Traveling freak shows?

We all know photography as an industry has taken a hit. When an aspiring photographer contacts me and says he or she is in school for photography, I find a way to work in “Dump photography and go for business”. Perplexed, they ask me why and I explain to them that they can learn photography, business skills are best learned in school. There are plenty of traveling freak shows near them they can go learn photography from.

Jay Kilgore teaching a workshop  2007
Jay Kilgore teaching a workshop 2007

Some don’t get it, others are offended once they do. I don’t mean to offend anyone! Ever! But when I was learning photography, I was faced with an industry that kept everything close to the vest. No one was really teaching so wannabe photographers had to learn by trial and error or shooting and getting it wrong, until we got it right. I used to hate that no one would share anything in my industry. I wanted to be handed everything and make adjustments and my own style. Today, I am VERY thankful that I had to learn the hard way as my style is truly mine. I’ve learned may things that make my photography mine. Business school will teach you about marketing and running a business and it’s a generic enough of a degree that should you decide you don’t want to do photography, you can do into any aspect of Corporate America and do just fine. With photography, you can grab a friend and shoot, or your spouse/significant other and shoot them. No one wants to invest thousands of dollars into something that is a waste of time. At least I don’t.

This is where we enter the traveling freak show pandemic. Over the years, I’ve watched photography, model photography, go from a way to make a living, to almost a side job. There are many people who were forced with two options: Branch out from model photography alone, or sell their skills in workshop or photoshop actions…sometimes both. I have watched how not only model photography, but general portrait photography take a hit as a once big time Colorado child and family portrait photographer start shooting wedding photography. She posted on a forum that she’d not shot a wedding in 10+ years at the time, and a few weeks later she was teaching a workshop on wedding photography!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’mtotally down for the traveling freak shows err photography workshops of today, what bothers me is the people that get taken for a ride. I know what you’re thinking: “You teach photography workshops, are you so arrogant?” No! Not at all! What makes me different is a few things:

1. I hardly travel to teach anymore.

2. I don’t promise to make ANYONE a better photographer.

3. I don’t use gimmick phrases such as “premier” “advanced” “master” “exclusive” classes.

For me, when I’m drafting my workshops or one on ones, I always think: “Who am I to say what I’m teaching is advanced?” I’ve attended some “advanced” lighting workshops only to be thoroughly let down by them! These were by world renowned photographers too! For some people, using four or five lights on a set is pretty common, for others, using more than two is advanced. Who am I to say what I do or how I want to lead is advanced? The people who often lose out are those who are paying 299+ to learn from someone who makes their money not from the industry, but from them who pay. When I teach workshops, my goal is to have people be able to emulate the lighting, posing and quality they’ve learned at my workshop. Many people who leave these “advanced” lighting classes are no better off than when they went in!

I’m not saying every instructor is bad, nor am I saying every instructor is qualified. What I’m saying is instead of looking at the chicks that are at the workshop, look at what you’re going to learn! The idea of attending a workshop is to better  your photography. I would much rather learn how to light, pose and interact with a model so I can eventually work with the models I want to, vs shelling out several hundred to thousands of dollars shooting these people who don’t care anything about me and my vision for them.


Leave a Reply