The Purpose of Photography Seminars or Why I Get to Spy on the Shoot the Centerfold Seminar This Year

The Purpose of Photography Seminars or Why I Get to Spy on the Shoot the Centerfold Seminar This Year

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.

5. Learning

"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...

4. Inspiration

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.

My amazing friend and amazing artist Renee Robyn during her Houston seminar in 2014.

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.

1. Networking

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.

I cannot wait until I get to roam around Shoot The Centerfold in April 2016. Don't worry, I'll submit a full report for your review.

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:

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Nino Batista's picture

Well, yes and no. While Playboy has modified their content premise and platform recently, it's true, the overall concept of The Centerfold, and the spirit of it, if you will, is very much alive. STC is actually a glamour and fashion seminar, often taking instruction and artistic visions in an editorial and fine art direction. Sure, the mentors stem from countless Playboy projects, but STC has never been about just nudity for nudity's sake, either. In fact, most images produced at STC are, in fact, non-nude.

There will be polarized opinions about Playboy magazine's new direction, and it makes sense why. So, I do get your point on that. Whether it's for the better or worse, that's not clear to me just yet. hehe

Doug Hill's picture

I'd agree with you if they only focused on that narrow niche. But they don't. STC really focuses on commercial, fashion, and glamour work.

Doug Hill's picture

I have worked extensively with Jarmo and STC for the past 4 years. I can honestly say that the real world education I have received is top-notch and likely unavailable at any other seminar. The team goes a great job in improving with each event. Not only do they provide world-class models but they share their expertise in lighting, gear, posing, styling, and, most importantly, the business aspect of photography. STC completely changed (and significantly improved) my photography.

filmkennedy's picture

I've been to quite a few seminars/workshops over the years and none could attempt to compare with what Jarmo puts together for Shoot the Centerfold! The plethora of knowledge you get crammed in those couple days, being able to pick all the mentors' brains all throughout, the lighting techniques they all give you, the gorgeous models, Gary Cole's portfolio review, the list goes on!

My photography and business has changed dramatically for the better since I went to my first STC seminar-been to two so far and hope to go to many more if my schedule allows it! Just wish Steve Wayda would do another someday...

Steven Ruegnitz's picture

I have had a camera in my hand for literally decades, but nothing has propelled me like the STC programs. From the first seminar that STC had through most of the one’s since, I have learned and grown in ways I could not have imagined. Adding to my training from the seminar I opted for additional focused training in fashion, fine art and of course my long held passion of glamour photography. This past year that culminated in landing two Playboy layouts in different editions which was beyond any expectation I had held but it did not end there. I wanted to branch out into Fine Art a long held passion but unrealized goal and the STC staff were right there to guide me. This latest focus placed an image of Zienna Eve Sonne (a model in the upcoming seminar) that Jarmo and I and the STC team produced, landed in Art Basel in Miami! Who would have thought there was ANY possibility of that happening! You can’t predict the sorts of success that has come my way through the STC program, but with hard work, dedication and the right team to guide you, who knows where you wind up. You can start as a beginner and take it as far as you want with STC. I would encourage anyone desiring to up their game to consider this program!

Jon Dize's picture

I attended the STC Workshops held in Las Vegas June 4th and 5th and again Sept. 16th, 17th, 18th, 2012 and the first year I went to hear what perspectives the instructors had to share.

The Centerfold component was secondary to the educational value for me.

The second year I was offered the alumni half price fee, so I decided to ask if any of my friends would like to join me and one of my friends on the east coast jumped at the chance and flew to Vegas to attend the workshop with me.

Notably, one of my female photographer friends said, "I'd consider going, but I am not interested in shooting BABES!"

I told her then as I will offer to anyone reading this prose. Unless you are really interested in photographing Glamour and Centerfold Photography, far, far too many miss the most important point to be made.

My message to anyone who has read this far without falling asleep is that... BABES OR NO BABES as my female photographer friend referenced... IF YOU LEARN THE LIGHTING THEY TEACH AT THE STC WORKSHOPS... YOU WILL HAVE SOME OF THE BEST LOOKING EXECUTIVE PORTRAITS IN YOUR MARKET!

LIght as though you were going to do a Centerfold shoot... tell the Model to go grab a Frappuccino and INSERT EXECUTIVE CLIENT on the mark abandoned by the MODEL and charge the EXECUTIVE APPROPRIATELY since he just had one of the best lit executive portraits he has ever seen.

In my case, my instructors were Arny Freytag, one of Playboy's greatest photographers who teaches an entirely different way of thinking, in that he lights the set as though the set was the subject, before he lights the model. Which has caused me to consider and pass on, that the background is really your FIRST SUBJECT and the model or client is the SECOND SUBJECT, which is how Arny gets those amazing images which look like they are not only glamour shots, but images that could be used in Architectural Digest if the model stepped out of the set.

David Mecey, was another of my instructors both years and David is just an amazing location photographer whose experience, shortcuts and K.I.S.S. method gets the job done without a truck load of gear.

Then there is Jarmo Pohjaniemi whose all around stills and video background with high tech, commercial styling and super duper personality makes learning fun and easy as though he's been your buddy for years.
It's not about Photographing Glamour Models or Playboy Centerfolds... UNLESS YOU WANT IT TO BE!

It's really about LEARNING lighting techniques you may not have already developed and using those techniques in a VARIETY of portrait settings.

An EXPANSION of your body of knowledge and more importantly, YOUR OPTIONS!

I recommend Shoot the Centerfold Workshops... Even if you have no interest in shooting CENTERFOLDS!

PS, and No! I am not yelling... I accentuate with caps. Shake it off!

user 65983's picture

"charge the EXECUTIVE APPROPRIATELY" We are looking a what kinds of prices?

Andrew Pantaleon's picture

Workshops are still definitely needed and a great resource for everyone that attends. I'd love to go to this and see the behind the scenes, Nino you need an assistant? I'm local! Lol

DrDan PhotoCreative's picture

Going to the STC seminars will without question, improve your photographic technique. I have been to most of the seminars and pick up something new each and every time. Prior to the seminars I have devoted a lot of time getting close to finding the right light, with limited success. Since the seminars, I found the key missing ingredients that took my photography to the level I wanted be at. Jarmo, and all the instructors are very generous with there time at the seminars and afterward.

My successes, with Playboy international, having 15 covers, 6 centerfolds and 4 features, are a testament to the level of instruction and meaningful relationships you will have for your photographic career. I have gone on and have had covers in other magazines and done commercial work for the hair care industry.

I have taken other seminars, and this is by far the best.

Ask yourself one question, How important is your development as a photographer to you? If it is important, you will make STC part of your learning experience.