How to Get the Most Out of a Photography Workshop

Are you thinking of signing up for a photography workshop? Are you looking to get the most possible out of it?

Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll give you lots of advice and tips for getting the most out of your next photography workshop.

Let’s get started!

horses in photography workshop
Early morning horse drive during a FirstLight CM Ranch Workshop

1. Check Out Workshop Leader in Advance

Be sure and check out the photographer’s website to see if you like their style. Most photographers share their work on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, etc. Following that photographer is a good way for you to gauge that person’s work and if it fits your needs.

In this step, your aim should be to confirm or identify the experience of the photography workshop leader.

photographer teaching a photo workshop indoors
Former FirstLight instructor Jay Kinghorn during Photography Workshop seminar

2. Confirm Who Will Be Conducting the Workshop

Additionally, confirm that the photographer will be there for the duration of the event. You don’t want to spend your money on an event that is run by an assistant with the “star” making a singular appearance.

Make sure the photography leader you paid for, not one of his ‘assistant’, is conducting the workshop.

3. Ask, Would This Workshop Help Me Grow My Skills?

A good photography workshop should help you grow as a photographer.

How do you know if a workshop can help you improve?

Research and inquire.

Send an email to the workshop leader and ask them for an outline. You can also tell them what you are currently struggling with. Then proceed to ask how taking this workshop will help.

portrait with cowboy hat
Wrangler Portrait taken during a Photography Workshop

4. Be Ready for Critique During Reviews

Bring a bit of a thick skin for reviews.

A good critique of your work will provide positive information on which you can build. You should come out of that critiquing process with direction and a goal to improve your photography.

Constructive criticism that you receive in a photo workshop helps you grow your skills. Photo credit Flickr.

5. Keep Practicing After the Workshop

You’ll probably come out of a good photography workshop on a “high”. Seeing photographically and enthused about making more images.

Give yourself the opportunity to continue shooting while in this energized state. You can keep practicing on your own or perhaps even ask the leader about adding time onto your workshop.

A bird on a flowered tree branch with a green background bokeh.
Most of your new skills stick only if you practice them. So make sure you practice what you’ve learned after the photography workshop

6. Be Ready for “Lens Envy”

In a workshop environment, you might find that other participants have the latest gear available.

Just remember:

“The camera doesn’t make the photo, the photographer does”

(more photography quotes)

I’ve seen incredible images made with the most inexpensive “point and shoot cameras.

lens envy. a photographer with a huge lens.
Don’t worry too much about gear of others, focus on getting the best with yours.

7. Ask Questions

Don’t be embarrassed or intimidated to ask questions. What you may think is a silly question may be on the mind of several participants.

Plus, a good question can be the catalyst for further discussion.

A group of photographers in a workshop.
There are no wrong questions. Asking a question during your workshop is a great way to start a conversation that leads to more wisdom

8. Be Familiar with Your Gear

Before you arrive at the photography workshop, make certain you’re comfortable with your camera equipment. I’ve seen folks come to workshops with a brand-new camera–and then struggle to work it in critical situations. Make sure you know the basics like how to change your aperture, ISO, shutter speed and shooting modes.

What camera settings to use for newborn photography
Last thing you want to do is struggle with the basics during your workshop.

9. Consider Bringing a Second Camera Body

It is a good idea to bring a second camera body to the workshop just in case. I’ve had a few occasions where a student’s camera body miraculously decide to give up.

Make sure you bring the needed lenses, an extra body if you have. Extra batteries are a great idea too (You will be shooting more during a workshop)

Same goes for the lenses. I always carry around two primary lenses: a wide-angle zoom and a telephoto zoom. These two lenses really accommodate just about every photo situation that a workshop could cover. An extra battery in my pocket and I’m set to go.

10. Read the Fineprint

Before signing up for a photography workshop, make sure you pay attention to:

  • Physical requirements of the workshop (if any)
  • What are the Final products? Some workshops provide slideshows or photo prints. For example, we at the FirstLight workshops provide a workflow that participants can use in their photo editing step.
  • What is the cancellation/insurance policy? Many workshops require cancellation and/or travel insurance for their events. These can be a financial lifesaver if you have to cancel at the last second.
Running horse with rider

Now that you know how to get the most out of your next photography workshop, here are few tips on how to find one.

How to Find a Photography Workshop?

There are a LOT of photo workshops out there, but you have several tools at your disposal:

  • Google Search is a great choice for finding the perfect workshop. However, you want to search for a workshop specific to your favorite genre of photography. Using the generic search term “Photography Workshops” brings up more than 300 million results, so filtering is important.
  • Another place to check would be photo publications. Outdoor Photographer has a section towards the back of the magazine specifically for workshops. Digital Photo Pro also lists workshops online.
  • Social media is also a great place to find workshops. Perhaps you are following photographers whose style and subjects resonate with you. Reach out and see if they are conducting workshops.
FirstLight CM Ranch Workshop headquarters, before and after photo from a photo workshop participant

What Is the Difference Between a Photography Workshop and Photo Expedition?

A workshop will generally involve daily photography opportunities, along with a critique of your work. Workshops are very hands-on.

In fact, a good photography workshop can be worth a semester of photo school (or more!)

A photo tour means the photographer leading the tour will act as a guide, with a well-planned itinerary of a place or location. That photographer/leader will provide assistance in the field with technical and/or aesthetic discussions about photography.

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About the author

Jay Dickman

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer & founder of FirstLight Workshop, Jay is a National Geographic photographer. Now located in Colorado, he grew up in Austin, Tx. Jay works regularly for National Geographic Expeditions as a lecturer and expert and has accompanied more than 80 Expeditions, Workshops, and Photo Trips for National Geographic. His FirstLight Workshop was honored as one of the 10 best photo workshops by American Photo Magazine.

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