There’s been a bunch of chatter on the Internet this year about photo workshops. I marvel at the fact that there are people who have the free time to complain about photographers who teach workshops. I marvel even more at the fact that most of these complainers are – wait for it – wait for it – photographers who themselves teach workshops. So the bottom line is, be careful of what you read online about workshops because the person writing that review may very well be someone with an axe to grind.

The workshop business is harder than it looks and pays less than people think. The leaders often pour their guts out only to be attacked by pedantic trolls. It’s not something you should sign up for if you’re thin-skinned.

But what about workshops from the perspective of the student? I think I have a pretty simple set of guidelines for students and how to pick a good workshop.

1. Attend workshops led by photographers who have work you find inspiring and who seem to want to share their approach with others.

2. See number one.

Yep, that’s it in a nutshell. No matter where you turn online, you’ll see photographers attacking the notion of a photo workshop. You can’t rely on third party endorsement for or against these days. The nature of the Internet is that anyone can say anything about anybody true or not – so nothing there has credibility. What DOES have credibility is the work. If someone tells you they are leading a bird photo workshop and you like their bird photos, you should consider attending. If they tell you they are leading a wedding photo workshop and you like their wedding photos you should consider attending. That’s all there is to it. If you don’t respect the work of the teacher you shouldn’t attend the class. On the other hand, if you DO like the teacher’s work, then don’t be influenced by trolls with suspect agendas.

Case in point. A prominent wedding workshop leader has been pretty much mercilessly attacked by a set of Internet trolls using Facebook and Twitter. They hide under the false assumption that people can’t find out who they are. In one case, I tracked the troll to New Orleans using IP route tracing and discovered she was merely a disgruntled photographer who’d been repeatedly turned down when asking to speak at a couple of the national conventions. Instead of figuring out what she needed to do to get hired to teach, she attacked this other photographer. And her attacks worked to some small degree. His workshop attendance fell off ever so slightly. If she couldn’t teach then by golly nobody can teach.

If the prospective students were smart, they could have looked at this teacher’s body of work relevant to the workshop topic. If they like that work, chances are very good they’d like the workshop – no matter what the trolls say.

The moral of the story is simple. Look at the work offered up as examples by the instructor. If you have time, money and interest and like the work – go ahead and sign up. If you don’t like the work – don’t sign up. But make the decision based on something factual, not a string of lies told by jealous trolls. You might be cheating yourself out of a great opportunity to learn otherwise.

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

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  1. […] who publishes and writes Photofocus since 1998, has posted an article on photo workshops titled Don’t Listen To The Trolls in which he encourages people to attend workshops led by photographers who have work they find […]

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