Make no mistake, Shoot The Centerfold is the most exclusive and well respected glamour and model photography seminar on the planet. And as it turns out, this year I've been invited to see everything that goes on at STC, both up front and behind the curtain, in what will be an exclusive insider view on this most revered of photo events. Oh, and I might be a little bit excited about it.
But before I discuss Shoot The Centerfold and my upcoming all-access visit on April 2–3 in Miami, I wanted to raise a few questions, and hopefully answers, on the concept of photography seminars and their overall purpose and benefit to photographers. After all, let's face it, these events are often significant financial investments and no one wants to think they'll be wasting often four figures to attend something that ends up not being worth it.
While I am normally hesitant to make any sort of "top 10" lists, I more or less break down the importance of good seminars into the — ahem — Top Five Reasons To Attend Reputable Photography Seminars.
"Say what, Nino? Why is education only at number 5?" you may be asking, and you'd have every right to. The thing is, though, truly profound learning of new approaches, techniques, and styles doesn't just happen over a few days at any seminar. What really happens at a well-produced seminar is, you get seeds planted in your mind. These seeds can either then blossom later on, at your next project perhaps, or maybe a few weeks down the line (and in some cases — oddly enough — never, but that's not necessarily bad either). No one seminar leaves you with the exact, detailed processes you need to execute to become a better photographer. If anything, they simply leave you empowered to take yourself to the next level. Think of it as being steered in the right direction when you're at a fork in the road and unsure which path to take. You learn much, much more in the work you do after a seminar than during it; the seminar simply got a fire under your ass that gave you some guidance. And speaking of fires under asses...
Even if you learn nothing specifically from a mentor at a killer seminar, you may find yourself more motivated than ever after having listened to them speak and watched them work. Mentors are usually very skilled, very successful, and very confident in what they do, and this can provide you a sort of glimpse into what you want to eventually become. Sure, you can easily fall into the realms of intimidation and self-deprecation upon witnessing world-class mentors, but try not to let it get you down. Mentors have had all the struggles you have had, sometimes worse. A good solid self pep-talk before you head out each morning can keep you motivated to work harder than ever so you too can achieve the levels of your seminar mentors, and not fall into self-loathing. Seminars, incidentally, are great places to face your fears and insecurities, to be honest.
3. Out In the Open
When you attend a photography seminar, especially a hands-on event where you shoot actively (and not just watch demonstrations), you quickly find that you have no choice except to shoot in front of a few or sometimes quite a lot of other photographers. For some, this is a terrifying prospect. However, I urge you to register for a hands-on seminar specifically for this purpose. You will find that almost all fellow attending photographers will be supportive, kind, jovial, and often feel as nervous as you do about crafting images in front a crowd of peers and a mentor. Think about this way, would you rather experiment with new approaches and techniques with fellow shooters who have the same goals and a mentor there to guide you, and have no invoice needing payment at the end of it, or attempt said new approaches at a client job with no one there to help guide you and hope you get lucky? Hands-on learning at a seminar is the ideal time to take risks and get out of your comfort zone, and technically should be a zero pressure environment. While there, you should try, try again, fail, fail some more, experiment, and know that your best work is still yet to come. The seminar will help you get there smoother and with more impact when you do, and to me, is just as important, or more so, than learning of techniques and approaches.
2. Face Time with Mentors
It may very well be a new world of online communications, social media, video conferencing, and more, but nothing replaces the very-personal interaction of in-person meetings. In short, 10 minutes speaking to a mentor can be more valuable to your photography growth and goals than any book or video tutorial. Seminar mentors may be doing these training events as gigs, which of course pay, but I will tell you right now, with confidence, that it takes a certain type of person to be a teacher regularly. Almost anyone can give one class and either do well at it or fail miserably. However, it takes someone who genuinely likes teaching to do it regularly. This is why face time with mentors is so important. During seminars, mentors are switched on and inspired to help you, answer questions, and share knowledge with you. Nothing beats that interpersonal interaction.
Believe it or not, when you travel downtown, to another city, another state, or another country for a photo seminar, you are also doing some epic networking. Unless you arrive at a seminar and hide in the corner ignoring everyone for three or four days, you generally end up meeting at least a few dozen new industry people (photographers naturally, mentors of course, often modeling talent, maybe art directors, stylists, makeup artists, etc.). While some you may never see or speak to again, you never know when that right connection will be made, and takes your career in a wonderful new direction. Be it a fellow photographer you end up partnering with in the future, or perhaps another photographer who convinces you to move to their city and your business thrives from it. The possibilities are endless, but face time with dozens or hundreds of like-minded industry folks could benefit you in countless ways. I will add, however, that being too pushy or overly keen to network often produces the exact opposite of your goals. Don't smother anyone, just be yourself and let any connections that may happen just happen naturally.
Shoot The Centerfold mentor and world-renowned Playboy photographer, Jarmo Pohjaniemi, feels strongly in asserting that STC is the premier glamour photography seminar in the world, providing my Top Five Reasons in spades. He cites some of the language in the STC marketing:
Our educational edge is based on our own extensive accomplishments and experience in the industry ... From day one, the STC project was meant to connect the dots for those photographers who are willing to follow our success and take their photography to the next level. Our seminar attendees have the highest published rate of any other seminar in the industry. We don’t simply offer you a weekend full of fun but also an opportunity that can change your life. And that, my friends, is what makes us different.
Pohjaniemi was so adamant about Shoot The Centerfold being the ultimate experience for glamour photography, as far as seminars go, that he invited me to the Miami event on April 2–3 as a special guest so I can get an insider's peek at what goes on. Naturally, I'll be showing Fstoppers' readers the full details of what I witness, replete with my review of the event, behind-the-scenes photos and video, and maybe some key interviews with some of the legendary STC mentors and models.
You should register for Shoot The Centerfold and then come hang out and get your inspiration on. I'll report back in April.
UPDATE: Staci and I are now both going to be at STC, and with the Backyard crew as well. Check out our announcement about it: