How many of you out there have received an e-mail this week about a workshop, seminar or convention that you just “can’t miss” because it is going to change your whole life? I seem to get one or more a day, each promising to hold the key to a successful photography career. So, how do you decide which of these are worth your time and money?
Those who know me know I love a good workshop, and I believe in ongoing education. Continuing education helps keep you ahead of the pack, and in this market you need things that will separate you from the army of photographers who seem to enter the business daily.
New trends and techniques are always emerging to move the craft forward. Luckily, plenty of folks are ready to teach you all about them — but for a price!
Here are some suggestions for prioritizing your education dollars.
1. Make a plan. Before you even begin to look at individual classes, think about the aspects of your photography that you want to improve and try to narrow it down to one or two specific things and make a plan from there. I always pick one technical workshop — covering a topic like lighting or posing — and then one event that can be anything at all, from a Photoshop seminar to a networking opportunity. Once I decide the tracks I want to follow, I can wade through the tons of available offerings with more focus.
2. Look for hands-on training. The workshops that offer hands-on training are the ones that I gravitate to first — and where I tend to allocate my biggest chunk of money. For me, there is nothing better than getting out and actually doing what I wish to learn. This type of workshop offers instant feedback and great interaction with the instructor, and those are key elements in my decision.
3. Ask other photographers. Since hands-on workshops tend to be expensive, I seek out the opinions of other photographers who are familiar with the event or instructor. It is easy to get lost in the marketing hype, but a great flyer does not make a great workshop. Personal recommendations from friends go a long way for me when narrowing my choices. Online forums also offer a good resource for research, and with a little digging you can usually figure out which workshops will give you a good return on your investment.
4. Seek out networking opportunities. Once I have finished selecting my technical workshop, I turn my attention to my second area and this is wide open. Industry shows such as Imaging USA or WPPI are always a good bet for me. They offer great networking opportunities, trade shows, and classes from industry leaders. While these events aren’t as hands-on, they are great for meeting people.
Everyone’s priorities differ, of course. The most important thing is to put together a plan and find programs that meet your needs and your budget. If you do your research before choosing, you can be sure you’re making a sound investment.