How to Prepare for Your Photography Workshop
Thank you so much for being interested in one of my travel photography workshops! I strive to make my travel workshops informative, challenging, and fun. And, while we’re busy working to provide you with an exceptional experience, we also need you to prepare so we can make the most of our time together.
This means being ready for the tour’s physical demands, being comfortable with operating your camera, having all the necessary camera gear and clothing, and being mentally and psychologically prepared.
If you need assistance getting ready for a tour, please get in touch with me.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced photographer, these photography workshop preparation tips from a fine art landscape photographer will help you make the most out of your experience and capture images that truly reflect the beauty of the world around us.
Be Prepared Mentally & Psychologically
Assess Your Fitness Capabilities
The fitness level needed for workshops varies significantly, e.g., the altitude, terrain, and distances hiked can range from very easy to challenging.
You must be honest with yourself and us about your current physical abilities and that you train, if/when necessary, to prepare for the tour. While most of my tours are generally limited to easy-to-moderate hikes on fairly even terrain with little altitude change, other tours, like the Grand Canyon River Rafting Expedition, involve more strenuous hiking on uneven and steeper terrain.
We are available for any questions you may have – and we will do our best to help you prepare, but ultimately it will be your responsibility to ensure that you are up to the challenges of a given tour.
Determine the travel arrangements
As part of your photography workshop preparation, confirm with your instructor whether they provide transportation to the capture locations or if you need to arrange your own.
If you are responsible for transportation, ensure that your vehicle is suitable for off-road locations in case they are part of the itinerary.
Map and plan
One of the advisable steps for optimal photography workshop preparation is to map out the shooting location by acquiring paper or digital maps and acquainting yourself with the area.
Take note of the elevation and assess your ability to navigate high-altitude areas and long walks. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the nearby towns and check for available resources that may be useful during your shoot. This will help you be better prepared when you arrive on location.
Visualization is key
By planning the area during your photography workshop preparation phase, you can begin visualizing the shots you hope to capture.
Landscape photography requires the ability to visualize an image that captures the essence of the natural environment. The objective is to evoke the same emotions in the viewer as the photographer felt while taking the shot.
To achieve this, three crucial components are required:
- Identifying an exceptional location
- Being present during optimal conditions
- Patiently waiting for the perfect moment when the lighting and surroundings align harmoniously
Recommended further reading: Photographic Visualization: How to Develop Your Creative Landscape Photography Workflow.
Be open to new experiences
Stepping outside your comfort zone during photography workshops can be a daunting experience. Still, it’s often the catalyst for incredible growth and the creation of your best work. Pushing yourself beyond your limits allows you to explore new techniques, experiment with different perspectives, and challenge your creative boundaries.
While conducting your photography workshop preparation, get comfortable with the idea of new experiences. After all, embracing the unfamiliar unknown, you’re opening up to a world of possibility and the potential for genuinely remarkable photographs.
Know How to Operate Your Camera
Time spent struggling with camera settings in the field is time lost – it’s a surefire way to miss critical shots, and you won’t be focused on improving your photography if you’re preoccupied with figuring out camera settings. We’ll use most, if not all, of these skills, so spend some time getting used to your camera(s) and using different camera settings. You should be able to:
- Selecting aperture, shutter speed, and ISO values in manual mode fluently
- Using Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes, and adjusting exposure compensation
- Changing focus points from multipoint to a single point and moving it around in the viewfinder and live view
- Adjusting the focus method from single shot to continuous and from autofocus to manual focus
- Displaying live view histogram or exposure metering (if available)
- Displaying electronic level/virtual horizon and gridlines in live view
- Displaying RGB histogram in image playback
- Turning on focus peaking for mirrorless cameras
- Setting Auto ISO settings and options
- Setting a 2, 5, or 10-second self-timer to reduce camera shake
- Enabling auto-bracketing for 3, 5, or 7 exposures with 1-2 stop increments
- Activating live view and zoom-in for critical focus for DSLR shooters
- Being comfortable performing these settings in the dark, as some shoots may take place in low-light conditions
HAVE YOUR GEAR ORGANIZED AND PACKED
- Make sure that all of your laptop operating system software is updated.
- Update Lightroom Classic and Adobe Photoshop. Make sure you log out of Adobe and log back in before leaving so that your versions are suitable for offline use for 30 days. Do the same with any other software you use for processing.
- Pack your gear, so your go-to lens is handy and ready to go. Consider storing that lens on the camera body.
- Make sure your lenses and sensors are clean. If you are a Canon/Nikon professional services member, consider getting a maintenance/cleaning check of all your equipment before your trip.
