I’ve done them all, and quite frankly I love them all. As a self-taught photographer it has been extremely helpful for me to have access to all these wonderful resources when trying to build my wedding photography business. Not every other profession has the amount of easily accessible, high-quality education as the photography industry. My short opinion about a few of the courses I’ve done:
Workshops are wonderful for an number of reasons beyond learning. You meet a group of your peers, make friends for life, get inspired, and generally get a LOT to think about. I’ve done one local workshop and one large international workshop and I value them both for different reasons. The local one was great for meeting local photographers and having resources in my own market. I was just starting out, and I had no other wedding photography friends or even acquaintances. I met awesome people, who I am still friends with and I have a number of local resources that helped me immeasurably.
The international one, well… all I can say is that I’m still reeling from it. I like to think that I jumped into the deep end with that one. The vendors were absolutely world class creatives, and the other participants were super talented. I’m proud to have made some amazing friends from that workshop and I like to call it my “Masters degree in Wedding Photography”. The best way to describe what I got out of that high-level workshop is a new pair of eyes. I scrutinize every photo, every detail, every timeline, email, shoot, and blog post that I put out there to make sure that it is the absolute best quality possible. Often, I will delete or edit these things after posting because … nah, it’s not good enough. The local workshop I did was with Rebekah Murray and is now available in video format and the international workshop I did was the once-in-a-lifetime, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming Jose Villa Mexico Workshop.
(From the Jose Villa Mexico Workshop)
Mentoring: I’ve done too many one-on-one mentoring sessions to name! Whenever I’m feeling stuck, or uninspired or like I need an outside perspective I tend to hop on a call or Skype session with someone awesome. These sessions have always been amazing because of the personalized feedback I get. I usually come prepared with a list of pretty specific questions and objectives, and always with a portfolio for review. These mentoring sessions are usually a great check point for me to make sure I’m going in an intentional direction, and sometimes even just to set this direction. The personalized feedback that I’ve received from mentoring sessions have made a huge impact. There is a lot to cover, and it can’t be done in just 1 hour, so think of these sessions as tweaking. And all those little tweaks add up.
Portfolio Reviews: Often a part of the two above-mentioned sessions, a portfolio review can be terrifying but also incredibly productive. During a portfolio review, be prepared to put your ego aside and listen to the feedback given to you. It’s also important that you have sought out the best person to give you this review. Are you familiar with their work? Is it the style you are going for? What do you like about their work? Don’t ask a fine art photographer for critique on your studio sessions, it’s really just a waste of time. If you like street photography, find the best living street photographer out there and try to get into their mind. You don’t need to copy their work but understand their position. I have reluctantly done portfolio reviews (Wasn’t sure my ego could take it) but almost every time I come out of the session a little closer to finding my own distinct style.