Guest Blogger: Keith Ibsen

The advent of digital photography seemed to spur a growth and need for photo workshops and seminars. Currently, many tops pros and manufacturers have ongoing workshops and seminars throughout the US and overseas. Subjects cover the full range of digital photography from pre- to post-production, portrait to landscape, black and white to color, macro to wide angle, natural to constant light and strobes. If it’s photographed, there’s a good chance someone is offering a workshop or seminar about it.

What is the difference between a workshop and a seminar and which is better to attend? For the most part, workshops involve hands-on training, whereas the seminar explains and demonstrates through a series of lectures and PowerPoint presentations. For certain subject matters or class size, the seminar is preferred over a workshop. There is nothing like hands-on learning, when possible, for retaining knowledge. The student hears, sees and does. This final step in the learning process blends all the theory into a final result the student has an opportunity to reproduce. 

The Workshop

Workshops are held in the great outdoors, exotic trips or in the confines of a studio or lecture center. Times range from a few hours to a week or more. The more time involved, the more one learns, and the more it costs. Prices range from free to several thousand dollars.  Everything is relative.

Photograph of model Laurence  Yang by Keith Ibsen
Live Model Workshops

A workshop is not designed to be one attendee’s private shooting session, especially when the venue involves working with live models. Time and again, I’ve seen photographers taking the attitude and acting as if this were their opportunity to shoot a complete portfolio of images, and other photographers are there to watch them in action. This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s a workshop and photographers have to share the shooting time and space with others. Otherwise, it would be called a private session – and cost one photographer considerably more money.

At times, the workshop may seem overcrowded and understaffed. This can happen without the presenter’s knowledge, when he’s contracted to teach by another party.

Other times, the presenter is equipped and staffed for a certain amount of time and money, then at the last minute, twice the number of people show up. If this were a seminar, more chairs would be added and the seminar would continue.  It’s not that easy when training is interactive. There’s a limited amount of equipment and models available.  Unlike a chair, one cannot just unfold and add it.

Often, this is not the case, and class size is usually limited to allow ample shooting time for all in attendance. The majority will leave with several excellent images, along with knowledge of how to create these techniques again.

Photograph of model Laurence  Yang by Keith Ibsen
Workshops sponsored by manufacturers afford participants opportunities to try equipment they may anticipate purchasing.  A prime example would be the FJ Westcott lighting presentations given by their technical advisor, Dave Piazza. One not only gets a great education on lighting but also an opportunity to try some professional lighting equipment and come away with some portfolio images.

Professional Photographer Workshops and Seminars

Seminars presented by renowned photographers offer attendees the benefit of learning from those who confronted and overcame obstacles in running a photography business. They not only teach the importance of lighting, F stops and composition, but also how to be successful in a competitive and ever-changing industry. They teach how to become a businessperson, who takes photos, not a photographer who is in business. I consider this style workshop or seminar just as important, if not more so, than those on photo techniques. One may be the best photographer around, but unless the individual knows how to market, promote and bill for time, that person is bound to fail.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
Professional photographers, like Rick Sammon, will feature workshops that combine travel to exotic locations. One will learn from this “Canon Explorer of Light" photographer how to work in remote locations with limited equipment to produce spectacular results. These getaways usually last a week or more and are limited in size insuring everyone receives personal attention. Rick and many others can also be found teaching at venues and trade shows throughout the US. While Rick specializes in not specializing, one can find others, such as Lindsay Alder, who works primarily in fashion and portrait photography. 

The Workshop, Seminar and Professional Camera Stores

Another popular source for workshops and seminars are professional photo retailers, like B&H, Adorama and Calumet in Manhattan. On Long Island, Berger Bros. also offers courses on a broad range of photographic subjects.  Prices range from free at some retailers to $125 and up at other locations. Please refer to their websites for complete details. Don’t merely take a course because it’s free. Laying out money to improve photo images or business knowledge is well worth the investment. Decisions must be made depending on the value of the information one receives not the priced paid.

The NAPP  (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) Seminars

Whenever possible, I always try to attend seminars presented by NAPP. If one needs a better understanding or is a beginner at learning Photoshop or Lightroom, these are the people from whom to learn. Scott Kelby and his staff are the brightest minds in photography education today. Their step-by-step methods of training allow a hands-on approach to understanding Adobe’s complex software.  Recently, they channeled this approach to photography and the equipment and knowledge required to produce a wide range of images.

Other Photography Associations also hold Workshops and Seminars through out the US.
PPA (Professional Photographers of America), NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association), WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) to name a few.
Local Camera Clubs are another excellent source for workshops and seminars. Some membersare every knowledgeable and often conduct workshops and seminars for other club members, or the club may contact and bring in an outside professional.

Check on line, for the photo field your interested in or on just general photography. You’ll discover there is training on all aspects of photography itself or the business side of the industy.

In conclusion, look for the program that best fills current your needs and if your not certain check out the presenter on line before committing. Be considerate, as I mentioned some of these programs are free of charge, but limited in size. If for some reason you cannot attend, contact the sponsor and cancel your reservation. Keep in mind these are not private sessions and you’ll have to share your shooting time with others. Follow a few simple rules and you will find these workshops or seminars to informative and productive.