Back-to-Back NYC Workshops: October 22-23

October 2011 workshop

This year, I’ve smacked straight into the central contradiction of professional photography workshops: If your business is doing really well, you probably don’t have time to do lots of workshops about how other people’s businesses can do really well. I felt like it would be just wrong to not do a single NYC workshop the entire year, but there was the tiny problem that I’m booked every weekend until the Christmas season — except for that one weekend I was holding for a clear-my-head vacation.

And then I realized: The week before I’m shooting a wedding in the Berkshires and taking a few days to romp in the fall foliage. The week after I’ll be in Aruba, and then New Orleans. With a job like this, work is all the vacation I need.

But my time away from hosting workshops has given me time to think about how I can improve on them. I know that my past workshops must have been pretty good because of the people who keep coming back to multiple sessions, but I’m never satisfied. I know that there are so many different people out there who are looking for springboards to further their photography, and you all are at different levels in different areas and you all learn in different ways. Whether you’re to broaden your bag of technical skills, find the bridge from being a good photographer to a successful photographer, or just have a great time and network with other professionals while making killer photos, the educator in me wants you to walk away with more than you had when you came in.

How? More focus. More differentiation. More. Two back-to-back workshops, on Saturday and Sunday October 22 and 23rd in NYC, designed to work seamlessly for people who take either or both.

Workshop Day 1: Structured around lessons that will be useful for photographers of any level:

  • Turning bad situations into good photos — dealing with bad light, bad locations, altered timelines, awkward subjects, etc.
  • Keeping your passion — what to do when your hobby turns into work, or when you feel you’re stuck in a rut
  • Pressing your business forward — why am I booked every weekend when there are so many other good photographers out there? I have absolutely no secrets about creating great experiences for clients, getting your work seen by the right people, and everything that happens from turning that initial e-mail into an ecstatic client.

There will be plenty of shooting with individual subjects and couples, generally around structured demonstrations that show you new ways to solve common problems and break down roadblocks. Day 1 is more similar to previous full-day workshops

Workshop Day 2: The primary goal of Day 2 is for every attendee to create insanely awesome images. We’ll have models, make-up artists, lots and lots of on-location shooting, all sorts of crazy equipment — big and small strobes, LED and incandescent continuous lighting, pretty much everything that Nikon has ever made — and just enough guidance to make sure that people aren’t just seeing great images being taken, but actually creating them themselves. Then we will have a shoot review and demonstration of everything that happens after a shoot, from culling to post-processing to telling stories through image display. Day 2 attendance will be capped to a small group.

Or, in short:

Day 1: Structured discussions of the hard-won lessons that can help you stay energized, creative, and successful, even when things in front of you look terrible in every possible way.

Day 2: Learning by doing, a mix of watching how I would take a scene to the next level and the freedom to do it yourselves, both in-camera and in post-processing.

Either day is valuable by itself, but they are designed to be taken together without feeling repetitive.

I know this this short notice for most people. At my last workshop, 85 percent of the attendees flew in from all parts of the globe, and late October is wedding season pretty much everywhere. Because of that, this workshop will have a bit of a discount:

Pricing: Either day costs $350 to attend. Both days cost $600 to attend, and people who attend both days will also get a free digital portfolio review focusing on artistic merit, business perspective, or both.

E-mail to register and begin the subject with either “WORKSHOP DAY 1,” “WORKSHOP DAY 2”, or “WORKSHOP BOTH DAYS” depending on your interest.

LA Workshop Recap

I’ve been sharing some previews of the shenanigans we got up to at my recent workshop at the Dream Factory in Los Angeles, but it takes a few days for it to really sink in, especially when you’re digging yourself out of two feet of snow in the nearby mountains. California, you so crazy.

The theme of my workshop — “WWMcGD?” — really comes back to the central theme of my life, which is managing thinly veiled chaos. If you simply want to get the best images possible in a portfolio, it’s usually good to carefully plan, be insanely meticulous, or just keep pushing the envelope that you fail spectacularly again and again until you succeed. But shooting for clients, especially as a wedding photographer, robs us of most of those tools. We find ourselves shooting portraits outside at noon on the summer solstice (Yes, I’ve been there); we sometimes are forced into terrible shooting locations, including a surprising amount of photos taken in parking lots, and you simply can’t afford to suck.

I just want to thank everyone for coming, again, despite short notice and a limited announcement (only on this blog). There’s something beyond my comprehension about someone coming from Norway just to see me prattle on … and finding out that he’s a relative local next to the guy that flew in from Australia.

I said I wanted this to be the best workshop ever, and I think it was. I loved the intimate feel of the smaller attendance cap, and will be doing that on all future full-day-plus workshops. I feel like I got to know everyone there, and could make sure everyone had hands-on time. I tell attendees that I’m happiest when people can take the things I’m showing and come up with things that surprise me, and in the free-shooting they did just that, knocking out some spectacular images. Thank you guys!

It’s picture time. A lot more went on than I have pictured here.

On Friday night, we studied night-time and darkness-related portrait techniques with Cameron:

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On Saturday, I showed some of the applications and techniques of mixing continuous light and flash, as well as color temperatures of the lights. I was happy to be joined again by frequent model and friend Stephanie:

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We went over some handy “work a hotel room” tips, such as some ways to modify window light to increase control, contrast, and make it generally more interesting:

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Then we headed over to the most boring place I could possibly find in an otherwise fascinating location — a plain white corner too dirty and cluttered to do simple high key. What to do? Without Photoshop, I can’t make the spot look nice, but with the right subject and lighting, I can hopefully make you not care:

Before and after, then a flash composite.

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I took everyone through how I would conduct an entire portrait session if I only had five minutes, trying to get as much variety as possible. I capped it with a “Brenizer method” bokeh pano, using the clutter on purpose to keep a sense of scale:

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During some free shooting, I took Karen and Kamil to our mock hotel room, and the attendees set up some great scenarios building on what I’d done there with Stephanie.

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The real fun happened when we went on the roof. A free tip: If you’re going to do something that might get you in trouble during a shoot, do it last.

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Thanks so much again, to everyone who helped out and to the attendees. Without you, I’d have to post a bunch of pictures of an empty room.

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(Only one light source used for this picture, even though it appears in the photo twice).

Rock the Kitchen

110318 233923 85mm f1 4

I have a big theory that drives my workshop instruction: When everything is working perfectly, when all the stars are aligned your way, that’s probably not when you wish “boy, I wish I had another person’s perspective on how to deal with this.” So we focus on how to work through bad situations, knowing of course that it’s also applicable to those (rare) times when things just work. This time, our spot was so fantastic that I had to look hard to find boring and bad locations … so we were probably the first shoot in this studio to head straight to the spare studio kitchen for a shoot. When all you have is a fridge and a blank wall, it comes down to posing and lighting.

Of course, a subject like Cameron doesn’t hurt.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Sigma 85mm f/1.4
Lighting: Litepanel MicroPro through a Lumiquest Softbox LTP