Are street photography workshops worth it? Well yeah of course…Wait a minute I spoke to soon, it’s not worth….Actually it’s really up to you. I have taken a few street photography workshops myself, which I found to be overall positive experiences.
Research The Photographer
The photographer teaching the workshop should have a good body of work. Most importantly, you must appreciate their photos to even consider taking their workshops. For example, my first street photography workshop I attended was with Burn My Eye member Jack Simon. In fact, I did not know too many contemporary photographers, I only studied or looked at the works of Magnum elites.
Streetfoto had a few workshops available and out of all the photographers, Jack’s work stood out and resonated with me the most. Jack has a keen eye and seems to be at the right places at the right time. His humor shows through his photos as well, which were immediate attention grabbers. Viewing his photos made me want to learn how he captured some of his iconic images and find out more about his approaches to photographing the streets. Best of all Jack is a very nice person!
Now let me remind you, the best photographers aren’t always the best teachers. For example, many would say Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time! But I think those same people would also agree and say that he is probably the worst general manager and owner of an NBA team….of all time! Phil Jackson, coach of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s and Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000’s, was an average player. Phil came off the bench as an energy type of guy, rebounded, and hustled hard. Not much offense though. Phil fouled a lot. He wasn’t THE guy but was just A guy. Nothing too spectacular. However, his coaching resume is very much different. And yes I know his teams were stacked. Anyway I hope you get my point, back to our main topic.
The more you research the photographer the better. Look to see if there are any testimonials on the photographer’s workshop. Similar to making a big investment on anything really…you’ll want to do your due diligence in researching the product, reading reviews, see if it’s within your budget, and make your purchase or find something else. Same strategy applies to choosing your street photography workshop.
Benefits From a Workshop
From my experience the benefit of attending a workshop is gaining the knowledge from your instructor. My favorite part is the hands on approach and honest feedback during the photo review process. You get to experience how your instructor goes about shooting the streets and ask any questions you may have. Not only that, but I benefited by making new friends with Paul Kessel and Jill Maguire, along with many others. The last workshop I took was with Jesse Marlow and Aaron Berger, two photographers with totally different styles and approaches. Aaron is very much relentless and slick when shooting the streets, while Jesse is much more laid back, which is more of my personality and style. I wandered the streets of Los Angeles with Jesse and got to pick his brain. Overall we just had genuine conversations throughout the day and I had the opportunity to hang out afterwards for dinner. Those will be the memories I cherish over the technical skills gained through these workshops. Anytime you meet someone who shares the same passion as you honestly there’s nothing quite like it. And if you can connect with them on a deeper level, even better!
My Two Cents…
Ultimately, you get what you put in. Like almost everything in life, there are some people who work in a half-assed way or try hard but have minimum ability. But if you find that rare workshop, it would be extremely worthwhile. Ask yourself, why are you in the workshop? Are you working on a book and need a better understanding on how to sequence your photos? Does that instructor have the knowledge of working in series? Are you a beginner and want to have confidence having a camera around photographing the streets? Simultaneously, you the student need to be open and try to apply what may be new ways of shooting. Be flexible. From my observation, there are too many street photography workshops today….many are taught by less than qualified people or qualified people wanting to make a quick buck.
For example, when I make an investment or big purchase (Sadly for me I consider anything over $100 a big purchase) I ask myself…is it worth it? How else could I use this money? I could use that for utilities, a good night out, or invest in stocks. Don’t just spend to hoard. Economics 101…the things you purchase need to work for you. Your clothes need to have some kind of Return On Investment for you. Maybe it’s how you present yourself and people at your workplace take that into consideration. Perception is everything. If you buy a new camera and your initial plans are to just roam and shoot casually, that’s fine. But for me because I’m broke as hell, I need to find multi-purposes in everything I buy. Can you make a few dollars with that camera? Can you pick up a gig or two? Hell if you break even, that’s already a win. WILL THE MONEY SPENT MAKE ME MONEY OR GIVE ME AN EXPERIENCE THAT I WILL NEVER FORGET….or am I just blowing my money away.
What I’m saying is if I had to choose between a new camera or a workshop that I’ve taken the time to research, I’d choose the workshop. Reason being is there’s no price tag on a potential experience of a lifetime or the knowledge you’d walk away with…of course that is all dependent on the quality of your workshop instructor and on YOU. Your mindset and what you want to be able to walk away with from the workshop is key.
Last note, I hate when someone says workshops are a waste of money, especially if they have never attended one. That’s like saying Hawaii only has beaches and I don’t like the ocean so I’m never going to visit there. Of course Hawaii has much more than beaches, but it’s up to you to do the research beforehand that will help determine how your vacation pans out. If you have a negative mindset about something or someone, yet know very little about the situation or person, then that’s all on you.
To sum things up, “are street photography workshops worth it?” Yes, it is. But it depends on YOU and what you want out of it, as well as the quality of your instructor, which is also dependent on you! Do your research and keep an open mind, you’ll find workshops can be a great learning experience and a lot of fun!
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