It’s safe to say that we live in an era of information abundance. The internet holds a plethora of knowledge, readily available at our fingertips day or night. Many photographers are now opting out of a formal university education and instead going to the “school of YouTube” to learn their trade. The amount of free information at our disposal is limitless.
So, is it worth it to spend your hard-earned cash paying to attend photography workshops? Why not spend that money on a new lens, or the latest gadget on the market?
For me personally, I have found workshops to be a priceless commodity in my growth as a photographer. Below are a few reasons why I strongly believe in investing in your continued education as a photographer, no matter if you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional.
Research your options
It’s important to do your research before choosing a workshop to attend. Options for workshops are diverse, and you can choose them based on your specific interests or genres.
Maybe you have a weakness that you want to work on, or a new skill you’d like to learn. Perhaps you have a favorite photographer and want to learn from them specifically. Maybe you want to photograph in a new place or country with like-minded people.
Once you have an idea about what type of workshop you’d like to attend, do your due diligence in research when assessing your options. Read reviews and look closely at workshop outlines to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.
I like to research each instructor and make sure their teaching style works for me. Keep in mind that a great photographer does not necessarily make a great teacher. See if you can find other videos or reviews on their teaching style. Some people like super technical information, while others like a collaborative, flowing environment. Find an option that sparks some excitement in yourself.
So, what are some of the benefits from taking workshops? Below are my three favorite reasons to partake in workshops.
Gaining inspiration and connection with like-minded peers
We’ve all had photographic ruts, or lapses in our passion and drive. Joining a workshop can help propel you back into the excitement of taking photos and reignite your passion. Being in a group setting that has a common focus or goal creates a certain energy that you can’t replicate on your own. Being given specific assignments forces you to get out and create with intention.
In my personal experience, workshop attendees will often stay in touch long after the workshop is over. Having a shared experience creates a bond that can go beyond the walls of a classroom. Because of the workshops I’ve attended, I now have colleagues that I keep in touch with globally.
For example, after attending a multiday lighting workshop in Denver, I once had another workshop attendee mail me some extra flashes to practice with after the course was done. He lives in Scotland, and I’m in Canada! Workshops bring people from all walks of life together and are perfect for building your photographic network.
Getting out of your comfort zone with image critiques
Ah, the dreaded image critique! While not all workshops have image critiques, many of them do. The first time I took a workshop with industry professionals I was absolutely terrified. On the first night they announced sign up sheets for portfolio critiques with the instructors after the lesson. I almost skipped signing up and walked out. Fear was holding me back. After giving myself a stern talking-to, I attended my one-on-one session, heart racing and palms sweating. And guess what? It was a great experience.
We become very attached to our own images. Only we know what went on behind the scenes to create them, so we will always have some sort of emotional attachment to them.
Having somebody assess your work with an objective eye is beneficial in so many ways. Learning to be open to the critique of an outsider’s perspective is intimidating and scary, but essential in our growth as photographers. Getting insights on how others perceive your work can only help you improve your photography.
Working with the pros
If you’ve chosen well, your instructor(s) should be a highlight of your workshop. Whether you’re learning from the best in your small town, or traveling to learn from the top pros in the industry, learning from professionals can be a priceless experience. Walking into a room, (or these days, a Zoom classroom) and seeing one of your photographic heroes is pretty darn exciting and inspiring.
If it’s a multiday workshop, the time outside the lectures and field time can be just as beneficial. In one workshop I took, we were all based in the same hotel. Each morning we’d have breakfast together, and lunch breaks were also spent chatting and interacting with the instructors. Swapping stories over a cold beer at the end of the day with the workshop staff and participants brought just as much value to me as the actual teaching time.
Investing in knowledge and new experiences through attending photography workshops can be a great way to evolve as a photographer. Make sure to do your research first, and not be held back by your fears. The knowledge, inspiration and camaraderie you will gain can act as long-term investments, both personally and professionally.