Wrap-Up: Photoshop World

By Roger (16 August 2015)

Mark and I just finished Photoshop World, and I’m still on the road. This will be a short one.  I’ve left Las Vegas for the east coast and Newport, Rhode Island. The only photos I have with me are from this week’s PSW, so I thought I’d interrupt the learning resources series with a quick wrap-up of the week in Las Vegas.

A couple of weeks ago, in the Conferences and Workshops blog, I may have mentioned PSW, a time or two, but we didn’t do our normal “You-Should-Go” blogs this year because we’ve done them so much in the past. But can I give you the bottom-line, up-front summation of this conference? You should go.

Aside from the craziness of going to the desert in August, we had a great week. Start planning and saving now for next year’s conference, 9-11 August, again, in Las Vegas.

We always try to these events early to explore on our own. This year, that exploration took us to the Neon Sign Museum (link). Mark will have that blog, later. This kind of shoot is Mark’s territory; abstracts have always been tough for me. I’m much more comfortable with people. So, although I made some attempts that were acceptable, one of my favorites was this old sign. It isn’t an abstract, but it definitely caught my eye.

Neon Sign Museum

Neon Sign Museum

Our second “adventure” was spontaneous. While we were having a fine dinner in the Ri Ra Irish Pub (link), we admired the décor. We asked the manager for permission to make some photographs around the bar. He wanted a license to use them for the business and a promise we wouldn’t interfere with the flow of the pub. Easy enough. 

We showed up at 8 a.m., before most folks would be in for breakfast. I only photographed a couple of places in the bar, for a total of 40 photos. It was another opportunity to shoot something I don’t normally shoot.

Ri Ra Bar

Ri Ra Bar

I know some photographers don’t feel comfortable asking for things like this, but think about the worst case scenario: the manager could have refused our request, and we would have continued to eat our dinner. Look for opportunities and try to make them happen.

For me, the model shoots are always the highlight of the conference. Westcott (link) did their usual bang up job, bringing models and sets to demonstrate their fine products. I own many of their products and will, undoubtedly, buy some more, Since they are advertising on the expo floor, there is no fee for this. As you can probably imagine, fees for models, make-up artists, and sets can add up quickly. Here is your chance to try something like that, without spending any money.

Westcott Model Shoot

Westcott Model Shoot

In addition, the PSW folks set up several available-light-only sets, with models and still life subjects. Naturally, I went for the models.

B&W bride

I especially enjoyed the one in the wedding chapel. We had a large window and several light panels around the chapel. No reflectors, no flash. Restrictions can force you to try new things to compensate. Several of the PSW instructors would wander in and offer assistance and critique.

Looking for his bride

Looking for his bride

We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: Talk to your models. These models were surrounded by multiple photographers. Too many weren’t saying anything. When there are 30 photographers surrounding them, clicking, without a word spoken, the situation turns awkward. Awkward situations do not usually make for good photographs. Talk to the models; direct them to what you want. I’ll climb off the soapbox.

The conference was loads of fun, and, to tie this blog to the previous two, I talked to many of the authors. Yes, I bought more books.

Time to head out and take some photos of Newport and enjoy the grandchildren.  See you next week.

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