A landscape photography workshop can be a great way to experience the “best photo spots” of a new location, learn first-hand from an established photographer, or develop new camera and editing techniques in a controlled setting. However, landscape photography workshops aren’t necessarily a “one-size-fits-all” proposition – they come in many different formats and styles. A landscape photography workshop is a planned investment or professional development experience for many individuals. As such, it can be helpful to spend a few minutes evaluating just what it is you’re looking to achieve from a potential workshop experience.
Photography Workshop Formats
Landscape photography workshops can vary greatly in scope from basic photo guides that take you to a series of scenic locations, to true photography workshops where camera fundamentals and editing techniques are taught, to full immersion photography workshops where students are mentored both in the field and in the classroom. And, while there is no “right-or-wrong” with any of these workshop formats, it is important to understand both the benefits and limitations of each format.
The Basic Guide
Let’s start with the basic photo guide format. A number of years ago, I was visiting Yosemite National Park for the first time. I was planning to organize several days of landscape photography around a one-day hike up the Half Dome. Although I had done my usual research identifying different sites in the park that I wanted to photograph, it quickly became clear given the sheer size and logistics of getting around the park that I could use some help.
I decided to hire a park guide to help me organize a one-day photo itinerary focused on three of the key shots I wanted. We met at 4 AM and drove/hiked in the darkness for the next two hours to get into position for the sunrise photo I wanted. Our “day” continued until almost 11 PM. In short, I never would have reached as many locations as we did, or discovered some of the hidden gems we went to that day without the help of my guide.
If you’re looking for basic assistance with where to shoot and when to shoot, consider hiring a photo guide to help you identify the best photo locations and to simplify the logistics of getting around. The half-day guided bus tours that many cities offer can also be a great way to get a quick overview of the city and identify specific locations you’d like to return to for a second look/shoot.
True Photography Workshops
The second category of photography workshops is what I often refer to as the true photography workshops where camera fundamentals, shooting strategies, and post-editing techniques are taught. These types of workshops vary greatly in terms of content, and they can include topics such as how to configure your new camera or how to create depth of field on a beginner level, to topics such as the basics of studio lighting and night photography on an intermediate level, to topics such as working with luminosity masks or mastering high speed sync as advanced techniques.
These types of workshops are an excellent way to develop new skills in specific areas. In addition to formal classroom settings, there are also a number of excellent online resources available (e.g., SLR Lounge and Creative Live) where students can access high-quality instruction across a wide range of topics and skills.
Full Immersion Landscape Photography Workshops
A final genre of photography workshops is the full immersion landscape photography workshop where students are mentored both in the field and in the classroom. Out in the field, my students explore different approaches to visualizing a scene, composing ground/sky/sea landscapes, and managing complex highlight and shadow scenes. Students learn techniques such as dynamic bracketing, focus stacking, and neutral density filters. With an experienced mentor by their side, students are encouraged – sometimes challenged – to contemplate their shooting objectives for the day before they start shooting.
Back in the classroom, students spend time developing their post-production workflow – learning when Lightroom is enough and when they need to move their work into Photoshop. They learn techniques such as luminosity masks to create and solve contrast, color, and blending issues.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a full immersion approach is that students are able to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work at the end of each day so that they can make adjustments during their next shooting session in the field as well as their next post-production session back in the classroom.
The group size for my full immersion photography workshops is limited to just 3 to 6 students, allowing for a high level of personal interaction, planning, and guidance. Students are continually challenged to develop and expand their visual voice.
In summary, while there is no “right-or-wrong” with any of these workshop formats, it is important to understand both the benefits and limitations of each format:
- If you’re looking for basic assistance with where to shoot and when to shoot, consider hiring a photo guide to help you identify the best photo locations and to simplify the logistics of getting around.
- True photography workshops are an excellent way to develop new skills in specific areas.
- Finally, although more intensive, full-immersion landscape photography workshops provide students with the greatest potential for in-depth learning and the opportunity to develop a complete production workflow under the direct guidance of a seasoned instructor in real-world conditions.
Regardless of the route ahead of you, just keep shooting!