If you are reading this article you have already been a part of photographic workshop or seminar. Clearly, most of the tools of our craft are gained while attending these types of events as you can retain so much more information than learning techniques online. I can’t recall too many successful photographers who have embarked on a career without attending workshops and seminars.
So, you’ve signed up for a workshop. You have blocked yourself out from your regular work and have packed all of the necessary clothing, photo equipment, and notebooks. There are a few things to be mindful of before leaving for your trip. First, if you are a full-time working photographer much of what you will learn may be absorbed in small nuggets of information gleaned from what may lie below the surface of the techniques being taught or shown. Much of what you may see and hear, you may already know.
While no one knows everything, including the pros, we know a lot and we are kidding ourselves if we think we will learn something new and earthshaking all day, everyday during a workshop. Sometimes workshops or schools can be a simple refresher course, sometimes an inspiration, but almost always a necessity. Workshops help us in ways we may not recognize at first and are the best way to recharge your batteries.
While teaching a class in Texas recently, I was illustrating a technique of painting with light. One of my students made the comment, just loud enough for me too hear, that this wasn’t a very good use of our time and that he’d never have a use for this technique. Another student overheard and explained that he had learned the same technique years before and felt the same way, only to be surprised by a client who asked if he could photograph a night time shot of his company’s airplane. By remembering the techniques, he was able to pull off the job quickly and efficiently without a lot of testing in front of the client. You may not always see the value of the illustrated lessons, but mark my words someday you’ll use the information. Never say never.
Go to your school or workshop with the right attitude. Don’t go in with the idea of sitting in the back row with your arms folded thinking, “okay, teach me something.” In fact, start out by getting involved, getting to know the instructor and spending time with the group. Jump up and grab someone's camera bag and help them get their gear stored or grab a light stand if the instructor needs an extra hand.
GET INVOLVED and STAY INVOLVED. Eat together with fellow students, discuss the day’s offerings and you’ll soon feel part of the community. That feeling will stay with you long after the school has ended and you are back to the daily work in your business. The last thing that works in your favor is being someone who quietly sits back and not a part of the group.
Most of what I have learned in our industry has come from one on one discussions with other photographers, instructors, often while eating, riding in an elevator or sitting around together after class. It’s all part of the experience and I hope you will invest your time wisely and get the most from your efforts.