When The Student Is Ready

Photography workshops have been around pretty much as long as there have been cameras.  They are often held in cool places like Santa Fe, Maine, and Paris.  They are usually run by famous photographers.  Part of the fun of these workshops is going to cool places and meeting cool people.  The major drawback is the cost involved in going to cool places and meeting cool people.

There are still a ton of places to do real live photography workshops-from National Geographic to some random guy on Craigslist.  All of those workshops expect you to pay from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars.  Then you show up and try to take as many notes as you can.

As with everything else, modern technology has made it a little easier to be a part of a photo workshop.  Amazon has a lot books and DVDs that have workshop in their title.  YouTube has a ton of photo workshops on every style of photography imaginable.  My favorite online workshops are by CreativeLive.

CreativeLive was started by Chase Jarvis and Craig Swanson and has been having workshops on a regular basis since 2010.  These are usually two or three day workshops lead by successful photographers who may not be household names outside of their field of expertise.   One way to become much better known is to run a CreativeLive workshop.

Being an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer means that I’m not exactly the target audience for CreativeLive.  Most of the Lecturers talk about how they run $1000 averages, have $3000 packages, and have been known to sell single use images for thousands of dollars-plus travel, food, and a seemingly endless list of other expenses.  In short, these people live in a different photography universe from the one where I and my fellow button pushers reside.

It’s still fun to watch them.  There’s often something you can watch for free at creativeLIVE.   You can, of course, buy the courses as well.  Watching the live feeds is a good way to get a feel for the person giving the workshop, not all photographers are born instructors.  There’s also a matter of style.  I watched one video on Boudoir Photography where the photographer talked about how much she hated any image that had someone looking into the camera-which means she hates 90% of the portraits I have made over the past 17 years.  She went on to say a number of other things I strongly disagreed with.  It doesn’t matter if she makes three thousand dollars a sitting-I could never take portraits the way she takes portraits.

But I have found a couple of photographers that I really like watching.  Don Giannatti is a lot of fun to watch and I did my best to follow along as he showed how to do tabletop photography.  My current favorite is Sue Bryce, a glamor photographer from Australian who does some pretty amazing stuff.  While taking directory portraits isn’t exactly glamor photography, I can definitely put a lot of what she has to say to work.  Everyone wants to look better, right?

I’ve read dozens of books on portrait photography, but reading a book and watching someone actually take portraits are worlds apart.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book and found an amazing image only to find that this image is never mentioned in the text and there is not so much as a lighting diagram to help you figure out how it was shot.  Yeah, I’m a professional portrait photographer so I can usually guess at how it was done, but sometimes I guess wrong.

This isn’t always that big of an issue, after all, the equipment I use severely limits what kind of lighting and posing I can do.   I don’t have a ton of props and I don’t have a lot of time to tweak every pose into perfection.  But if I can take away one or two things, than I’m ahead of the game.  And in the unlikely event that I ever get my act together and have Shoots of my own, I will then be free to do whatever I would like to do.

The real problem with photography workshops is that they are like any other form of self help-I feel amazingly inspired while I’m watching the workshop, but as soon as I walk away, well, that’s usually that.  I haven’t done much table top practice since I watched Don’s workshop-and I like the whole tabletop thing.  I like the idea of making a lot of money and getting paid big expense money and traveling when needed.  But I’m not doing the work.

My money, such as it is, comes from portraits.  In the old days the money was in taking as many portraits as possible in as short a time as possible.  Old habits die hard.  People expect a bit more these days.  They have Google Images and Pinterest and the website of every high end photographer on earth at their fingertips. So when an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer’s images pop up, they often fall short when compared to what anyone can see online.

Also, no one goes in to have a picture taken for the Book thinking while I’m here I’ll spend three thousand dollars on wall groupings.

But maybe I can get them to think about buying something.  That’s what the teachers are really all about-getting the student to move a little further out of their comfort zone.

I’m a bit excited, it has been a while since I read a book or watched a video where I wanted to rush right out and try a few of the tips.

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