How to choose a photography workshop or course

If you’re considering booking a course in photography, then chances are you’ll be searching the internet for the workshop and photographer that meets your needs. The problem however, is the myriad of courses on offer, and the vast number of photographers now offering tuition. It’s a daunting task that can make your head spin but here are some tips on how to choose a photography course or workshop.

Step 1 – Make a list of what you want to learn

By writing down your needs and what you want to learn, you can narrow down the type of course you want to go on. Start by writing down what genre of photography interests you most and what you want to learn. Is it seascapes or is it landscapes? Is it urban photography or is it abstracts?

Next, start writing down any techniques you want to learn. For example, you may wish to learn long exposure techniques, better composition or how to see in black and white. You should also factor in how much time you want to spend on a course. Colleges and institutions offer courses that are weeks or months long so bear this in mind. Experienced photographers offer weekend workshops with overnight stays or short courses covering half or full days.

Step 2 – start searching

Break your list down into key words and phrases that can be typed in to search engines. For example, say you wrote down in your list that you want to learn landscape photography in the Scottish highlands – in Torridon. And you want to improve your composition, and get rid of your blurry images and make your images sharp but learn it over a weekend or day. If you type that into a search engine, you’ll not get the best results so break it down further to something like this.

  • landscape photography workshops torridon scotland
  • learn to improve composition
  • no more blurry photos
  • why are my photos too dark
  • why are my landscapes not sharp
  • one day courses in photography in fife
  • weekend photography workshops in torridon
  • beginners photography courses in glencoe

It may seem obvious but if you make a list like the above then you’ve saved yourself a lot of time and the search engines will provide you the best matches for your needs.

Step 3 – start searching and draw up a shortlist

Use your list and type in the key phrases into Google. From the list of results provided, make a quick list of the photographers who offer the type of course you want.

Step 4 – separate the wheat from the chaff

This is the important part and you need to be thorough. The affordability of high end digital cameras has seen a massive rise in inexperienced photographers cashing in by offering photography courses. It’s important therefore, to check the photographer’s CV, check their work and check their testimonials before parting with your cash. Here’s some tips on how to spot those trying to make a fast buck.

  1. Check their CV or about page. If a joiner from Cumbria with two years experience is offering a weekend course on Skye, chances are they have no expertise and you will be taken to tourist spots. A good photographer will typically be resident in the country or location and have excellent knowledge.
  2. Check their Facebook page. Facebook can be good measure of a photographer’s reputation but be very wary if the photographer has something like 20,000 likes. Facebook is notorious for cheating and fake likes are rife to promote pages. Decent photographers will not try to deceive you.
  3. Avoid courses that only show iconic views. If the photographer’s courses show lots of iconic images, chances are they only go to tourist locations. A good photographer will have a varied portfolio of images and locations to offer.
  4. Be wary of images that look too good to be true. If a course shows images that look “radioactive”,  surreal or like Brigadoon, chances are they are photoshopped to look better than they were. You want to learn photography not photoshop.
  5. Check the maximum number of participants allowed. If a weekend workshop has 10-12 photographers, don’t expect to get much in the way of personal tuition. Sunset and sunrise only last for an hour so there’s no way you will get much time. Stick with courses that have  3-5 participants max to ensure you get decent time with the tutor.
  6. Don’t be fooled by the “famous” and the “brand name” photographers. Just because they are famous doesn’t mean you get value for money or guarantee you the best experience. In fact, chances are you will get a poorer experience and much lighter wallet. Famous photographers charge ridiculously high fees, often don’t know the location very well and pack in 10-12 photographers. They also shoot in the same light as everyone else. A decent course will cost you around £3-400 and chances are you will get equal if not better photographs.

Step 5 – make your choice

Lastly, get rid of the chaff and make your choice. Whilst it’s not imperative that a photographer is a famous or widely published, it is important that they can connect with on you on the page. It’s also important that they have a varied portfolio of locations to show you.

As well as their own portfolio, check to see the work from students who attended their courses and check the reviews. Ensure they have in depth knowledge of a location and they can communicate things in a way that is easy for you to understand. A good tutor is one who will score high on the technical but possess the ability to communicate their expertise in a way that you can relate to without your brain hurting.

2 thoughts on “How to choose a photography workshop or course”

  1. Excellent article and some very good points made when it comes to selecting a course.

    I did a couple of courses a year or so ago and as you say I knew what it was a wanted to learn from the course (for me it was very much LR / PS and long exposure) and I wanted it to be a small group. I then started my search from there.

    Another option is also asking any photographers you know, who don’t run courses themselves, if there is anyone they would recommend.

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