Choosing A Workshop

With so many photography workshops out there and most of them costing a small fortune, it’s hard to determine which workshop is really worth your investment.  Here are some things I have learned along the way that have helped me

1)  Just because a photographer is awesome at taking pictures, it does not mean that they are a great teacher. I learned this one the hard way.  Which leads me to number 2…

2)  Research, research, research.  Don’t just read what the photographer posts on their site.  If you google “xyz photography workshop” you will come across blog entries from photographers that attended that photographers workshop.   Read their entries, look at their pictures, and don’t be afraid to shoot them an email to ask what they really thought and would they attend that workshop again.  Ask if they learned everything they were promised and if the photographer was a good teacher.

3)  Models vs. Real People. Now that I have all the basic fundamentals of photography down, when I attend a workshop the most important thing for me is to see how that photographer works with their subjects.  And I want those subjects to be real people, not models.  Why?  Because I don’t work with models.  I work with real people.  It’s easy to work with models.  They know what they are doing and feel comfortable in front of the camera.  Real people don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera.  You have to work a lot harder with real people.  I want to see how photographers work with real people and make them feel comfortable in front of the camera.

4)  Don’t break the bank.  Not all awesome workshops have to cost $1000.  The very first workshop I attended was a 2 day workshop and only cost $300!  I learned more from that workshop than I did from the other workshops I’ve attended and paid three times that amount!

5)  How many people are attending that workshop? Will you get one on one time with the photographer?  It makes a big difference if 15 people are attending versus 30.  With less people it will be easier to ask questions and get better positions during the shoot.

6)  What can you use your images for? It’s easy to get tempted by beautifully styled shoots.  But, are you allowed to use these images in your portfolio?  Some photographers will allow you to do whatever you’d like with your images and some won’t allow you to use them at all.

7)  Make sure you attend a workshop that is suited to your skill level. If you don’t know your aperture from your ISO consider taking an online workshop first that will teach you all the basic fundamentals.  Online workshops are cheaper and you don’t have to pay travel costs to attend.  Most photographers will assume that you already know the basics and how to shoot on manual and won’t cover that in their workshops (unless they market it as a beginners workshop).  If you don’t know the basics you will be lost and the workshop won’t be as worthwhile.

8)  Consider a mentoring session rather than a workshop.  If you’re confused about which workshop to attend consider meeting one on one with a photographer that you love and admire.  With a mentoring session you can get one on one advice that is suited for you and your business.  It might cost a little more money, but it will be worth it because of all the attention you get.  You can get your pricing, marketing materials, website, and portfolio looked over which is something that you can’t do at most workshops (or you will have a very limited amount of time to do so).


  1. Tonya says

    Good sound advice, Drew. I have been pondering whether to invest in a workshop this year. This post helps so much. I especially like the advice of asking other attendees their opinion. My biggest expense seems to be travel and lodging costs as the workshops I would love to attend are all in Southern Cal and I am in Northern Cali. Some workshops are offering lodging as part of the package which is really wonderful. Would love a follow up post from you on workshops in or around your area that you consider the best bang for your buck. Perhaps one for wedding photog moms, children photog moms and baby photog moms like myself. If you aren’t comfortable with that kind of post, perhaps you could email me your thoughts. Thanks so much for sharing your professional insight here.

  2. Tracy says

    Drew, this was very helpful. Thank you for your thoughts!
    Tracy´s last blog post ..Merry Christmas!

  3. kari says

    Fantastic post. I’m about to take an online course because I realize that I’m not as familiar with my camera as I thought. Once I’ve got the basics down, I’m gonna try to take a worthwhile workshop. Like Tonya above, I’d love to get your recommendations…XOXO
    kari´s last blog post ..Funny Pics from 2010

  4. admin says

    Tonya – I’ve only attended 4 workshops. Most of which aren’t available anymore. So, unfortunately I won’t be much help reviewing workshops.

  5. All the classes I’ve taken have been through our local photography store. These ranged in price from $95 for a six week class to $150 for a six week class (depending on the classes). They have been awesome and I’ve learned so much. I’m ready to enroll in more! =)

    Great suggestions!

  6. very very good advice Drew. it’s super important that beginners know the audience that the workshops are marketing to. you are doing great work 🙂

  7. tamsen says

    thank you! right now I am in the process of researching newborn photog workshops, so this is a timely post! 🙂

  8. Amber says

    Wow! Thanks for this! Great info…I love taking pictures, but have so much to learn!
    Amber´s last blog post ..It’s Here!

  9. Amber says

    So as a professional photographer, I am sure you get people emailing you all the time inquiring about mentoring sessions. Do you have any advise or suggestions on how to ask a photographer if he/she would be interested in a mentoring session? Or any advise on what NOT to do or ask?

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

    Thank you

  10. Brooke vanausdal says

    Ugh I did this this last year. Went to a workshop where the photographer was awesome! But could not teach to save her life. I think in a 9 hour period she did 20 min of talking and I would not be able to do anything on my own- they did not tell us how they got their settings to acheive the look such a waist of time and money. Funy thing is – I was emailing her asking questions and she was giving me such wierd answers that I knew that I shouldn’t do it. but I was so excited I jumped the gun. I wont do that again. Deffinatly doing more research next time.

  11. Julie says

    Still working on my cloning machine so you (or your clone) can teach a momtog workshop.
    Julie´s last blog post ..Embracing inertia

  12. Erin says

    I have considered trying a mentor session with a photographer, but mainly because I want to be a better photographer, not necessarily to start my own business. I know how to use my camera in manual mode, but have problems with getting that clear focus sometimes and getting it right in certain lighting situations. Do you (or photographers in general) have a problem mentoring someone who doesn’t have their own business and might not have one ever? I feel that I need some hands on one on one mentoring, as opposed to online lessons or workshops. Taking a weekly 6 week or longer class at a local community college is not practical for me either, since I work full time and have kids. Most of my free time is on weekends, or would be in this case, a one time weekend mentoring session. Would love your opinion on this if possible. Thanks!!

  13. admin says

    That’s the great thing about mentoring sessions! I tailor them to fit exactly what the photographer needs. I would think other photographers would do that as well.

  14. Emma says

    Thanks for this post – I too have decided that 2011 is the year that I’ll be going on a course… so you’ve provided some great points to consider!
    Emma´s last blog post ..Inspired by Christmas Trees!