Tips For Getting the Most From Photography Conferences and Workshops

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff HarmonLeave a Comment

What Can a Photographer Do To Get their Money’s Worth Out of a Photography Conference or Workshop?

  1. Pick a Conference or Workshop and go!
  2. Be engaged at the workshop, if you have a more introverted personality be an actor for a couple of days
  3. Experiment with techniques and photography equipment you may never have used
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
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Tips For Your Photography Conference or Workshop

Brent, as this episode is being released there is less than a week before the Create Photography Retreat and I am already so excited!  I look forward to this event so much every year and can’t wait to join many of our listeners in Las Vegas this year and have three days of intense focus on photography.  As a hobbyist I never get to have full days focused on photography and it gets me so energized.

I have heard from many listeners who for various reasons were unable to make it to the Retreat, and we are going to miss you there, but I thought for this episode we would talk about general tips we can provide the listeners on things they can do to make sure they get the very most out of a conference or workshop.

  • Pick one and go!
    • I have said it before on the podcast that investing in a conference or workshop is going to help you move down the path towards mastering photography more than whatever gear you might be thinking about buying.
    • Not to totally discount investment in gear because some of it can really make a difference, but I really believe that the return on investment from a workshop or conference is going to be far greater.  
    • I would even extend this to investing in some online video training, which goes a little beyond most of the free stuff you can find on YouTube and in podcasts.
    • I am not just applying this advice to the pros out there or those who are working towards becoming full time photographers.  Even for the hobbyist with a limited budget if you haven’t yet invested in a conference/workshop/paid video training you need to.
  • Be Engaged
    • I have seen this as the Retreat a few times now, and I can empathize with attendees who feel this way because I am sure it is how I would be if I wasn’t a presenter and teacher.  I think a lot of people take up photography because they love the artistic expression they can get being behind the camera and at a workshop or conference you know have to step out of your comfort zone and get out from behind that camera.
    • For the time you are at the workshop or conference, please do all you can to force yourself to do just that and get out of your comfort zone.  The organizers of the event have a responsibility to put you into situations where you can learn and get value out of the event, but like the old expression about bringing a horse to water you can’t force it to drink.  As an attendee you have the responsibility to ask questions and participate in the opportunities made available to you.
    • I have seen it first hand where there will be some photographers who have no problem whatsoever getting fully engaged and even dominating the opportunities to learn and shoot at the expense of those who find that a little more challenging just kind of watching what is going on.
  • Experiment
    • Similar to the get engaged tip, step out of the comfort zone of the photography you know and experiment with new things.  Even if the type of photography is something you may not do again after the event, get in there and try out new things. As I hobbyist I have a lot of fun dabbling in all types of photography and in doing that I feel like learning about how to do one type of photography helps me learn so much that it helps me in the other areas of photography.
    • It may seem strange for me to say this, but learning about astrophotography is going to help you as a portrait photographer.  Learning about flash can help you as a landscape photographer. Such as speedlight control for the nature photographer. A deeper understanding of exposure and the options to control light is yours to be had!
    • If you have never done some type of photography that is available to you at an event, jump in and I think you will be surprised at how much you can learn about the photography you are already doing by trying something new.
    • This goes for trying out new equipment.  Even if there isn’t equipment made available to you at the event, there are photographers around you who have different equipment from you and many are willing to let you try something out.  I am not sure I would recommend asking another photographer if you can try out their gear because they may not be comfortable letting someone else use their equipment and you put them in a pretty awkward position.  However, if someone offers to let you borrow something to try it out, do it. Give it a try!
  • Ask Questions
    • Again, goes along with the whole be engaged tip, but I wanted to make sure we talked about asking questions very specifically.  I am kind of torn on this tip because while I really do believe the only dumb question is the one not asked, I do think there are some limitations.
    • I think this is where there is an important responsibility of the instructor/leader of the event to make sure the event meets the expectations of the attendees.  At a workshop/conference if you attend a session where the subject is intended for people who are at more of an advanced level, not starting or beginning level, and you are attending the session having no experience then it could be your questions are going to prevent others from getting out of the session what they were looking for.
    • It’s a little tough, there can be kind of a fine line between questions that will help everyone in the session to better understand what is being discussed vs those that are going to derail the discussion.  I think this is primarily the responsibility of the instructor to manage this, but not all instructors are good at it.
    • There is also the responsibility then to attendees to ask the instructor to get back on topic.  If things go totally off the rails and the discussion is either turning into a debate/argument or is just so far away from what the topic is supposed to be then I think you need to raise your hand and say that you were hoping to talk more about the topic.
    • Then there is the other side of it where you may be in a more beginner level discussion and it seems like the entire room may be totally understanding what is being discussed and you aren’t quite following.  Muster up the courage to ask your question because I am 100% sure there will be some others in the class that will have the same question.
    • As an instructor I try so very hard to communicate things in a way that is easy for people to understand.  As my wife will attest to, I fail at that all the time. People learn in different ways at different speeds.  I want attendees in my classes to come out of the class understanding things and it is helpful to me to have the feedback that what I just communicated wasn’t clear. I [Brent] constantly fail at that too, and I’ve been teaching for 12 years now. However, there certainly are more successes than failures that’s for sure! 🙂
Thank You Creative Live For Making This Episode Possible!

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Relinquishing Photo Rights

The specific terms and conditions:

If you get free tickets to go up into this new landmark structure you are agreeing to the terms and conditions they have posted there, some of which includes a section about how the landmark has all rights to do whatever they want with any photos that you share on social media.

This is an increasing trend these days. The landmarks want all of that free marketing material to use in their marketing and they are staking claim to it from the beginning.

The reason to bring this up in this episode is just to remind all of you photographers out there to make sure you look into the terms and conditions of anything you are shooting. Be aware that this is very prevalent now so that you make sure you know what may be done with your photography.


Brent: Sony A6400

Jeff: Frio V2 Universal Locking Cold Shoe Mount ($13)


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