One of my favorite things to do is lead private workshops for individuals who want to take their photography to the next level. I’ve been teaching photography and running photo workshops since 1998 and find that sometimes the best way for a person to learn a specific topic is via one-on-one mentorship.
I like to think of of private workshop sessions as a great way to turbocharge someone’s photographic skillset. Some individuals thrive while learning in a group setting while others learn best in a one-on-one environment.
The advantage of a private workshop is you get to learn exactly what is most important to you. Over the years, I’ve taught photographers just about every photographic topic imaginable.
Individuals have wanted to spend an entire day learning off-camera flash, so we set up a studio and did exactly that until they fully learn the process. Others have wanted to learn best practices for landscape photography, so we traveled to a beautiful location and practiced exactly that skill. Many individuals have just purchased a new camera before taking a vacation to Europe. Together, we spent a day setting up the camera’s menus and buttons while also learning the overall operation.
There are a variety of ways I teach private workshops. Each is customizable to your own learning style or photographic interest. Whether it is for an hour, half a day, full day or multiple days in a different country; you name it, I’ve done it. Some of the venues where we meet for private workshops are:
1. At my office in Gig Harbor, Washington
2. At the client’s house
3. At the client’s business location
4. Over the Internet via Skype or Google+ video hangout
5. At a predetermined outdoor location like a park or waterfront
6. Over a weekend in the city
7. Over the course of a week in a scenic area or a foreign country
For each person’s private workshop, I put together a learning plan that covers all of the topics the client wants to learn. We talk about the learning objectives in advance of our meeting and then agree to a final plan for our time together. Here’s an example of a learning plan for a 4-hour workshop I ran last week:
As I mentioned above, people have asked me to teach on just about every photo subject. Here are a few stories of people I’ve recently worked with:
Michael V. flew in from California for three days of private instruction. His goals were to learn the Nikon D810, learn Lightroom CC, and learn autofocus techniques in the field. Each day was planned out in great detail to help him learn digital photography from the ground up. He used to shoot extensively with his collection of Nikon F film cameras, but stepped away from photography for a few decades to focus on his career. Now that he’s retired, he wants to get back to the joy of photography. After three days, he was all set to move forward in his photography after feeling comfortable with the operation of the Nikon D810 and comfortable working with Lightroom CC. This three-day private session was just what he needed to get over the steep digital learning curve.
Kids and Travel
Scott J. and Matt J. are a father and adult son who both own Nikon DSLR cameras. They travel quite a bit and each has family that they love to photograph. They spent a day with me to learn their cameras, better understand exposure control, and set up their autofocus menus properly for children’s sports and international travel. Matt’s young daughter has started playing youth soccer, so one of his goals for the private session was to improve his camera skills in order to get great photographs of his daughter in action. Scott travels with his wife all around the world. They are planning on taking a three-week-long European river cruise and wanted to make sure everything was set up with his camera system before leaving on the trip. He also wanted to practice autofocus techniques as they pertain to travel photography. We set up scenarios to mimic sports photography and travel photography so each could practice their craft under real-world situations.
Camera Operation and Exposure Theory
Hannah D. and Angela C. live in northern Washington State, about two hours from my office. We met at a lakefront park mid-way between our towns to go through exposure control, metering usage, autofocus techniques, menu setups, and video usage. Both wanted to become better with landscape and portrait photography. Both Hannah and Becky are hands-on learners, so we spent the entire private workshop outdoors, going through real-world scenarios.
Dr. B. is a cosmetic dentist who wanted to set up a photo studio in his office to photograph before/after shots of his surgical clients. We spent a few hours setting up the studio including lighting equipment, backdrop, gels, camera, etc. Then, we allocated the rest of the day to working on photographic technique and digital asset management.
Monthly Mentorship Over the Internet
David S. is a photographer in southern California. We schedule one-hour Internet sessions approximately once a month to go through camera technique, image reviews, Lightroom methods, and lots of other photo-related topics. We use Google+ hangouts to host our meetings since it allows us to share video, share screens, while communicating in a very natural way.
