Which Photography Workshop (Tour) Is Right For You?
By Adrian Klein
Let me start this blog entry off by saying this is not meant to be sales pitch for workshops led by me or any other member of Photo Cascadia. If you sign up for one led by one of us that is great but is not the goal here. I feel there are many insights I can provide to folks thinking about signing up for a workshop or tour and that is my primary intent here. The stories I hear, the feedback and questions I get continue to be insightful in many ways. There are varying types of workshops and discerning the right fit is is not always easy. If you are looking to sign up for a workshop or tour I hope you find this of value and that you find the right one to help meet your goals and interests. This is not an all inclusive list more like the top points to consider, in my opinion of course.
1. Group Workshops vs Private 1-On-1. There are plenty of benefits and challenges to both group and private outings, you need to weigh them and decide. Realize when attending a group workshop that you will be with other photographers and it’s usually not feasible to visit all potential spots or have extensive detail on every topic discussed. Additionally you will need to realize that going as group does mean moving slower than taking a private tour, a reality doing almost anything as a group, not just workshops. If you have specific needs for you to be 100% satisfied including but not limited to locations you have to visit, desire to move at a pace that fits only you (which can be fast or slow), personal in depth processing assistance then although slightly more in cost a private tour/lesson might be a better investment.
2. Photo Tour vs Workshop. You see this all the time but what does it really mean? One photographer says they do photo tours, another says they do photo workshops. I don’t see enough people doing homework ahead of time on the difference and asking questions to the leading photographer to ensure what they are offering is the right fit. Simply put a photo tour means the focus is on taking the client to locations and less on helping the client with actual photography. Workshops normally will include additional non-field time to cover various topics from processing to general photography tips n tricks. To me I will always help out a client as much as I can with whatever questions they have regardless if I call it a tour or workshop. Yet I have had more than a few clients mention to me that they had been on a prior “photo tour” elsewhere and felt they did not get much help with their photography skills, which was not inline with their expectations. Take the time to understand the workshop/tour FAQ’s and/or ask the question to the leading photographer before signing up to make sure it meets your needs.
3. This Group Is Larger Than I Thought! Another factor into the equation that not all workshops are created equal is size. I have seen field workshop listings that do not have participant count listed which I never understand and leads me to believe that they will be large. As soon as you place field time into the itinerary and have a large participant count it will be tough to watch an instructor, get answers to questions or possibly be able to photograph the scene you want. Nothing wrong with attending large, or small workshops, but you should be able to determine the size ahead of time to help decide your preference.
4. Class Is In Session. Remember the time during the workshop is your time to have fun and learn. Don’t be afraid to bring a list of questions. If you know there are a number of things you want to learn more about make a list and bring it. Don’t put it all to memory and assume you will remember during the workshop. I have seen it before where participants show up, the workshop quickly gets underway with excitement and it’s not until you leave that you realize questions you had you forgot to ask. When the instructor is leading a workshop they will have a list of topics to cover yet dialogue with your instructor is important to keep them, and you engaged.
5. Be Prepared, Within Reason. After signing up you should be provided a list to prepare from allowing you to arrive ready to go, photographic related and non-photographic such as food expectations, clothing needs, etc. As far as photographic gear there are the basics that everyone should bring yet I see some clients ready to drop the equivalent of a mortgage payment into new optional type gear before coming to a workshop which is normally not necessary to get the most out of it. Again this will be a question to the instructor based on type of workshop, type of photography, your current level and your current funds! And do not forget about proper clothing and footwear. This can be make it or break it whether you enjoy your time in the field. I really cannot stress this enough. The instructor should provide climate/weather info and clothing/footwear recommendations, and if not please ask.
6. Realistic Expectations. You cannot cover it all in two or three day workshop. Figure out what you want your main focus to be. Do you want more time in the field? Do you want more time with Photoshop? Do you want more time critiquing your images? Or if the workshop covers all these and more all realize ahead of time and that there will only be so much time for each. The list can go on but you get the idea. Also know that you will likely visit more commonly known locations along with less known areas. Even though you might see an amazing image in the online gallery from the leading instructor taken in the general area you are going don’t expect that you can go there unless you have confirmed this up front. Some areas may not be realistic in a group and or too dangerous for any size tour or workshop. And lastly with expectations do understand that weather and seasonal conditions are always changing. Be flexible with a positive attitude. If it’s raining the whole time during a field workshop this is just as hard and disappointing on the instructor as it is for you.
If I can leave you any final words here it would be go with two primary expectations; to have a good time and be ready to soak up information like a sponge. And if you come home with great images consider that the icing on the cake.