5 Tips For Choosing A Photo Workshop

I host several landscape photography workshops each year. While in the thick of planning two workshops, it got me thinking about how important the pre-planning is for a successful workshop. That turned my mind to what information, facts, and signs a student should look for to gage how much they’ll enjoy a workshop. Time to turn the camera on and record these thoughts.

A good landscape photography workshop accelerates your growth and skill. Working along side a solid instructor with like minded people is the best.  So how to choose the landscape photo workshop that’s right for you? I’ve got 5 tips for how to choose a photo workshop to help you out. 

Before you register for a photography workshop, ask yourself a few questions and study both the instructor and the workshop. A little homework goes a long way in picking a workshop that is best for you.

  1. Do You Like The Leader’s Work?

    This is the obvious question. In some cases, it’s the photographer’s work that draws you to the workshop. In other cases, you may be looking for workshops in a certain part of the world at a certain time of year. There’s nothing wrong with that. Take the extra step and examine the portfolio of the workshop leader. Is her or his work recent? To your liking? Is their work in a genre that interests you? For instance, I’m a landscape and seascape photographer. It would make less sense for me to attend a workshop predominantly geared toward wildlife or bird photography - even if in a location I want to photograph.

  2. Do You Like The Leader’s Teaching Style?

    This is a very important question to answer. Each of us learns differently. Some teachers explain things in ways that make sense to us. Something about their approach and communication style resonates with us. Other teachers don’t match as well. In today’s connected world, it is reasonably easy to gage the personality and teaching style. Check YouTube, Vimeo, Lynda, Facebook, and so on for examples of the instructors teaching style. Many workshop leaders also do other forms of photo education. Watch a few of their videos to see if their style matches the way you think and learn.

  3. What Do You Want Out Of The Workshop?

    There are two broad categories of photographers that join the workshops I lead. One set want to improve their craft. They want to get better at composition, or learn how to use ND filters, or improve their post processing skills. Another set simply want access to great photo locations. They are comfortable with their cameras and have their own unique processing style already. They are leveraging my location research to get to a great photo spot at the right time. Which set do you belong to? If you are looking to improve a skill, check whether the workshop leader can teach you that (and teach it effectively, see #2 above). If all you want is local knowledge, then read #5 below!

  4. Is The Leader’s Workflow Similar To Yours?

    For this question, I’m thinking mainly of post processing. Are you the type of photographer that enjoys digging into the post processing tools to craft and shape a photo? If so, you may enjoy a workshop where post processing is part of experience. Or, are you the type of photographer that prefers to get most of the work done in camera and finish with minimal processing? If so, a workshop biased toward more field time capturing images would suit you better.

  5. Does the leader have local knowledge?

    I was floored when some of my workshop attendees told me about other workshops where the instructor had not ever been to the locations they were photographing. Make sure the leader has actually visited the locations planned for the workshop, or she or he is partnering with a guide that has that local knowledge. Another good question to answer is if the workshop leader has been to the location in the same season when you plan to visit. The same location can be very different across seasons.

    Related to local knowledge is ensuring the instructor has the proper permits to host the workshop. Some locations, such as national parks in the USA, require photography workshop instructors to have proper and up to date permits to teach in the parks. Park rangers will ask for permit proof and will shut down events without the proper paperwork. You definitely do not want to on the receiving end of that situation.

Do you have other advice for attending workshops? Share your thoughts in the comments.