Ultimately, the value of a travel photography workshop cannot be measured just by the cost of the tuition, the number of learning days, the destination, curriculum, or the instructor. The answer to “Are photography workshops worth it?” is a value-based judgment that must take into account the fit among the instructor’s background and experience, the relevance of the workshop format and teaching methodology, and the richness of the learning environment relative to where you are at in your own professional development as a photographer.
Travel photography workshops are often criticized for simply herding people around from one location to another with everyone taking the same photos, itineraries that never happen, and anyone willing to pay the tuition allowed into the workshop. There isn’t much worse than having spent a substantial amount of money on a workshop only to realize that it was a disappointment. So, here are a few thoughts on how to have a great photography workshop experience.
How to Ensure a Photography Workshop is Worth it for You?
A first consideration is the instructor for the workshop. Most instructors lead workshops that reflect the type of photography they personally enjoy doing. As a result, they are likely to bring a lot of passion, technique, and experiences learned from “having been in the trenches” to the learning environment. Working with an experienced and skilled instructor who “knows the ropes” can be a tremendous opportunity to learn from a master and improve your photography. It can also be important to consider these additional instructor qualities:
- Take a look at their Body of Work – does it resonate with you? What types of images do they generate, e.g., if they are primarily a landscape photographer, do they specialize in seascapes, sunrises, mountains, etc.? Does their work appear to be mostly recreations of well-known landmarks, remote/hidden locations off-the-beaten-path, or combinations of both? What level of post-production work does their finished work embrace, e.g., photos enhanced/retouched for maximum effect as opposed to photos with overly dramatic composites added.
- Review their Instructor Bio – is their experience and background a good fit with what you’re looking for? What aspects of their experience suggest that they will have a lot to offer as an instructor? Are you looking for an instructor that can help you navigate the worlds of gallery exhibitions, magazine publications, and photo competitions, or are you more interested in working with someone who can teach you advanced camera techniques and skills? Are your interests and goals in sync with those of the instructor?
- Evaluate their Testimonials – What do past students have to say about their experiences working with the instructor? Their workshops?
A second consideration revolves around the teaching methodology of the workshop. Travel photography workshops can vary greatly in scope from basic photo guides that take you to a series of scenic locations, to true photography workshops (e.g., SLR Lounge and Creative Live) where camera fundamentals and editing are covered, to full immersion photography workshops where students are mentored both in the field and back in the classroom.
In addition to helping students expand their visual voice, workshops that include a strong post-production training component allow students to see what worked and what didn’t work out in the field so that they can make adjustments during the next capture session. Lastly, does the workshop have all of the required commercial permits including a clearly defined itinerary for learning in the field, time spent back in the classroom, with specific shooting locations identified?
Practical Benefits to Enrolling in a Photography Workshop
- Camaraderie – I’ve met some awesome friends and colleagues from workshops and photo assignments. Waking up in the wee hours of the morning for sunrise, traveling to remote locations together, shooting stars together in the evening, and sharing your work with others is a great way to meet and get to know like-minded individuals!
- Safety in Numbers – how many times have you wanted to do something, but not felt comfortable doing it alone? And, there’s something to be said for having an experienced guide to show you around when you’re in a new place for the first time.
- Confidence – students new to landscape photography often default to just recreating the same photos that others have taken – and not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, as students learn and gain confidence in their ability, you’ll be encouraged to create your own unique and classic images.
Ultimately, the value of a landscape photography workshop cannot be measured just by the cost of the tuition, the number of learning days, the destination, curriculum, or the instructor. The answer to “Is it worth it?” is a value-based judgment that must take into account the fit among:
- the instructor’s background and experience,
- the relevance of the workshop format and teaching methodology, and
- the richness of the learning environment relative to where you are at in your own professional development as a photographer.
Check out my complete selection of full immersion landscape photography workshops.