Photography is constantly in motion: style, gear and the market evolve quickly ... and so should photography workshops. I've always updated my workshops according to the evolution in our industry. But to avoid being weighted down with ballast, sometimes you need to start with a clean slate. I did a big overhaul in my photography and business recently and now it's time to do the same for my workshops. I've put a lot of time and energy in designing a completely new workshop concept but the proof is in the pudding. That's why I recently did a test drive of this new concept. Let me tell the story of that day to show you what it is all about.
The Experience Workshops will have only two participants. For this test, I wanted to have two people that I didn't know personally and that have very different profiles. Frank is an experienced German photographer with a strong technical knowledge and a mind that's open for new inputs. Laura is a young beginning Belgian photographer with limited knowledge and experience but who's eager to learn.
Everyone has different skills, experience and knowledge, so instead of starting from a predefined program, we start by identifying the goals for each participant. Because we have only two photographers, I can go for this highly individual approach. This process is started even before the actual workshop day. I asked Laura and Frank to do a little bit of homework. This gave me a good starting point in assessing their strengths, weaknesses and where they want to take their photography. The process continued on the morning of the workshop while we woke up our creative minds with some strong coffee and chatted about what Frank and Laura wanted to focus on.
Loaded up with caffeine we went to our first location where we stretched our photographic muscles and work towards a good shooting workflow. Usually when we think of "workflow", we think about post processing or managing our files but in 10 years of giving workshops I've seen that the majority of my students, benefit greatly from establishing a good shooting workflow as well. I know I need one in order to create quality work consistently. But my workflow might not be the best for Laura or Frank, so we looked at ways to make a shoot go smooth for each of them.
During the shoot, I observed Laura and Frank and identified some working points. I'm the first one to give compliments but I also don't shy away from pointing out the weaker points. As a starting photographer, Laura needed some help with the technical side, lens selection, camera settings and finding good light. Frank didn't have any problems with those issues but was often working too fast and didn't work the scene enough to get the most out of his skills. He also asked for tips to establish a better relation with his subject. We addressed all these issues and immediately the quality of the pictures vastly improved. Frank and Laura also learned a lot from watching each other at work.
Some of the results:
After lunch and some interesting conversations we moved to another location. The plan was to go to another outdoor location but the rain forced us to go for plan B, an empty floor of a parking garage. Here, Laura and Frank first focused on assessing the location. They looked for light, backgrounds, compositions and creative angles. The location offered many options but to explore them fully, Laura and Frank had to learn to think outside the box.
The Experience Workshops are not all about gear and technique. After all, these are just tools to express your creativity. That doesn't mean we shied away from these topics. Problem solving is an essential skill as a photographer and I helped Frank and Laura to bring their vision into pictures. During the day there was plenty of time to ask questions. Laura got herself started in mixing ambient light with flash and Frank got to experience the advantages and pitfalls of shooting medium format.
Laura and Frank got so good at seeing the creative options of a location that they decided that they wanted to continue working in the parking garage the rest of the day.
It was already getting dark when we shared some delicious Belgian fries while recapitulating what we've learned that day and filled in some blanks. I also showed how I post process some of the images and we discussed editing workflows and backup solutions.
I had high expectations for this workshop and the reality even exceeded those. Frank and Laura created some portfolio worthy images but what's even more important is that they both agreed that in a single day they made a huge leap in their development by learning how to see things differently and getting the right workflows in place. It was a pleasure to see them work hard with open minds and a developing creative vision. Thanks Laura and Frank for giving me the satisfaction of seeing the progress you made. I'm also going to throw a thank you to Jasmin for her patient modeling and to Jef for shooting the behind-the-scenes imagery.
Very soon, I'll be hosting the first of these new workshops. You could also organize your own together with a friend, get in touch if you are interested.