Questions To Ask Before Committing To A Photography Workshop / by Katherine Nielsen

Photo by  charley pangus  on  Unsplash

You want to improve your imagery and what better way to do this than to attend a Photography workshop. Before you commit, I have some suggestions.

I have participated in a few workshops and unfortunately walked away feeling incredibly disappointed. I have also had some incredible learning experience's and this was what I found important when trying to decide on the right workshop.

Photography workshops are a considerable investment, and there is nothing worse than leaving the experience feeling like it was a massive waste of time and money. Especially, after paying thousands of dollars to attend. The internet is literally flooded with photographers offering photo tours, experiences and workshops all of which offer differing levels of tuition.

Being an industry expert will not always mean you are able to deliver a workshop that adds value to someone’s photography journey. Some of the best learning experiences I have had have been from free photography meets.

Before committing to a workshop, I would suggest asking these questions first and if you are still unsure I have provided links to workshops and online courses that come highly recommended or I have personally attended.

1. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP?

Make sure you are completely informed about the total costs of a workshop. This should be clearly stated. A $5000 photography workshop can easily blow out to $10k when flights, meals and transport to the venue are not included.

Will this translate to money well spent if your expectations are not meet?

2. HOW MANY PARTICIPANTS ARE THERE IN THE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP?

6-8 People really is enough if you are shooting out on location. Ask the person taking the workshop how they will ensure equal time with participants. Something that really irritates me are those people who literally take all the time from the instructor while everyone else is left to their own devices.

If you are all paying the same, you need to feel like you are getting the same value from your experience. Not everyone is an extrovert and introverted people will never stand up and request assistance. Understanding different personality types is essential so that you are able to cater for each learning style. A good trainer will be able to identify that they are spending too much time with one individual and wrap it up to avoid participant frustration.

3. HOW MUCH TIME WILL YOU BE SPENDING WITH THE COURSE LEADER?

Attending a workshop where you meet up at a location and then get told to shoot with no tuition or direction is such a lazy way to conduct a workshop. If you have paid to spend time with industry leaders, I would expect they are there every step of the way to guide you and provide you with their expertise. After all, this is what you paid for.

So if you are shooting in the water, they should be right there with you showing you their learned techniques. If your shooting landscapes, I would hope they are there with you guiding your possible compositions and suggesting different methods not sending you off to shoot without them.

4. WHAT IS TAUGHT ON THE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP?

Make sure there are a clear timetable and structure to the learning. Guidelines that clearly identify what will covered during the workshop will ensure you can establish clear goals for your learning.

Some people like a relaxed approach to workshops but if you are like me, I go to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Make sure you have an itinerary that has been carefully planned. Not just thrown together last minute and if things change they need to be communicated to everyone, so they know where to meet if the location changes.

5. WHAT SUPPORT IS OFFERED AFTER THE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP?

A key to a great workshop, I feel is having access to on-going support from your tutor, within reason. There is nothing worse than not being able to follow up with any lingering questions you forgot to ask at the time.

6. WHAT TEACHING QUALIFICATIONS OR TRAINING HAVE THEY OBTAINED?

Being an expert in your field doesn't always mean you will be able to deliver a course to people successfully. Some people are born teachers, and others really should not even attempt it.

The greatest thing I ask anyone who provides a workshop especially if someone pays for the experience is to develop your skills as an educator. People have come to you to learn and improve their skills, it is essential that you can provide a course that is catered to the multiple styles of learning.

NEVER make the experience so unpleasant that you turn people off something they are passionate about.

7. HOW MANY PARTICIPANTS RETURN TO YOUR WORKSHOPS?

This is such a great question. The best way to judge a workshop is whether someone would be prepared to come back to another photography experience hosted by the same photographer.

8. IF THE WEATHER TURNS BAD, DO, YOU HAVE A BACKUP PLAN?

There is nothing worse than an unprepared workshop host who hasn’t considered the potential for weather changes.

9. WILL THERE BE RESOURCES?

Note pads and pens to record anything discussed at the workshop are simple but important learning tools. Most importantly having a resource of everything that will be covered during the experience so you can revisit it later. 

It also shows that significant effort has been made to provide learning tools for multiple learning styles. A USB of everything that was delivered would be sufficient.

10.  WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE WORKSHOP?

Ask what knowledge you will gain and what they will do if you don’t understand what is being delivered.

11. WHAT IS THE REFUND POLICY?

How much of your money can you get back if your plans change? Are you able to reschedule and apply the fees you have already paid to another workshop?

If you give reasonable notice can you get a full-refund.

Additionally, will they refund you if the workshop doesn't meet your expectations.

12. WHO IS THIS WORKSHOP FOR, IS THIS CLEARLY IDENTIFIED?

Attending a workshop aimed at all levels only to find that isn’t the case can be very frustrating if you are a beginner and the tutor is catering for intermediate to advanced participants it can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

13. WILL THEY KNOW THEIR EQUIPMENT, NOT EVERYONE SHOOTS WITH THE SAME SYSTEMS.

There are multiple camera systems out there and everyone is set-up differently some people may be new to their camera equipment that is why they are there to learn. If you are teaching and you don’t know other systems you need to find out before providing a course, because saying you don’t work with a certain system, frankly isn’t good enough.

If you are offering ocean workshops you need to know all the in’s and outs of each housing system and how to put them together confidently with your students.

14. ASK OTHER PEOPLE WHO THEY RECOMMEND.

The best way to establish if a workshop is worthwhile is through word of mouth. I have added several online photography and tour experiences for various locations that I have attended myself and also have been recommended by other photographers.

Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash