Is that a Workshop, Tour or Seminar [Part III]

Is that a Workshop, Tour or Seminar [Part III]

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In part I and part II of this series we learned the photo workshop is typically one where the instructor concentrates on delivering an intense teaching/learning experience at a location conducive to enhancing that goal.  In comparison is the photo tour where the delivery is all about exotic or exciting locations with a photo tour leader putting you in the right place at the right time, and might provide minimal formal instruction.

Located somewhere between the tour and workshop is the photo seminar. More often than not the seminar combines the best attributes of the workshop and tour by providing numerous lecturers and presentations, from internationally recognized keynote speakers who augment acclaimed local and national professionals in various photography disciplines.

In 1994, I attended a 60-minute presentation where a digital artist explained that a new software called Adobe Photoshop would revolutionize the photography industry. My notes from that lecture said “alpha mask – change sky.”  I later learned how to do alpha masks and discovered that I need not sit and look out a window while it was raining. Nineteen years later there is little argument that Photoshop has changed our industry, and “masks” are one of the foundation tools every digital photographer must eventually learn.

In 1994, I attended a 60-minute presentation where a digital artist explained that a new software called Adobe Photoshop would revolutionize the photography industry. My notes from that lecture said “alpha mask – change sky.” I later learned how to do alpha masks and discovered that I need not sit and look out a window while it was raining. Nineteen years later there is little argument that Photoshop has changed our industry, and “masks” are one of the foundation tools every digital photographer must eventually learn.

The seminar is also sometimes referred to as a conference, but the crux of the event remains very much constant: numerous presenters under one roof presenting a variety of topics by experts in their field over several days at one venue.

Seminars are offered by both private enterprise as well as professional and amateur photography associations who also may open their doors to non-members.  In Canada the two most recognized national association conventions are hosted in different cities each year by the members of Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) and Canadian Association for Photographic Art (CAPA).  You can do a web search in your country of residence for professional associations such as Professional Photographers of America (PPA) or your national amateur chapter of Fedération Internationale de l’Art Photographique (FIAP).

Seminars are typically chock-a-block full of presenters offering a variety of topics and many also offer a slate of add-on field trips. It is not uncommon with the larger conventions to have 25, or more, presenters on a four day program which is augmented with a keynote presentation each evening.  Intensity is the key word with seminars.

A close cousin to the seminar is the non-degree granting photo school. The concept is very similar, the delivery is quite different.  Whereas in the seminar scenario participants are introduced to a variety of instructors, concepts and theories, the school typically places a classroom of students with one instructor for the entire time period.  Additionally, the school tends to be more about a mixture of theory and practical application, whereas the seminar tends to deliver concepts and ideas for individual exploration at a later time.

Each approach has their advantages and disadvantages. If you are seeking exposure to a variety of concepts and motivation the seminar might be the best approach. By comparison, if you are seeking to spend a lot of one-on-one time learning a particular technique or skill set the school might be the better choice.  Be aware, however, if you “hook-up” with a presenter in the seminar situation who has poor instructional technique you can find some solace that the next lecturer, an hour or so later, might be better.  In the school environment, however, if you have a poor instructor you will be less than satisfied over the duration of several days, a week, or even longer.  Be diligent and do your homework well; there are many great photographers who simply are not good at sharing their knowledge, skills or information for a variety of reasons.  As suggested in the opening of this series, there are instructors and then there are teachers – not all are truly teachers.

In summation we can generally draw to following conclusions:

Workshop:  Typically intense training with one instructor that includes field and formal classroom instruction with measureable outcomes. The location is secondary but supportive of the curriculum.

Photo Tour:  Location(s) is the key ingredient and instruction is minimal if at all. The tour leader is typically a well known photographer who should also be familiar with the locations and scope of the tour, be it cultural, wildlife, etc.

Seminar:  Typically a broad array of concepts, discussion and disciplines with a variety of presenters. It is about being introduced to new theories, approaches and motivation. They are typically shorter in duration with minimal practical application.

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Dale Wilson is a freelance photographer based out of Halifax, Canada. He has been a regular staff writer for a variety of Canadian photo magazines for 18 years. Wilson has also published or co-published four books and was the photo-editor on the Canadian best selling Canada’s National Parks – A Celebration. His practice concentrates on commercial work and shooting natural history images for four stock agencies. After a 10 year hiatus Wilson will once again be offering eastern Canadian workshops with his teaching partner Garry Black.'

Some Older Comments

  • Lee August 23, 2013 01:26 pm

    Don't you just hate typing on small tablet screens - typos pop up randomly. I need more practice....

  • Lee August 23, 2013 01:21 pm

    I find the debate about using Photoshop a little trite. Every photograph taken is an 'adjusted' product. Most photographers I have met that criticize the use of Photoshop have, in my experience, has not learned to use it or do not own it. Every has photo can be ruined with or without PShop. Enjoy photography with or without it.
    www.stonewallgalleries.wordpress.com

  • Vicco August 23, 2013 07:12 am

    Hi folks,
    well, first I would say, that the required skills are similar if not the same, second I would say, that this composite, that was shown as an example, is not really interesting.

  • kirpi August 17, 2013 02:28 am

    @jason
    Actually, composite photography still does need a good "photographic eye" to be done properly.

  • Jason Racey August 16, 2013 11:43 am

    I'd be upset to learn that I'd lost a photo contest to someone that replaced the sky in the winning image with one from another image. It has nothing to do with photography. Anyone with skill in Photoshop but none in photography can make such an alteration.