Attending a Workshop in 2020 Is Probably the Best Thing to Do If You're a Beginner Photographer

If you're starting out in the photography industry, getting to grips with all the different aspects that make a good image can be quite challenging. For professionals, camera settings and lighting methods may seem obvious but if you're a beginner that may not be the case. Attending a workshop might just be the best thing to do when starting out. 

Almost 8 years ago I started in the photography industry. My first camera was the Canon 1100D and I absolutely loved it. It was the first time I had ever experienced using a camera that could actually take decent pictures. At that point in my life, I really didn't care about things like ISO performance or dynamic range because those terms were completely alien to me. All I wanted to do was to learn how to take better pictures.

One of the best things I did at that time to give myself a massive kickstart was to attend a relatively small local workshop. If I remember correctly I paid approximately $190.00 to learn from a professional studio photographer for a few hours. We went through concepts like lighting, composition and very briefly discussed camera settings. At the time I found it a little odd that we didn't discuss camera settings very much and most of it was just visualizing the image and directing the subject. Looking back at it now I understand how valuable and important it was to stop thinking too much about the camera and think more about the subject. Aspects like composition are far more important when producing good quality images and this was the first time I had come across that idea.

My first set of "pro" lenses, one of them is a lens cup :)

I continued learning and developing my skills by working under another photographer (who became a good friend) for a few years.  I then bought several tutorials from Fstoppers which were instrumental in developing my career; especially the ones from Mike Kelley. Even still that initial workshop I attended had the biggest impact on me when it come to building a foundation and more importantly developing that desire to learn more. For this reason, if you're just getting into photography I highly recommend that you attend a workshop as soon as you can. 

Guided Experience

Although there are plenty of YouTube videos and tutorials you can watch online, the best way to learn in my mind is by doing. Setting up a shot and actually taking pictures of a subject is probably the most effective way to learn. This is how you make mistakes and try and figure out what you're doing wrong so you can improve. One of the major benefits of attending a workshop is that you have someone who can guide you through some of the very early mistakes you may make or avoid. If there's a particular thing you don't completely understand then you can just ask. The amount you can learn when you have a seasoned professional guiding you on a proper shoot is incredible.

A little while ago I had the immense pleasure of attending a workshop run by Matt Granger. Granger covered many of the fundamental concepts of photography and I genuinely learned a lot. The way that he managed the whole day was brilliant and everyone seemed like they felt included. A studio was hired for a number of days and during those days each photographer had the ability to shoot and work with professional models. If you've ever tried photographing someone that isn't comfortable in front of a camera you'll know that it can be tricky trying to get the kind of results you're looking for. Working with professional and experienced models can help produce significantly better results. This is mostly because the facial expressions tend to be one of the most compelling aspect of a portrait and experienced models tend to understand how to use this. Having Granger on hand to oversee things had a clear impact on how many of the attendees worked and improved. It's one thing to watch a YouTube video but having someone at hand to help is a complete different kind of useful. 

Group Learning

In my experience, I find that learning as part of a small group is extremely effective. This is because you have more perspectives on a specific matter and this opens up better discussions. When you're learning as a group people ask questions and can approach problems with different angles. Chances are you may not have even thought of that particular question or angle. Gaps in your knowledge may not be a gap for another person in the group, so you end up learning from more than one person. I've personally experienced this plenty of times where someone has asked a question or brought up a point that I hadn't even thought of. This is primarily why classroom-type environments when done correctly are excellent ways for people to learn. 


Learning as part of a group is also extremely useful when you're doing photo shoots and setting up complex shots. You can go back and forth between assisting and shooting and this helps to give you an expanded perspective on how to do a shoot. 

It was wonderful seeing how the photographers at Grangers workshop came up with a concept and executed it. Many of the concepts were quite ambitious as they attempted to produce works similar to images they had been inspired by. The most wonderful thing was seeing how as a group they solved any problems and developed their concept from start to finish. 

Images by workshop attendee Navin Parasram used with permission. Model: Veronica Baron

Final Thoughts

If you're just starting out in photography I highly recommend that you attend a workshop. The workshop you pick doesn't need to be a super expensive one that's abroad with a famous photographer. A local one that you can afford is probably going to be more than sufficient. I'd of course make sure to check the reviews and ensure you're gonna get your moneys worth. If you are interested in going to a workshop with Granger then there are several ones planned for the new year. Check out his website to see all the dates; personally I think the one to Cuba sounds amazing

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14 Comments

Emmanuel Vivier's picture

I cannot agree more... I learned so much during workshops.... a great way to get a great range of inspirations and to benefit from years of accumulated experience and trial and errors... Thanks again Martial Lenoir, Le Turk Photography, Joakim Karlsson, Peter Coulson, Formento + Formento, Joey Wright, Julia Kuzmenko McKim, Marco Gressler, Romeo Balancourt, Laurent Hini, Bruce Smith and Francesco Vincenti + Valentina Feula (Fashion Art Wise) for taking the time to share with me during this past 10 years!

davidlovephotog's picture

Youtube is free and most of these people have channels. Instead of paying for the workshops and travel, buy better gear.

