Why do I write so much about photography workshops? There is one thing that most professional photographers have in common. Nature photographers, architectural photographers, model photographers, wedding photographers, food photographers, travel photographers and more earn a portion of, and often the majority of their living from leading workshops and travel tours.
Nature and travel photographers can build their stock and fine art files while photography hopefuls fund their trips. What has existed since the late 1940s is now an enormous industry. Most full-time pros could not exist without them.
My workshop partner and I had just finished the first half of a group workshop in Copper Falls State Park in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. We were headed to Amnicon Falls State Park for the second half and we all agreed to stop and have a good lunch together. It had been an exhilarating morning. It was a fall shop but snow and cold had turned it to a winter event.
I have always sang the praises of going into the field alone, and concentrating on your subject and your photography, rather than worrying about interacting with others. I also think one on one workshops can be the most learning intensive of any format. Having said all of that, there are times when the social interaction of making pictures in a group is extremely satisfying.
Any group is going to be diverse. There was the one participant who was a former student of mine in a local one on one shop. She was a happy customer so she and her husband took the trip north to try the group format. It was not her thing. She was unhappy with the combination of group teaching and the shorter duration of individual attention she received. The rest were a bit more the party animal types, and the combination of some serious instruction and much social interaction and laughter, was just perfect for each of them.
For me out-of-town workshops were fun and the fact that I had a partner to take a little of the pressure off of me was a nice change. No matter what social exercise you perform in life, some will like it and some won’t
As an aside,if you plan to lead group workshops, you need to teach yourself to become an entertainer. If it doesn’t come natural, you can learn this just like anything else. No group shop will be a failure if you keep them smiling.
If I had ever taken a workshop, it would never have been a group workshop. I would have had fun at a group shop but I can have fun without paying another photographer. As a student I would have preferred undisturbed access to the instructor. I want his/her attention on me. Of course there were a few times when I taught one on ones and I let my attention to detail slip, so any workshop is a risk.
Anytime you decide to purchase an in the field workshop, ask yourself what you hope to get out of it. Think about the teacher. Do you want to spend $2,000 (or $200) to really learn? In most cases that means to make sure you are not paying for her/his name. Pay for how much attention you feel they will pay to you, and how hard they will work. If you want to spend $2,000 to say you made pictures with so and so, well that’s okay too, but be satisfied with less learning.
I did quite a few one on one workshops in the 2006-2009 era. I am ecstatic with the success of most of them, but when it is just you and one student, you will feel terrible when you fail. One student and failure is total failure. With several students if you miss with one, you will likely succeed with someone else.
I don’t think there is anything more wonderful than making your living at photography, especially nature photography. At least trying to pursue pro photography keeps you in the mode of always working at the craft and the business of the thing that you love.
There are of course a few benefits to not pursuing professional photography as well.
The necessity of pleasing photo editors, art buyers and potential workshop participants and slide show attendees does not exist. I do not have to micromanage social media like my life depends on it. I comment when and where I want, and I compete in no contests meant to show how many followers I have, or how many commentors there will be on anything I post. I enjoy myself.
I support only (here and other places) the holidays and special days that I like and believe in. I admire Art Wolfe but he and his people cover every holiday in the world and every designated day, week or month we have here in America. How can any one person believe in all of that? What’s next “left handed plumber’s helpers over the age of 60 day”?
I no longer spend half of my life in the act of bookkeeping.
I present no airs. There is no point to creating a persona because I am not seeking anything from anybody.
I can give my opinions, without worrying that I will offend somebody. Okay I know I was opinionated when I was a pro, but believe it or not, I buffered what I said and wrote.
Turning a hobby or a passion into a business is a big decision. Sometimes you can kill the passion when money becomes a factor. Personally, I say it is worth it. I loved being a professional both part and full-time. It was a part of 40 years of my life. Selling publishing rights or prints, and selling out workshops does validate your work, for both yourself and others.
You can mark today as just random thoughts for my photographically oriented friends, whether you are full times pros, part timers, or you just celebrate the joy of creating and sharing images.
Often the most fulfilling vision a photographer can have is reality. This is (I believe) especially true of nature photography. You will intrepid reality via your point of view, use of light, and personal vision of textures and lines. Much of reality goes unseen. Your job is to make it visible. You will have done so while honoring your love for your subject, with reverence for God’s part in the creation. One Creator and one interpreter. This is why nature always would have been the heart of my photography. Better to be the messenger of such a great subject, than creator of something lesser.
We all see something a little different when we look at an image. What is unseen by some will be seen by others. This truth becomes even more profound, when we leave photography in search of more important subjects.
2 Corinthians 4:18
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”
Have a great day,