Learning Photography: Workshops

By Roger (2 August 2015)

There are so many ways for you to increase your photography knowledge. There is a seemingly endless supply of opportunities. In the past, we have mentioned some of them, in our blogs, but I thought I'd do a more in-depth look on them in a series of blogs.

These blogs won't be in any kind of priority order. Everyone learns differently, and you may prefer one method over another.

Regardless of your learning preference, I cannot stress enough that you need to get out there with your camera. You can spend hours studying, but you have to put those studies into action to really improve. So, get off the couch and get out there.

Westerdam, our venue for a Curacao workshop

Westerdam, our venue for a Curacao workshop

Since Mark and I are preparing to attend Photoshop World, next week, we'll start with conferences and workshops. We have attended Photoshop World, every year, for almost a decade, so you know that is one we continue to enjoy.

Unless I wrote a thick book, there are more conferences and workshops than I can cover. These events can last from several hours to several days, and some are even longer. They can cost $80 to thousands of dollars.

The difference in costs does not, necessarily, equate to quality. Several low cost workshops I've attended are amongst my favorites. A simple search on the internet will yield pages of events.. You will have to make your own decisions about which ones to attend, but let's concentrate on some key reasons to attend and things that you should consider.

As the blog title suggests, these are great events to get a boost to your education. At most of the big events, you can hear and learn from a large variety of experienced, highly-talented photographers, all in one location. Because you're there, in person, you'll have a richer experience than you get from reading a book or watching a video. You can ask questions to get directly to the heart of something that has been holding you back.

You can immerse yourself in whatever aspect of photography is covered by the event. The best ones, in my opinion, allow you to participate while you learn, but I've attended several seminar-type workshops that had a major impact.

An abstract attempt, while attending a conference in Boston

An abstract attempt, while attending a conference in Boston

Conferences and workshops allow you to learn from experienced photographers, while surrounded with people who have the same passion you have. For me, this is a key factor in my enjoyment. I always talk to my fellow attendees and gather their information. Everyone is happy to talk about what they do; the techniques they use; and the tools they love or hate. You never know where this networking can lead.

Being surrounded by so many talented people can be very inspirational. You will see photos that speak directly to your interests and move you to push harder with your own work. You'll see points of view you hadn't previously considered. Your passion for photography will be pushed to new heights.

A day with renown wedding photographer, David Ziser

A day with renown wedding photographer, David Ziser

What are the challenges to attending?

Well, probably, the biggest challenge can be found in your mirror. You'll tell yourself that they're expensive; you don't really have the time; you're just a beginner and don't know enough. Let's address those.

Cost is always a consideration, but there are many ways to dip your toes into the water, without taking out a second mortgage. You can start by attending a day-long, inexpensive workshop nearby your home, so you don't have to worry about hotel and travel expenses. For the bigger, more expensive events, planning in advance can save you lots – Mark and I saved $200+ by buying our tickets to PSW in December. Start saving a little each month now to attend an event in 2016.

Time can be hard to come by, especially, if you have family or a job that makes major demands on your time. Again, if you start small, the impact is reduced. Everyone deserves some time to pursue their interests; take some time when you can. Find an event you have time for. After you've seen the results from a few short, but fantastic workshops, you may be more inclined to attend a week-long conference. Or you won't, and you can continue to enjoy the shorter workshops.

Unless the workshop or conference states that “only the advanced photographer needs to attend,” being a beginner is not an excuse. These events will help you learn faster and introduce you to techniques that will help you advance your photography skills. They welcome beginners with open arms.

My first bird workshop only cost $25 and a couple of hours

My first bird workshop only cost $25 and a couple of hours

Conferences and workshops are great vehicles for promoting growth in your photography. I've had lots of fun and think you should seriously consider joining in.

Here is a short, but incomplete list, of conference links I've attended or heard good things about. Add to the list any you'd give good reviews in the comments.

Nature Visions Photo Expo

WPPI Wedding & Portrait Photography Conference

PhotoPlus Expo

Out of Chicago Photography Conference

Travel Writers & Photographers Conference

Photoshop World