It sometimes seems that everyone is running a workshop these days. Everywhere you look, there are workshops for every type of photography you could imagine. There are plenty of great reasons to attend one or even run one of your own. They provide a great forum for getting to know other photographers, sharing knowledge, and making great work. If you haven't considered running your own, whether it is something on a small scale at a local community center, a directed get-together in a local park, or something of a larger scale, I highly recommend giving it some thought. Here is why.
Sharing of Knowledge
By running a workshop, you are able to share the knowledge you have gained in your time as a photographer. In my time as a teacher, the thrill of imparting knowledge and watching eyes light up as new understanding starts to take root never got old. That was the reason I went into work every day. Being able to give a simple seed of knowledge and watch it grow into something you couldn't have even imagined is the reward of teaching. If you have never taught, give it a try. You won't be giving away your secrets or making clones of yourself, but sharing the spark that will bring more photography and more art into the world. You may even learn a thing or two yourself!
Confirming Your Own Knowledge
In order to share your knowledge, you will need to understand it clearly and form it into a lesson that makes sense to other people. This is a great opportunity for you to reflect on what you know and ensure you understand it fully. Einstein is quoted as saying that if you cannot explain something simply, you do not understand it well enough. He is, of course, right on the mark. In order to explain a concept clearly, you need to be able to simplify it to the point that someone who has never heard of it can grasp what you are sharing.
Imagine yourself teaching the concept of aperture to a new photographer. They may have heard the word before and understand that it means "hole." However, they may be completely confused as to why it is used when talking about a lens or what all those numbers mean. Perhaps you don't need to explain where the numbers come from, but knowledge of the implications of those numbers would be useful information for that student. If you clearly understand how aperture works, you will be able to convey that simply and give them a new tool with which to work. Practice this on a friend or significant other who knows nothing about photography first. You'll be surprised at how difficult explaining concepts you take for granted can be.
This is also a great way to find the gaps in your own knowledge and confirm the things you may not be fully clear on. If you spend some time anticipating what sort of questions your participants might have, you can even take this one step further and broaden your knowledge beyond how you normally apply it.
It's not all about learning, though. You'll also get to meet new photographers from your area or even all around the world depending on how big your workshop is. You'll make new friends, learn new ways of seeing, and build a community with other artists. Some participants may become clients or recommend clients your way. They might also introduce other professionals you wish to work with. In return, you could share your network and benefit everyone with more work and knowledge. During the three years that I ran lighting workshops in Seoul and the two years of travel workshops in Thailand, I met over 100 new photographers from all over the world. Those people have become friends, collaborators, supporters, and sources of inspiration for me. They have opened doors I wouldn't even have known were there, and those doors have taken me traveling internationally and pursuing directions in photography that I would not have otherwise. If that's not enough of a reason to run or even attend a workshop, I don't know what is.
Of course, there also has to be a photographic element to a photography workshop. If that involves live shooting, you have the opportunity to create some great portfolio work. You'll have the freedom to experiment and demonstrate complex techniques and work with people you may have invited just for the workshop, like models or makeup artists. Working with experts in different fields is a great way to improve your images and make awesome portfolio work. The other benefit of this is that you will not be working for a client, which means you can take the work in exactly the direction you want to.
You could take the opportunity to build your dream team. If there's a makeup artist, stylist, or model you've always wanted to work with, you could reach out. Perhaps there's a location you've wanted to work in; this might just be the perfect opportunity to get access. By pulling these resources together, not only will your students benefit from working with a great team, but you'll be able to make your own work the best possible.
This is a big one, and can be of huge benefit to your existing business. Of course, you'll need to market your workshop, but your workshop might also end up marketing you. Previous clients or friends sharing the details will extend your marketing to all of their friends as well. This can lead to additional marketing, not only for your course, but for your photography business. It will also lend credibility to your business as you will also be establishing yourself as an expert.
Workshops are fantastic for all involved. They facilitate the sharing of knowledge, resources, networks, and skills. They also give the opportunity to better develop your own craft in the process and to make work you wouldn't otherwise make. I'm sure many of you have some great experiences to share. Please leave them in the comments below.