How To Choose A Photography Class Or Workshop

How To Choose A Photography Class Or Workshop

While DPS is a great place to learn about photography at your own pace, many want an in-person instructor to bounce around questions and concepts. Someone to lead a path through the basics and advanced topics of photography. For those looking for a local photography class or workshop, here are some questions and topics to think about before making a commitment.

Write Out What You Want To Learn

Before picking up a syllabus or starting your search on the internet, make a list of what you want to learn. If you’re just starting out, it’s ok if the list is short and you are unsure of what’s out there to learn. I started out the same way a long time ago, just wanting to learn about the basic concept of proper exposure and not even thinking about other ideas like multiple exposures, creative use of blur and model posing. There is so much out there to learn don’t expect to list it all.
Also don’t be concerned about getting terms and concepts correct. A list may look like:

  • No more blurry pictures
  • Understand why some photos are too dark
  • Improve composition
  • Learn how to select a new lens

It’s also important to know how much time you have to commit. Workshops are typically shorter in length; one to three days on average. A class will typically last over several weeks with each session lasting a couple of hours, often on weeknights to fit into work schedules.

Start Searching

Chances are the internet is one of the first places you will start your search. ‘ Photography Workshop or Class’ will get you started for local options, but not all classes are well indexed by search engines. Don’t forget to check around for local photography clubs who may be offering a class for non-members. Community colleges and local trade schools will also have options which may not show in results so it may be necessary to check their individual websites. Also don’t discount word of mouth; ask around to friends and family and let them know you are looking.

Check The Syllabus

Now that you know what you are interested in learning, it’s time to match up with a class or workshop. Find a syllabus, or listing of what the class will offer, on the class’ website and see if the highlighted points cover what you are interested in. Many classes will list the level (beginner, intermediate, advanced) as a means of helping get started with the right offering. If you find your list straddles two classes, my advice is to pick the lower leveled class first to ensure a solid foundation before tackling the higher level class. Some of the content may be repetitive for you, but it is best to make sure you have the basics down cold before moving on to more complex topics.

Review The Instructors Photos And Feedback

Lastly, take a look at the instructor’s photos if you can track them down. While it is not required for an instructor to be widely published (admitting that it doesn’t hurt, especially if the class is geared towards the business of photography) it is important to know if they can produce well exposed images with which you connect.

As well as the photos, of course check to see if the instructor has any reviews of the course from previous students. They will be your best bet to know if the instructor is a great photographer, but maybe not the best communicator, or the other way around. Ideally an instructor will score well with the technical and artistic aspects of class work as well possessing the ability to communicate in a manner to deliver that content in a compelling manner.

Getting involved in a local photography workshop or class is a great way to get hands-on instruction to expand your understanding in companion with the posts you will find here at DPS.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Felica Deback March 28, 2011 07:14 am

    I'm still learning from you, as I'm trying to achieve my goals. I certainly liked reading everything that is written on your website.Keep the posts coming. I liked it!

  • Farhan Shaheen March 17, 2011 01:20 pm

    Great Post. Here is my first attempt on explaining Aperture effect using macro and some Tips.

  • Cary March 3, 2011 06:00 am

    Thanks for this post! I'm slowly trying to develop my photography skills but have been overwhelmed by the prospect of searching for/registering for a class. I love the idea of starting with a list of goals I hope to accomplish. This will definitely point me in the right direction!


  • Marisa February 24, 2011 11:32 am

    There's a great site called CreativeLive and they stream live classes. If you catch the live class it's free but if you'd like to own the videos to watch later you can buy them from anywhere between $20 to $150. The paid classes also come with downloadables if they were any used in the class. The greatest part about these classes is even if you're watching online they have a chat that you can ask questions through and people moderating the chat who will ask the presenter/ teacher if it's a popular or pertinent question. I've learned soo much through them and its completely worth the time to see the class before you buy it.

  • Thomas Grimes February 22, 2011 02:17 pm

    I like the advise that you have in your blog. Finding the workshop can be hard to find if you don't known how to find them.

  • Santosh Kumar T K February 22, 2011 08:24 am

    Peter West Carey,

    Trust me, it's really really heart-warming to see someone who spells it out so clearly keeping the audience in mind, trying to step into everyone's shoes. I greatly appreciate your inclusive attitude, and you not trying to be intimidating. Addressing all concerns, however seemingly redundant and naive and being so articulate in doing the same. Hats off!

