Monday, 8 November 2010

POV: Photo-Workshops Are Useful, But....

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Scott Bourne, who publishes and writes Photofocus since 1998, has posted an article on photo workshops titled Don't Listen To The Trolls in which he encourages people to attend workshops led by photographers who have work they find inspiring...an encouragement that is both reasonable and logical.

However, let's take this a step or two further because, simply put, there are photographers who market their workshops (and there are many these days) whose work may be phenomenally beautiful and inspiring, but who are unable to lead, who can't/won't teach and are unable/unwilling to share. It's simply not enough that the photographer's work is good...not at all. There are many more factors that come to play in one's decision in choosing a photo workshop.

Obviously, the price of the workshop is one of the first determinants. Celebrity photographers command a hefty premium, and while some are worth it, others are not. In the case of travel photography workshop, I've come across workshops of 10 days starting at $8000, excluding international travel costs and meals. Knowing full well that the real costs of these workshops are in the range of $2000-2500 tells me that the profit margins for such photographers may be in the $5000-6000 range...per participant.

Many believe (or hope) that taking part in such high-priced workshops is worth the price because of the technical knowledge acquired; because of the bragging rights from rubbing shoulders with the famous photographers, and because the quality of their "during and after workshop" image inventory will justify the expenditure.

Maybe. Maybe not.

On the other hand, let's be cautious and do our homework (what bankers and business people call due diligence) by eliminating as many uncertainties as possible before shelling out thousands of dollars. Ask for references and opinions from previous attendees, compare workshops' details to one another, compare itineraries if these are travel photography workshops, ask who really leads the workshop: the photographer or assistants (trust me...the higher up the totem pole the photographer is the more assistants there will be...and the less you'll see of the photographer), figure out how much individual face time the participants will have with the photographer, who responds to your email and/or calls, who created the itinerary if it's a travel photography workshop, is it in a well-trodden tourist circuit or it an off-the-beaten path itinerary, how many participants in the workshop...and lastly what percentage of clients are repeaters.  And let's throw this in as well: if the workshop is marketed by a company because the hot-shot photographer is too busy to do it, that company will get a big bite off the price tag....and naturally you end up paying for it.

Personally, if I wanted to go on a workshop I'd rather go with a grunt...not a celebrity/famous photographer. I'd want to be taught rather than patronized...I wouldn't like being palmed off to an assistant nor do I want to be intimidated. I'd rather be given a candid assessment of my abilities and limitations in plain simple English rather than in a mealy-mouthed babble ....and finally, I want to enjoy myself.

But that's me.

(Photograph made at the Wangdicholing Monastery, Jakar, Bhutan)