The state of photographic workshops?

March 4, 2013

Everywhere I look now I see people teaching photography workshops. I see good photographers, great photographers and really terrible photographers teaching. I am asked if the large mix bothers me and to that I say “NO!” Each photographer serves a purpose and teaches each and everyone of us something. Yes, even the terrible photographer teaches us. Before we jump into the pros and cons of workshops, lets first cover the most basic understanding of them all;

Not everyone that is good or great at photography makes a great photography instructor!

I’ve seen many great photographers totally fail at photography instruction. How can this be? Simple; to teach means to have a vested interest in the growth of the students or photographers who attend the workshop. Many photographers don’t really have this interest, they’re doing it for the money, or the money that can be provided at future dates. This isn’t a bad thing, just something these guys need to be aware of. One main reason I’ve seen people fail at teaching photography is many people want to keep a lot of secrets to themselves. They feel they have secrets and that if they give it away, they’re letting go of the one thing they have over others in the industry. Sadly this attitude is about as archaic as the images lots of these guys shoot. With technology and knowledge evolving every three seconds, whats yesterdays secrets is tomorrows moot point.

There are many photographers who are still finding their style that are teaching. They really shouldn’t be teaching as they are learning who they are in the photography world, but it’s so easy to post a cheap workshop for 20.00-50.00 and throw up a light or two and do a factory lighting setup. Everyone will get mediocre images but as long as they’re shooting, they will accept said images. They (the attendees) don’t know what a great photo is and neither do these instructors. This is really a case of the blind leading the blind. I had a former student and friend attend one of these events and he texted me and asked; “Umm will it kill my camera if I shoot at f/64? She didn’t meter the light just turned it on and told everyone to shoot”. “She” has a pretty big following and is still leading shootouts.

Then there are good photographers, those who have found their niche and are moving along in making it work out for them. These guys and gals have promise with their photos as well as a bit interest in learning how people learn. These guys have the most potential and classes that are either lower or highest priced. They have good info but poor presentation as they’re focused mostly on themselves. I had an event where I brought out a few guys to teach. My attendees said three were great, two of the more known guys were terrible. One guy all he did was sell his private members forum and hard sell it at that while the other tried to shove down your face how good he was.

The great photographers are hardest to get to teach because they just don’t have the time or interest to do it. They have major clients and no real desire or care for others growth. They are looking out for themselves and that’s it. These guys have earned the right to do as they please as they have made their way. The first time or two they teach, they’re awkward as they aren’t used to being in front of groups of photographers hanging on to their every word. They eventually get into it and once they do, the knowledge flows with ease. They give too much or too little for reasons other than the good photographers; either they don’t want to give you too much as they fear you won’t retain, or they hold back because they figure you know it already and they don’t want to insult you.

Then there’s the middle of the road guys. These guys and gals have been doing workshops for so long that they actually know how people learn. They have a vested interest in those who attend and want everyone to exceed in all they do. These photographers tend to burn out fast because they care more about the student than their own career sometimes. These guys also put everything they have into workshops because they’ve attended a crappy workshop or two in their lifetimes and don’t want to be associated with leading a crap workshop.

I myself have spent many years learning and researching how people learn. While we all learn different, we fall into two categories; visual and doing. You have to keep both users engaged as well as entertained and learning. We all have a bit of BOTH learning styles in us, a good instructor will touch both inside of us.

When you attend a workshop or shootout, what are your deciding factors? Is it the content being shot? i.e. nude? boudoir?lingerie? or is it specific models? is it to learn a lighting style? Or is it because you have the day free and want to do something cool? Regardless your reason, make sure the instructor is teaching something you want to learn, that they have the image quality that you want to replicate and BETTER! And that they know HOW to teach as remember, not everyone can teach.

Just because someone is teaching, doesn’t mean you will learn. Getting pics of half or full naked chicks is awesome, but what good is it if you can’t replicate what you’ve learned when you’re on your own? The instructor got paid, did you get your money’s worth?

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