Usman Dawood's picture

I’m sorry that’s terrible advice. Going cheap on education is incredibly foolish.

Also travel can offer far better results than any camera.

davidlovephotog's picture

So what's your finders fee cause that was just dumb. Those same people you're promoting have Youtube channels giving tips, etc so you're saying watching their videos is stupid, pay to see them in person is smart. THIS WEBSITE is mostly links to Youtube and you're saying that watching any video posted here is "incredibly foolish."

Usman Dawood's picture

What are you on about? You’ve made so many leaps I can’t even begin to speak with you. As mentioned previously you don’t want to have discussions you just want to be right.

Amin Motin's picture

Travel to a workshop and you get a double whammy :)

JT Blenker's picture

In-person education is one of the best ways to practice scenarios and styles of photography without fronting the entire bill to learn. For example, portrait work you can spend several thousand dollars and hire a model, an MUAH, a studio, and lighting that you may not currently own and attempt to put your vision together within a few hours... but if you've never really had that level of experience before then you're putting the cart in front of the horse. Just like apprenticing with another photographer or being an assistant to one, there is incredible value in seeing HOW someone works with other people from behind the camera, directing, addressing an unforeseen change in the shoot and the business of working with talent, assistants, and others comes across very differently in person than with a video edited for appeal. Now you can also pick that person's brain on building a business, marketing, corporate interactions, personal accomplishments and failures so you can get in front of those mistakes that may have been a blind bump in the road for you prior to that in-person workshop. If you value your time and want to avoid the hurdles that you only see if you know what to look for then in-person education is an incredibly valuable use of your time. Do you think educators on online platforms giving out freebies are showing you all of their cards and giving you a soup to nuts explanation that dives into real world obstacles or just skimming the top of the most interesting details to keep you glued to their channels?

davidlovephotog's picture

Sure if you have the money, go nuts. But if you're planning to become a serious photographer and don't have money to burn maybe skip the travel and get those lights you don't have, set up some TFP shoots with local models (tons of sites out there to find them) and check out youtube. You can type anything you're curious about (low key lighting, the difference between a beauty dish and an octabox, etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcpRdrVrtz0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfs-APglZ1k
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP8Mb93XyIo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EH6VqwEZuBE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERAedswQAv0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOl7UzLba7E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StpK8lFm8L4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOP5aggUwF8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf1woH6JOxY

Took me about 30 seconds to find these without leaving my chair.

Deleted Account's picture

Workshops are also a good way to earn money and not have to process any pics when you get home.
There's been a glut of 'masterclasses' around me that are run by people who've watched too many tutorials on youtube as. they have cottoned on that they can make an income from simply regurgitating stuff.
Yeah, I'm a bit jaded by it all I'm afraid. Hey, each to their own though.

Usman Dawood's picture

No you’re absolutely right and I agree. For that reason I think it’s important to do some research and ensure you’re getting good value in return.

Amin Motin's picture

It depends on the workshop. I've always held off for fear that I'd get some washed up hack spewing basic stuff and pretending to be profound. I took a college photography course many, many years ago and the instructor didn't know all that much, couldn't communicate it anyway and his photos were lousy. I didn't even bother completing it.

But I've attended a workshop in London recently (twice, in fact, with a different emphasis each time) and I benefited from it immensely. I liked it so much that I'm making a video for my YouTube channel to talk about this very point (and show the results I got).

A good workshop is just that - good. But a poor one is a waste of money and worse, a waste of time. I think the big problem is in working out which workshops are which.

As for the advice on YouTube, some of it is great. But there is an extra dynamic when you're face to face with a good communicator who also knows his stuff.

I think some "instructors" see "workshops" as an easy cash-cow. There are people who will cash in on any opportunity, never mind in photography. That's the way of the world.

Rk K's picture

All the technical stuff is available on the Internet, usually for free. Attend a workshop for fun or a landscape photography one as a holiday and to get to know people.

Blake Davenport's picture

I agree that these are good, but at some point you need to learn in different ways. Assisting some great photographers with styles that you love will help you learn fast and doing your own shoots while experimenting with light will give you loads of experience. I did one class a long time ago, picked up some tidbits and also some what not to do (from the teacher that is) and then assisted a couple of times. Most of my experience came from shoothing and on the job training. Maybe not ideal as I could have picked it up faster and maybe done better on some jobs but that is how I came up the ranks.

My best advice to new photographers and those hoping to learn is to research those you want to learn from as much as you can and just take as much in as you can.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Nothing beats hands on learning, especially if you are a beginner, provided the instructor (and staff) are knowledgeable and dedicated to teaching and answering questions.