What I Did Coaching My First Photography Workshop

It was a one-on-one with a paying client. I got to know her a bit better over the phone. This was important so I could plan the session and give her what I thought she'd find value from. We met up in Paris in a neighborhood neither of us knew very well. 

I told her to bring her camera, charged batteries, enough cards, and some gloves because our hands would be out in the Parisian autumn, which can get chilly. 

The point was that I wanted to check whether it would work anywhere. I got there 30 minutes before and scouted around the area to get an idea of the route we would follow once she arrived. Once we met, we quickly got a coffee to go and chatted about what we were going to do for the day and got started. 

What I Had Planned

I had a list of abstract concepts, and I told her we were going to do a HIT (high-intensity training) session in photography. I had the list on cards on my phone, but in the future, I will have them printed out and perhaps even branded. 

To start, I showed her the first card, explained it a bit if it was needed, and then told her she has 10 minutes to shoot with that as an idea. After 10 minutes, I went on to the next card. 

For ease of breaking it down once we were finished, I asked her to photograph each card, so it would be easy to see each category in Lightroom or Bridge and then analyze each category independently. 

I had 15 concepts, but if you want to have a specific time for the session, or have more people in the workshop, it's up to you to decide how many concepts will be needed and how long each concept's photography should last. I started with 10 minutes per concept but shortened it to five minutes once I found it was going to go on too long. 

I took part in the same exercise. I tried to shoot the same concepts on the card that she was busy with. Doing this gave me the ability to see if it worked and how difficult it was.

The List: 5 of the 15

I chose concepts I thought I would learn from if I was on her level in photography, such as the following:

Frames: The idea is to see frames within your composition. As a visual medium, photographs with a frame in the composition usually draw the eye and are more striking because of it. 

No Zoom: I told her that she wasn't able to zoom and had to shoot what interested her in the space we were in. This was quite loose with regards to direction, but the idea was that I wanted her to move around and not use the convenience of a zoom. This movement makes you walk around and get different shots that I don't think you would've if you were able to zoom in. 

Filters: I knew the camera she had, as well as the only lens she had. I had some variable ND filters I asked her to mount to her lens. We would do some long exposure shots of the cars and scooters passing by. I wanted her to drag her shot along the vehicles moving, to get some motion blur. She enjoyed it and thinks she's going to get an ND filter because of it. 

Isolate the Subject: I wanted her to think about how she could isolate a subject, whether with depth of field and the aperture of her lens or through composition. 

Change of Lens: I had an adapter for her to mount my Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, which gave her a lens for portraiture. It was now manual focus, and we could set up the camera to show what was in focus and the aperture couldn't be set by her. I preset the aperture to f/5.6, and she found it very interesting to see the difference in sharpness and overall color of the photographs. 

Her Images

Purpose of the Workshop

It wasn't to become a professional photographer, as no workshop is going to do that for you. It was more aimed at exploring the hobby she loved. Therefore, the purpose was for her to think about her photography differently and to ask herself some questions when she goes out shooting. I told her about the two different types of photography I believe there are: photos for you and photographs you want the world to see. I also think having one lens is great, but it can also cause a type of boredom if you've never had any other option to test. Just changing one thing can inspire a love for your photography again.

Setting parameters to work within is often a great way to shoot. When a brief or day of shooting is too open without direction, the shots are often mundane and without punch.


Using parameters was a breakthrough for her. We spoke about how we sometimes just shoot, without giving ourselves a brief or any direction. I asked her whether she has a voice that she speaks to herself with, and she said she did. I then told her that when I now go out shooting, I ask myself what the specific idea about the subject I am trying to capture is and if I had to write an article about the subject, whether the photograph would communicate it in the best way. She thanked me for it. 

After the Session

We went back to the coffee shop and downloaded her images. We would go through each category, and then I showed her how I would've approached editing each. This way, I could also show her what Adobe's raw modules have as options when it comes to color, masking, and all the new things they've added, one being the sky replacement feature, which she had never even heard about. 

I gave her a well-laid-out document containing the list we worked through. It also had a few links to videos and sites I found will give her more information on each type of photography she was interested in. It's always good to leave your client with a gift, or something they can take home with them. 

Setting Up Your Workshop

I like street photography and am oriented towards documentary photography. If you're great at a niche, you should focus on that. And, if you want to give live courses online, you could share your expertise with retouching, workflow, or editing. You can also focus on a specific piece of software, like Photoshop, Capture One, or Lightroom if you know that what you know is professional and worth their while. 


It's up to you to work on concepts you think will work for the client and what best suits your personality and photographic style. And, it's not a competition against anyone. It's you and the people who pay to do the session. If your personality is one that you think is likable, and if you're a patient person, this might be something that you could start offering. I enjoyed the session and think I would do more moving forward. 

You can do it with Airbnb, or you can sell it on your website. Squarespace, Wix, and most photography website platforms provide a way to sell products or services, which is ideal for workshops. 

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John Ricard's picture

I wonder if this type of article might be more interesting if it were written by someone who had done more than ONE workshop....

STEVEN WEBB's picture

I found it interesting and commendable that this person was brave enough to share their experience and ideas from doing their first photography workshop.

John Ricard's picture

I don't’ know. This sort of thing bothers me. And not just in photography. All over You Tube you see people who have just learned something themselves who then proceed to make a video teaching others. People will no real marketing experience are making videos about how to market yourself. People buy a camera on Monday and proceed to teach photography on Tuesday. I’m not directing this next comment at the writer of the article, but this sort of thing is sometimes arrogant in my eyes.

Maybe the title of this article should not have even used the word, “workshop” as that usually implies more than one person. This was more of a coaching session. Is that an example of something the writer would have realized had he done 5 or 6 coaching sessions and workshops? Is it possible that this article would have been much more informative if the writer had waited until he had more coaching sessions under his belt before writing the article? Also, I’m not saying the writer shouldn’t give his thoughts. But maybe his thoughts would be best posted on his own blog or on his own You Tube channel. A Photography blog like this might better serve its readers by having someone with more experience write an article on this topic.

barry cash's picture

I would say she should choose a different profession