9 Questions To Ask Before Booking That Photography Workshop

Herb Brail recognized early on the benefits of a mentoring relationship with a professional photographer, especially when combined with a critical evaluation of his images. Herb has taken numerous workshops throughout North America, Southeast Asia, and Europe and believes workshops exploring new genres offer an individual an opportunity to discover their passion and that’s just what he’s done, taking landscape, travel, wildlife, nude, infrared, fashion, studio, and street photography workshops over the years—some great and others not so great. 

Selecting a workshop that meets or exceeds your expectations is not always easy, but years of experience has allowed me to be confident in selecting the right workshop.

Here's 9 questions you should ask to help you make the right choice when committing to a photography workshop.

1. Who is leading the workshop?  

Investigate the leader’s background, published works, online portfolio, past history of workshops and reviews. In particular, see if you can find any posted reviews other than the hand-picked reviews on the leader’s own website.

2. How closely does the workshop leader’s portfolio fit your style and vision?  

A careful review of the leader’s experience and portfolio will clue you in to whether you want to emulate his or her approach to creating images.

3. Are there any qualifications to participate?  

Except for more advanced workshops, rarely do they list minimum qualifications needed or require a portfolio review. One way to discover how advanced the workshop will be is to get the equipment recommendations before you sign up. When items such as DSLR, lens focal lengths, tripod, a laptop with Lightroom/Photoshop installed and a backup body appear on the list, all are indicators of an upper level workshop. If you are just starting out, explore local options first to hone your skills before embarking on an expensive trip. Be honest with the leader about your skill level and be confident that individual assistance will be available.

4. What is the workshop leader’s history with this type of workshop and location?

A history of past workshops of a similar nature and to the same venue usually will be more advantageous than a leader venturing into a location for the first time

5. Does the leader shoot during the workshop? 

This can cut both ways. It could be extremely positive to see the leader proactively instructing, setting up shots on a tripod and sharing images from the back of the camera. Or it could end up profoundly negative if the leader merely takes you to a location then goes off to do their own thing.

Some participants, often in a travel workshop, are not seeking anything more than to be guided from place to place to shoot. Others want to learn as much as possible from the leader. Depending on your personal preferences, the degree of instruction and individual attention you may reasonably expect from a leader can make or break your workshop experience.

6. Will the leader use a local guide? 

If the workshop is in a foreign country, a local guide who is familiar with the area and be able to translate and deal with cultural and other issues is indispensable.

7. What is the maximum number of participants?

Check the numbers. Do you really want to be a part of a workshop that has 15 or more participants, or with a significantly lower leader-to-participant ratio.

8. What type of feedback and image evaluation is scheduled? 

Workshops range from daily sessions of image review and critiques to offering little to no feedback. If your desire is to learn from the workshop, a well-organized and frequently scheduled evaluation of your images during the workshop is essential. When conducted in a group setting, considerable insight can be gained not just from the critique of your images, but from viewing and hearing feedback from the images of the other participants.

9. What costs are included (or excluded) in the workshop? 

Know in advance what additional costs you will incur beyond the stated workshop fee. Expect additional expenses even in an all-inclusive workshop where lodging, meals and local transportation are included. Airfare or other transportation to and from the workshop location will always be extra. Tips for local guides or drivers, model fees (where applicable), certain meals and alcoholic beverages will be your responsibility. If traveling internationally, determine the amount of local currency you should bring to cover such anticipated costs.

After selecting your workshop, an advance deposit will be required. Familiarize yourself with the refund and cancellation policy before making payment. Find out when your workshop has met the minimum number of participants so you are certain that it will be held.

Only then make your flight (typically non-refundable) and other travel arrangements.

Full payment of the workshop fee is usually due approximately 60 days before the workshop begins. In most situations, these advance payments are at risk and dependent on the integrity of the workshop leader or reputation of the company.

If trip cancellation or interruption insurance is available, seriously consider it. For foreign travel, a travel medical rider (including evacuation coverage) from your health insurer or a separately purchased policy is always a wise choice.

Once you’ve committed to that ideal workshop, prepare to immerse yourself in what could become a positive and potentially life-changing experience!

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