography. A group of like-minded people can make for a very interesting and educational day out.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on workshops and anything you think that enhances the experience for everyone involved.