Photoshop and Computer Setup
Ray V. is a retiree in Florida who is a very active photographer. He hired me to come to Florida for a three-day private session where we spent the majority of time learning Photoshop techniques, improving his digital asset management system, and setting up his computer for optimal performance.
Sam B. from Chicago, Illinois wanted to learn how to be a better street photographer. He travels quite a bit for business and loves to photograph the cities he visits along the way. He was feeling a bit insecure about photographing people on the street, so he flew to Seattle, Washington so we could spend a day together. We walked the city streets while photographing people and street performers, while working on his people interaction and photography skills.
New Camera Operation
Tom G. flew in from San Diego for four hours of private instruction on his Nikon D750. We met at a waterfront location in Gig Harbor and spent the morning going through camera operation and autofocus technique. We also worked on setting up portable lighting equipment for location portraiture. He flew back to San Diego that evening learning exactly what he wanted to know.
Backcountry Hiking and Photography
Ron L. is a businessman from the southern USA. He loves hiking and has always wanted to photograph the wild areas of Washington State. I set up a photo itinerary for Ron that included scenic vistas, beautiful seascapes, and towering mountains. Together, we’ll spend four days hiking and photographing the best of Washington State.
Sarah M. is a high school sports photographer who was having trouble consistently getting sharp photographs at football games. We set up a private workshop where we spent a few hours going through technique and camera setup, then the remainder of our time together we spent at an actual Friday night football game on the sidelines. We photographed the game together, going through technique and method while reviewing shots in real time.
If you are interested in a private workshop, feel free to email or call and we’ll set up a date. For more details on private workshops, check out our workshop page here: http://visadventures.com/services/private-photography-lessons/
One of the neat aspects of my job is that I get to travel around the world meeting lots of interesting people. Earlier this week I was down in Tampa, Florida doing a two-day private workshop with a gentleman named Ray. His goals were to learn a number of specific Photoshop techniques that he could use for his digital photography. Ray is 80 years old and has been shooting photos for the bulk of his life. During my time with him, he showed me images he created in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s that blew my socks off. His creativity, his ability to pose subjects and create mood really impressed me.
Ray’s working career ran the gamut from owning a family business, to owning a flight charter service in Puerto Rico, to flying Boeing 727s as a commercial airline pilot for over 20 years. He’s ridden his Harley Davidson around North America multiple times, has traveled the world, builds his own computers, started a commercial testing laboratory, and the list goes on and on and on. The man is a living, breathing, walking fireball of constant energy.
More than all of his accomplishments though, I was most impressed with his tenacity towards learning. He never stops learning or pushing himself. Using his Nikon D800, Ray photographs his grandchildren’s basketball games, his neighbor’s birthday parties, his community center and anything else that strikes his fancy.
Ray stuck with me each day as we went through incredible detail in Photoshop. When we finished our first day of Photoshop work, I told Ray that it was time to quit, but he looked at me and said, “I’d keep working with you until midnight if you’d like.” On our second day, Ray actually said that we had to stop, but only because he was going on a date in a few hours to see Gershwin’s play, Porgy and Bess.
Ray never stops and I draw immense inspiration from his example. My hope for you is that you’ll never stop learning either.
I ran a private workshop yesterday for a lady who is producing her own cookbook. She loves photography, loves cooking and wants to write individual stories about the people who’s recipes she uses in the book. Her goals during the private workshop were to learn all about her camera while also learning how to do professional food photography in her kitchen.
I was so impressed with her enthusiasm for learning that I couldn’t help to be affected by it. We spent a full day going 100 miles per hour, putting together photos, setting up lights, diffusers, backdrops, food, etc. I kept asking if she wanted to take a break and her answer was “no way, let’s keep learning.” Before we knew it, the day was over and it was time for me to go. By the time I got back to my office, she had already sent emails talking about her passion and asking more questions. It was a wonderful reminder of what its like to pursue a passion.
I can guarantee you that she’ll produce a wonderful book. The photos will be fantastic and the writing will be superb. Her enthusiasm for learning was infectious and it brought a huge smile to my face.
How’s your enthusiasm for learning more about photography? Do you have the passion and commitment it takes to become great?