    There is so much niceness not just in your words but in your thought as well. This is so evident in the second paragraph where you say it's perfectly OK to be unclear and raw when one spells out one's needs in the beginning stages. Let everyone make money, truck loads of money but let it be not at the cost of some niceness and grace. I'd like to mention my experience with the Photomatix guys who make that amazing fusion-HDR software. Yes, they are making money, into no charity but their FAQs and the general concern for an average joe is very very endearing. "Lost the serial key, no problem." "Want to install on more than one platform, go ahead." "Here take some sample images to try out the software." Now how many people do that *even* after charging dollars?! An insider may be cynical about it with his insider business sense and knowledge but I couldn't care less. What concerns me is as an end user, am I satisfied with the product and experience? Are they making me come back for more?

    May be you have been told this a zillion times, I don't care, I just had to say it, Thank you!

    More and more power to you guys.

    Santosh Kumar T K

  • AJ February 21, 2011 07:12 am

    If you are looking for something that basic, your local photography store frequently has classes and another great resource is where lots of pros and advanced amateurs post free or inexpensive classes. Also your local night education or community college will have classes.

    For more advanced workshops, there is a desperate need for a photography workshop review site. Many, many photogs are getting into this game and while they may be great photographers they may not be great teachers. I agree with asking about permits and insurance. I have been kicked out of a national park just before sunset and kicked off a beach for the same reason (and this was a workshop sponsored by a major photographic equipment manufacturer - they were embarrassed, but they made up for it). Some key questions if you are going for educational workshops: 1. Does the group stay together? 2. Is there a policy for tardy participants (I shouldn't miss a sunrise shoot because a participant can't get up on time), 3 Does the pro take his/her own pictures? If the leader is taking their own shots, how can they spend any time teaching you in the field? The best photo workshop I have been on, the instructors didn't even have cameras. They would look at your composition and tell you what might be better and why. They explained why different exposure combinations might be more interesting or at least different. On the other extreme, a photographer set up his camera and had you put your memory card in his camera and snap the shot. Without even explaining why he set up the way he did.

    One other recommendation is to attend photo festivals, especially if they can be local. There you get to experience a few different teachers ranging from basic to advanced. If you find someone you like, you can sign up for a more extended workshop with that instructor.

  • Sam Edwards February 21, 2011 03:23 am

    Thanks for the great post.

    One thing I would caution new students about is to beware of the "Death-by- Powerpoint workshops". Often these workshops are nothing more than someone charging hundreds of dollars for one presentation highlighting their own work.

    While you may get some helpful advise from such a presentation, it is far better to attend a class or workshop that allows you to learn "hands-on".

    Peter's last point is very important. Save yourself some time and money by researching the instructors before you hand over your cash.

  • Danny February 21, 2011 03:13 am

    I was always told that the best way to learn was not through a class, but by actually going out there and shooting, and learning how to get it right yourself. That being said, I think watching youtube videos, and frequenting sites such as DPS provide an enormous amount of information on all the areas of photography, that's not to say a class or workshop is a waste of time, but I think the "the get out there and shoot to learn" train of thought is the best way, for me at least, to get a good grasp on things. However, it's always nice to be with other photographers to ask questions and get tips and tricks that you otherwise would not learn on your own.

  • Bret Edge February 21, 2011 02:26 am

    Great post, and quite timely with the workshop season just about to get underway. I couldn't agree more with the last point, "Review the Instructors and Feedback". I lead landscape photography workshops in the national parks and an issue I see among other instructors is that they fail to obtain the required permits and insurance. If you're considering a workshop in a national park or other managed (federal or state) area, ask the workshop leader if he or she has obtained the proper permits and insurance.

    As mentioned in the article, look for workshop reviews and/or testimonials on the photographer's website. Even better: ask them if you can contact a couple former workshop clients. If the photographer is confident in their instruction they shouldn't hesitate to provide this info.

    Here's a link to a blog post I wrote last year that touches on the same topic:

    Thanks for the informative post!

  • AndyComberPhoto February 21, 2011 02:17 am

    Theres some Great courses for all levels available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad.

    4 Courses for each device

    Photo 101
    Lighting 101
    Wedding 101
    and Starting Your own photography business.

    Just search for "pocket PSG" on itunes.

    All courses are presented by a seasoned Pro photographer and you can even ask questions to the host direct from the app to his personal email address.

    If you need a course to start you off but want a pro to help you over email to answer questions, theres nothing better.

    Easy to follow tutorials and learn at your own pace format.

    A great place to start if your an amateur or even intermediate to pro level. theres something for everyone.

    Hope this helps