I admit it, I kinda fell into doing workshops. Like a lot of life’s best adventures, it just sort of happened. You get to a certain stage and fellow photographers start to get in touch asking about how you do this or that and sooner or later you get to thinking, is there some money in this? So back in 2011, I started to offer workshops and subsequently started Photography Farm. I have since been involved in helping other photographers run workshops as part of Farm Week or Elements and have loved the experience of hearing how other photographers approach their craft and businesses. But I had never just been an actual fully paid up attendee until one of my photography heroes offered a London workshop.
So I signed up and I confess, when it came down to it… I was rather nervous. I’m actually quite shy in situations like that. I’m never the one who puts my hand up to ask lots of questions but it was far too good a chance to turn down. Lots of my industry mates also signed up, so I knew I would be really jealous when I saw all their social media updates about how brilliant it all was.
Some of us decided to make a mini break out of it and booked a couple of nights accommodation in town so we could arrive all bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning and not have to rush off after. It was so weird not knowing what was going to happen or not having any involvement but I went with a totally open mind and a brand new notebook. On the train on the way up, Adam asked me what I was hoping to get out of it. I said really I wanted two things.. To find out that photographer’s journey and to find out how they physically take the shots. I look at their work and always think ‘How on earth did they get to that?’ So that was what I was really hoping to learn.
Now this is not a review of the workshop so I’m not going into details of the day but I did leave with those two things plus a big fat dose of inspiration and ideas that I wanted to explore. So I am super happy that I invested in it, however I believe these things are exactly what you make of them. My notes are of ideas that pinged in my mind just through the process of hearing how another photographer is happy to push boundaries, make mistakes, make use of the low tech and the high tech, do the clever or the unexpected. I am not interested in being a carbon copy of that photographer so I don’t want to go away and do exactly what they do but at the same time I don’t believe in going to a workshop only to change nothing about the way you shoot or run your business. After all, isn’t that what you invested the money for?
Afterwards, we all headed to the pub. Workshops bond people and that social aspect afterwards is such a lovely way to end the day but talking to some other people there, not everyone was super happy. It’s true that there were a couple of aspects to the day that could have been better ~ It was a much bigger group than had been advertised, so at times it felt more like a talk than a workshop but hearing one fellow attendee compare it to this other photographer’s workshop or another got me to thinking… Why should we bother going on them at all?? It seemed to me that some photographers attend a workshop with quite a closed mind and they almost want to have a bad experience, maybe to make themselves feel superior? Who knows but one thing I do believe is that there is no magic formula that can simply be dished out at these things.
If you go in with the attitude that you want to be given an exact recipe for how that photographer shoots or achieved their success, then you will be disappointed. We are all different and have different strengths, different passions and different journeys. If you go in looking for inspiration for your own unique journey ~ you might be at a crossroads in your career or right at the beginning and not sure which path to take, then a workshop can be just the signpost you need to work out which direction is right for you.
I couldn’t wait to shoot again and felt pretty damn excited to hold my camera, play with it and the things that I have to hand in order to create a little bit of magic. I was very much impressed with how the photographer embraced making mistakes as part of the creative process and being able to break through them to find something incredible or just leave that particular idea alone for now. It’s easy as a photographer of a certain level to present your very best images to your peers and talk about how you got there but very few will include in that all the rubbish shots that were binned along the way. So yes I did leave knowing more about their journey and the technicalities of how certain shots were achieved and I also left with a fresh desire to experiment, to push myself and to keep getting excited about my own passions.
When we get new Farmers join us for the residential Photography Farm, the very last thing we do is create an action plan with them. As much as possible, I encourage everyone that I do training with to write one and set themselves a time scale of when they might realistically achieve each thing on it. I believe that learning from others and taking on board inspiration from their particular experiences, can be a vital part of maintaining a long term passion for photography. Workshops are a big investment financially but by also investing in them mentally and emotionally, they can be just the boost you need to take you to the next level.
Our next Photography Farm is 9-11th of September and we’d love to have you there. This is a unique residential wedding photography workshop that includes a shoot, post production, workflow, business school and lots of inspirational talk all while we stay together in an incredible Farmhouse near Gatwick. See the full details here.