How many of us have paid for and attended a workshop we thought was going to be fantastic and just what we needed only to find out that it wasn’t really what we thought it would be?
I’ve done this more than once and finally decided to pay more attention to what it was I was signing up for and what my thinking was behind the decision. Here are a few things to consider before signing off on that Pay Now button.
Do your research on the workshop
Research the subject matter. There are plenty of options out there for learning. Online courses & workshops, YouTube videos, mentoring programs, and in-person courses from one-day to full-on train-person-day photography symposiums.
Depending on what it is you are looking to learn it will help to figure that out and find out how that particular subject is presented. Do you just need a refresher or do you want to learn a new technique from the ground up? Will an online video course work or would it be more beneficial to attend an in-person workshop?
Who is the instructor? Is their teaching style good for your learning style? This is personal, not every instructor is good for every person, we all learn in different ways and instructors all have different teaching methods and speaking styles. Search online for videos they have posted, find reviews, and contact others who have attended this person’s courses.
Research the course content. Is it in line with what you want to learn or is it something you feel you have to learn? Your attitude about those two can be completely different and can affect your learning during the course. Make sure the course content will include information that works toward your goals.
Have goals for the workshop
What are your goals for this workshop or course? What do you want to learn, and what do you want to take away from this experience? Going into the program with clear results in mind will help you walk away with a much better learning experience. Check out the content of several courses/workshops to see which one best fits your goals. (You do have goals, don’t you?)
Once you’re actually in that room, out in the field, in that chat or online community — PARTICIPATE! This is one I struggle with and learned the hard way. Ask questions. You know — there is no such thing as a dumb question — right? It’s not easy, I get it.
Picture this. You’re on a 10-day photography symposium, on a scientific explorer ship, in the Arctic with four professional photographers who are there to help you. Read that again — are there to HELP you! You’re out in a zodiac shooting polar bears, you got this, right? Have you ever photographed polar bears before? From a moving zodiac? In the water which is moving? While the 14 other people around you are also trying to get the shot? While the polar bear is moving? You’ve got this right?
Well not totally wrong, but if I had asked questions like what’s the best way to approach this, what are the best settings to use in this situation (that I have never ever nor will ever likely be in again), I would have come away with far better shots than I did get. If you don’t get that shot, all of the above are just excuses.
Interact with fellow attendees as well. There is much to be learned from our fellow photographers and you know we (mostly) all love to talk photography!
You can always learn something. What if you’re in a workshop and realize it’s not really applicable to what you do. Step back, change your thought process a bit and figure out how you can use what is being taught in your own photography.
A friend of mine was in a ‘lighting and shooting cars’ workshop but they don’t shoot cars, they shoot Lego minifigs. They came out of that with ideas, having been of the mind that cars are shiny, curved and angular objects. You know what, Lego minifigs are shiny, curved and angular objects just on a smaller scale so the same concepts and techniques can be applied.
Like anything, doing your homework helps. Knowing what you want going in helps. With so many options out there we need to be more diligent in our research and choices so that we can get the best information and experience possible for each of us.