- Check the recommended gear list for your tour, talk to your pro, and ask questions, so you don’t over or under-pack.
- Double-check that you have all cords, adapters, and other accessories you’ll need during the tour. Consider bringing a small travel power strip.
- Pack all of your lithium batteries in your carry-on bag to comply with flight regulations. Consider using Lipo Safe Bags.
- Make sure to set the date and time of your cameras to local time.
- Set your camera to only fire with a memory card in the slot. You never know when you might forget to put the card back in the camera, and the last thing you want is to find out later that you didn’t save all those “shots” you took.
- Pack in soft-sided luggage. It packs into our vehicles better than hard plastic luggage.
Review this checklist of recommended items to pack
ESSENTIAL GEAR REQUIRED FOR ANY/EVERY TOUR
- Sturdy Tripod – strong and light.
- Ballhead and Camera/Lens Plates – with an Arca-Swiss Monoball. You’ll need ballhead plates for all your cameras and telephoto lenses (with collars) and the tools required to install and remove them.
- Camera Strap(s) – you can use what comes with your camera or try something from BlackRapid, PeakDesign, or Cotton Carrier.
- Two Camera Bodies – You’ll have a backup in case of accidental damage or electronic failure.
- Batteries – bring plenty of batteries for your cameras and chargers as well. If your trip involves locations with limited electric power, you will want to get a power bank to recharge your batteries.
- Lenses – for most landscape and wildlife tours, a wide-angle zoom (16-35, 17-35, 17-40), a general-purpose zoom lens (like 24-70 or 24-105), and a medium telephoto zoom (like 70-200) are perfect. For some wildlife tours, you’ll want something longer—at least 300mm and likely 400mm or 500mm. Canon, Sony, and Fuji make 100-400mm lenses for wildlife. Using the Sigma or Tamron 150-600 lens is also fine. Don’t own any of this glass? No worries—BorrowLenses.com to the rescue!
- Memory Cards – have plenty of these! Don’t forget a card reader!
- Laptop – we will use Lightroom Classic and Photoshop for post-production (though you can use other software programs). Be sure you connect (via the internet) with Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. This will ensure you can use them offline on your trip.
- Plug Adapters – you will likely need adapters for your plugs if traveling internationally.
- Lens Cleaning Cloth – dry cloths and wet wipes.
- Camera Rain Cover – inexpensive ones available from Amazon / more permanent ones available at ThinkTank.
- Backpack – bring a comfortable camera backpack for carrying all of your gear.
- Camera Manual – bring the manual for your camera / get the PDF version, and store it on your smartphone.
- Boots/Shoes – wear sturdy hiking boots or hiking shoes appropriate for the tour that are broken in – this is not the time for a new pair of shoes.
- Water Bottle – essential to have water and reduce our plastics use.
RECOMMENDED GEAR TO BRING WITH
- External Hard Drive or Storage Device – a self-powered device is great when you can’t set up your laptop.
- Power Strip – bring a travel power strip and extension cord.
- Filters – a circular polarizer (for cutting reflections) and a few ND filters (for long exposures) are helpful. For ND filters, bring a 3- or 6-stop, and a 10-stop.
- Wired Remote Trigger – typically needed when using Bulb mode / great for time-lapse.
- Sunscreen, Bug Repellent, Mosquito Head Net – when you need these, you need them!
- Wide Brim Hat – helps you to see your camera LCD.
- Headlamp – essential for night photography / must have both red and white lights and be dimmable.
- Rain Jacket, Beanie, Neck Gaiter, Gloves – when you need these, you need them!
- Backup ID – keep a copy of your passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, and customs pass stored on your smartphone. Bring along some additional print copies, just in case.
- Waterproof Boots or Overshoes – when you need these, you need them!
- Swimsuit – hot tubs, swimming pools, streams, and lakes.
- Knee Pads – your knees will thank you!
- Sensor Cleaning Supplies – bulb blower, Aeroclipse Fluid.
CLOTHING AND WEATHER GEAR
- While you don’t want to overpack, it’s always good to assume that it will be colder, windier, and wetter than expected.
- Should you bring your rain pants? Bring them.
- Extra set of gloves in case the first gets wet? Great idea. Maybe your socks get soaked in a stream or ocean surf.
- Another layer? Yes. Be prepared for the unexpected.
- Make sure your boots are properly fitted and broken in. Waterproof boots are best. A pair of shoes or sandals for some tours will be fine, too.
- Ask us if you have any questions about your footwear.
All in all, when you arrive at a workshop fully prepared, you will learn more, do more, enjoy more, and be stress-free. Students who have organized their equipment, know their camera and computer controls and have the proper clothing on hand contribute to a harmonious, rewarding workshop.