I am often asked my opinion on attending photography workshops versus going it alone. Both have their advantages, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll limit my thoughts to the workshop question.
If you have recently decided that you want to do landscape or wildlife photography and have the best possible results, I highly recommend attending some photography workshops. I have attended my share of these over the years, for reasons I will explain later.
Most of the time that I attend a group workshop is because it is the only way to get to a specific location. To capture the below image of a polar bear, I went on a workshop to Spitsbergen, Norway. The only way to get on the expedition vessel to get to the remote fjords was to be on the boat that was charted by the workshop.
Workshop attendees will generally have a wide range of levels of experience. This is great as there is usually someone you can relate to from an experience standpoint. However, to get the most out of a photography workshop, the more you already know the better. It’s best if you know your camera controls well and have spent some time taking photos and processing them on your computer. If you show up with a camera still in a box (yes, it happens), you just won’t get the most you can out of the experience.
The websites for photography workshops usually provide detailed information as to what you can expect to accomplish, any physical requirements, sample photographs and itinerary information. If you still have questions, consider giving the workshop leader a call.
I have attended workshops in the past for two main reasons. First, it may have been the only way to get to a location. The group may have chartered a boat for example. Second, the workshop leader was a photographer that I wanted to get to know and understand their philosophy and approach to photography.
Like in the case with the Polar Bear in Norway, I went with a group that had chartered a helicopter and rooms in a remote lodge in Canada to photograph Mount Assiniboine. We hiked together through bear terrirory in the pre-dawn dark to get to the vantage point. I could not have done this alone.
Of course, being with a group of like-minded photographers is always more fun than being out there alone. You don’t have to talk to yourself anywhere near as much! I have also developed friendships with other photographers that continue to this day. I have never had a bad experience on a workshop.
Take the time to see what the others are shooting and how they composed their images. Even if it’s just looking at the back of their camera, you will learn from seeing how others may have seen things differently.
Most workshops will have some time set aside for critiquing of your images. If possible, take advantage of it. If time is limited or you are self-conscious about this, you can usually send some of your images to the workshop leader after the workshop for their thoughts.
Attending a photography workshop is an easy way to get to some great locations without the planning and travel concerns there are when you go solo, as I discuss in a separate article. If you’re just starting out, it’s a great way to learn and come away with some nice images. If you think you might want to go it alone, check out my articles on Planning A Photography Trip and Doing A Solo Photography Trip.