How to Maximize Your Photography Workshop Experience

How to Maximize Your Photography Workshop Experience

A Guest Post by Eva Polak.

photography-workshop.jpgAttending a photography workshop is the best way to learn new skills. Not only will it improve your technique and expand your knowledge, it will also expose you to a range of interesting subjects to shoot and give you an opportunity to meet and have fun with like-minded people.

Whether you decide to go on a tour or a workshop, following these few simple guidelines will help you to get the most out of your experience.

Pre-workshop preparation

Define your goals

Think about why you want to attend and what you would like to get out of the workshop. Make sure the workshop matches your interests and skills. Be realistic. Even the most intense workshop can’t teach you everything you will ever need to know about photography.

Choose the right location for you

If you like to photograph nature, a workshop in a attractive location would be a good choice. Not only will you get the kind of images you like, but you will also meet people who prefer the type of photography that you do.

Do your homework

Prepare a list of the most important questions you’d like answered while you are at the workshop. It’s easier to forget things when you are rushed or excited.
Ask the instructor about any specific recommendations that will help you to prepare for the particular subject to be covered. The more you can learn before the workshop the more you will get out of it.

Check your equipment

Make sure that your equipment is in a good working order. There is nothing worse than being in the field and having your equipment malfunction.
Ensure that you have spare batteries and enough disk space.

Know how to operate your equipment

If you read your camera or other equipment manual in advance of the workshop and practice until you feel confident about how to use it, you can spend your workshop time doing what you really want to do – learning to take great photos!

During the workshop

Be an active participant

photography-workshop-1.jpgWork hard to get the most out of your time. Take your own initiative.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your teacher is there to assist you. If you are not comfortable asking in the group ask your instructor in private.

Don’t immediately expect to make great photographs

Use this time to practice using new techniques and experimenting rather than trying to produce great photos. Great photography is about being there at the right time and that may not coincide with the timing of the workshop.

Be open to suggestions

Participate in each exercise fully and enthusiastically. Accept feedback with an open mind. The instructor may see some problems with your technique and approach and is there to help you. The purpose in going to a workshop is to expose yourself to new ideas.. Try it, it might work and you might like it. It’s all about an attitude.

Share your experiences and connect with others

You may learn as much from other students as you do from the instructor. Participate in discussions, share information and your own experience. Listen to the advice being given to others. Pick up as much as you can.

After the workshop

Reflect upon your workshop experience

Take time to reflect upon your workshop experience. Did you accomplish your goals? If not, why not? What would you do differently next time? Write all this down so you don’t forget it. Learn from your mistakes.

Follow your instructor’s recommendations

Practicing new techniques, approaches, or ways of thinking could be a crucial element to the success of your workshop experience.

Extend the learning

Obtain additional information about how you can reinforce what you leaned in the workshop.

Maintain Contact

Keep in touch with your instructor and fellow participants.
You may develop some great friendships along the way.

Eva Polak is a fine art photographer based in Auckland who specializes in impressionist photography. Author of two books “At the beach” and “Impressionist Photography Techniques” – visit her site at

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Some Older Comments

  • ramil sunga January 5, 2012 09:33 pm

    new photographer

  • Kat Sias April 7, 2010 10:33 am

    Oh, and excellence on the article by the way!

  • Kat Sias April 7, 2010 10:32 am

    I agree with the posting above. Never buy new equipment unless it's going to make you money.

  • Sangeeth Priyanath March 20, 2010 10:49 pm

    great article. Its really helpful and thanks for sharing.

  • Okello Dunkley March 20, 2010 12:03 am

    Another good tip is to NOT buy any new equipment just for a workshop. There's a good chance you may find out it's not something you need. I would even say hold off on buying anything until the workshop, but write down a few products you've had your eye on and ask if they think it might be good for your type of photography.

  • Sangeeth Priyanath March 19, 2010 02:50 pm

    Eva, your posting is extremely helpful for maximize the skills. Thanks for sharing

  • Alan March 19, 2010 05:20 am

    Some really good points in your article, especially about experiencing the workshop itself. I have gone to many workshops over the 3 years since I bought my camera, I would add a few more tips:

    1. Look at the photography of the people leading the workshops, is this a style you like? (sometimes you learn more from someone who shoots differently than you want because they expand your thinking), do they have talent? Is their website professional (if their website is not professional, one questions whether the workshop will be)

    2. Questions to ask before you sign up:
    a. What is the photographer to student ratio? Sometimes a high ratio can be ok, but you are going to get less attention when its 15 students to 1 teacher, if they have assistants how qualified are they?
    b. Will the workshop leader be shooting his own photos or teachign exclusively? When they are trying to get their own shots, they will pay much less attention to you sometimes NO attention to you. If you are paying somebody a significant amount of money, you should be their priority, not getting new shots.
    c. What physical shape do I need to be for your workshop. if you will be hiking 5 miles to a location and you are not in shape to do it, you don't learn much when you are exhausted.
    d. What is their policy on late arrivers, if you are scheduled for a sunrise shoot and someone is not there on time, do you wait for them causing everyone else in the class to miss the shots?
    e. Do they have the appropriate permits for wherever you are shooting? Unless this is a known guerrilla shoot, the instructor should have permits. I once took a workshop in a national park, where the instructor didn't have the permits, we were kicked out.
    f. Are there additional fees that are not included? Portrait workshops frequently ask you to pay a model for a model release rather than having that included. Parks may have enterance fees and these are frequently not included.
    g. if you are goign to travel to a workshop and spend alot of money, ask the instructor if you can email some previous participants. Although they will always give you people who they think will be positive, you can learn alot from them.

    Someone really needs to create a website with workshops reviews, because this is becoming a big business and photographers sometimes put out alot of money to participate. On the other hand, there are alot of meetup groups and local photography clubs that put on great free experiences too.

  • Steve March 18, 2010 10:56 pm

    Excellent article, as usual. I would add that it is a good idea to show the instructor any additional techniques that you may know and that they were previously unaware of.

  • scott March 18, 2010 09:15 am

    As someone that does workshops quite often I would add another tip in that you should attempt to use what you have learned as soon as possible. Nothing worse than waiting a few weeks and then not being able to remember the tips. In fact, we always add a hands-on portion during and especially afterwards that can go on for several hours after the formal workshop is done.

  • my spatula March 18, 2010 05:13 am

    i've been wanting to attend a workshop for some time now. this gives me the needed boost to do so soon! thank u.

  • Mei Teng March 17, 2010 03:36 pm

    You have very good points here. Have never attended a photography workshop before. On a self-learning mode at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jason Collin Photography March 17, 2010 10:21 am

    I think it's definitely a good idea to have a list of questions ready for any workshop, and most definitely a good idea to be an active participant. You will often find the squeaky wheel gets the grease and you make get more direct time with the leader of the workshop.

    The Lighten Up and Shoot crew came to my area and offered a free workshop. By speaking up I actually got to use some of their gear during the workshop! If they come to your area I would highly recommend meeting up with them. This was my experience with them: