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by Steve Cirone on Wed Dec 18, 2013 8:53 am
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What is the general client consensus on photography workshop instructors who spend most of the time in the field shooting for themselves?

I know of several famous, successful, and expensive tour leaders who do this.
 
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by Ken Kovak on Wed Dec 18, 2013 9:15 am
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I have only participated in a few workshops and in all cases the leaders did shoot, but not "most of the time".  A lot of their shooting was to show examples to attendees of possible shots.

If I was on a workshop where the leaders shot most of the time I would be very upset.  Basically then the only thing you are paying for is an "escort" to a particular location.  That would seem worth a large amount less than what people charge for workshops.  I am paying for the leaders insight, instructions and guidance on the photography.

Just my opinion.
Ken

P.S. - as a consumer it would be great to have a place where participants could factually relay what their workshop experience was like.
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by Mark Picard on Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:37 am
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I pretty much do not shoot on my workshops. I think people are paying for your expertise and experience for instruction, and by having say, 8 participants in the workshop, time is at a premium for each student which in my mind doesn't allow time for leader photography during the workshop. I do however, occasionally share my lenses if the situation arises where a student needs a longer reach or a wider angle then they came to the workshop with. I'll let a participant get off a few shots, and then let some one else use it if needed. 

But I do make this blanket statement at the beginning of the workshop - "I will shoot if we find a once in a lifetime situation (like two Snow Leopards fighting)":lol:
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by Steven Major on Wed Dec 18, 2013 11:25 am
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Shooting IS the primary reason most people lead photographic tours...to make money and to have their trip paid for by others. No blame, if you can afford the 10K (or more) to take yourself and your 20K worth of equipment to some far off place in pursuit of what amounts to your hobby...maybe value for your dollar should not be your primary consideration anyway. What your paying for is the hopeful possibility of a once in a lifetime shot, and the photographic and location knowledge gained from not just the leader, but the others on your trip. There is also a "safety in numbers" factor that in many parts of the world, can be priceless.
 

by SantaFeJoe on Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:28 pm
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I agree with Mark completely. When I led workshops, that is the way I did it, including letting participants use my lenses. If you are any good as a leader, you will make enough money to pay for your own trips or else you can arrive days earlier or stay late to do your own shooting. It is good to arrive early anyway just to scout out locations or wildlife if it is a place you are not thouroughly familiar with, since things change over time. Who wants to be paying just to watch a leader do their own shooting, and not give hands on advice in the field.
If you are leading a tour, not a workshop, then it may be alright, but it is ethical only if you advise your clients of this before hand. In that case, you are basically taking people to a location and not teaching primarily.

Joe
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by BobD on Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:01 am
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As a participant every workshop I've attended the leader also did some shooting. Most times their shooting was limited in comparison to that of the participants, but they did shoot. These, however, were always workshops aimed at wedding or portrait photography, employing paid models to demonstrate using lighting or shooting in certain situations/locations. In nearly every case there was classroom time involved during the workshop and a critique session at the end. I really had no issues with the leader making photos. They kept the level low so they could observe and make suggestions to the participants and were available to answer questions 100% of the time. FWIW I've never taken a nature/wildlife targeted workshop.

As a workshop/tour leader I shoot. I don't have my face glued to the back of my camera the entire time we're in the field. In fact I'm fairly selective about what I shoot when leading. After all, I'm leading the group because this is a location I'm intimately familiar with. I shoot in these locations a lot. I spend a lot of my time observing our subjects (wild horses) and the participants. I make suggestions, answer questions. I alert the folks in my charge when I see an interesting situation developing. Honestly I'm pretty darn selective about what I shoot when I'm out by myself.

I offer two kinds of experiences; a "tour/safari" and a "workshop." They are not one in the same. For a "tour/safari" my primary job is to get the participants in front of the subjects. They are hiring me for my expertise at finding these animals and to handle the logistics such as transportation and meals. Tours are for experienced photographers that don't feel they need a lot of hand-holding and direction. They're confident in their camera and compositional skills. They need to be given opportunities, not a lot of instruction. Obviously, at least in my mind, there's little reason for me not to shoot during these kinds of outings.

The other experience I offer is a formal workshop. For a workshop there's going to be some classroom time involved. Instead of a pre-trip briefing given during a tour, we're going to spend the first morning learning about the history of these animals, the rules concerning interaction with them and we'll discuss things like lens selection and composition. During our first session in the field I'll shoot very little. I'll be observing everyone, analyzing the strengths, weaknesses and needs of each individual. Just as when leading a tour, I'll be alerting folks when things are going to get interesting, be responsible for locating the animals and be dealing with the logistics of the thing. As the workshop progresses I'm usually able to shoot more and more... but again, while being very selective about what I shoot. Near the end of the workshop, but before the last field session, there's another classroom session. This session is all about composition and post processing. It includes a critique session. I do this prior to the final field session with the idea that the participants will be able to apply what they learn to their final shooting opportunities. During that last field session I'm answering questions if asked, but not offering unrequested input. The idea is to let them try to put it all together on their own.

The short and sweet. I shoot. I shoot more during a tour than during a workshop but I shoot. ;)
 

by Steve Cirone on Fri Dec 20, 2013 10:44 am
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STEVENMAJOR wrote:
Shooting IS the primary reason most people lead photographic tours...to make money and to have their trip paid for by others.

That is not it for me.  I live where we do tours, San Diego County California, and can shoot whenever I want for free.  Teaching photographic technique is what I do on my combo tour/ workshops.  Sometimes that involves a little demo shooting, but very little.  I normally teach one on one or perhaps a couple.  Few of my clients are advanced photographers with great gear.  San Diego attracts more of a tourist type client here on other business.

I do occasionally see other photo tours here in big (to me) groups of 10 or more.  Sometimes a famous instructor charging big bucks essentially ignores the group and just shoots for himself.  I guess the clients are instructor groupies?  Since these instructors are typically charging 10X what I charge for 10 people, they are making 100X more. 

Maybe I should shoot more and teach less??!
 
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by SantaFeJoe on Fri Dec 20, 2013 11:43 am
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Steve Cirone I guess the clients are instructor groupies?  Since these instructors are typically charging 10X what I charge for 10 people, they are making 100X more.   wrote:
Maybe I should shoot more and teach less??!

If it's all about the money, then it's pretty pitiful!!!  I think a good workshop leader does what they do because they love to share knowledge and experience acquired over the years. Ego should be left out!!! That is what I find to be the problem with many who are out there. They are full of themselves and just care about money as the bottom line. And, yes, groupies are a part of the equation.

Joe
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by jsavage21 on Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:38 pm
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As an instructor, my primary concern and priority is making sure that my clients get to the best locations, setup, and experience on their trip. Investing a fair amount on any workshop, I certainly would want the same. However, I still do some shooting on my workshops, but nowhere near the level I would do when by myself. I think it's important for workshop instructors to shoot some as it shows new photographers how you are setting up a shot, approaching a scene, and what settings you are using. 
When I was starting photography, I know the experience of watching other photographers working in the field was invaluable to me. For instructors, I think keeping the needs of others as the top priority will always make for the most successful workshops.
 

by NtrShtr on Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:47 am
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I believe the purpose of a workshop is to WORK and learn, not just gain access. Therefore, I would expect a workshop leader to be working with his students as any competent leader would.

An example of this is him/her going from one student to the other as they are shooting and making suggestions regarding their technique and reviewing their histogram screen and composition on the LCD. If the workshop leader shoots, I think it should be as an example to the student he is developing. "Look at the image I just shot next to you. See the difference? Why is that?" kind of dialogue.

Workshop students should never be an after thought to the instructor. Students should not be tagging along like groupies and expected to learn only by their approaching him and asking questions as he worked. That's BS.
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by jeff Parker on Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:42 pm
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Similar to Bob D I differentiate between a tour and a workshop.

During a workshop I will shoot very little or usually not at all. It's all about teaching and sharing what I know.

During a tour I will absolutely be shooting. A tour is about getting the clients to the subject. I won't shoot and ignore the clients. I don't shoot as much as if I was by myself because I'm helping the clients get in position, spot animals, get a correct exposure, etc.

I don't think these terms/definitions are standardized enough. I define a workshop as learning certain skills and/or techniques usually with some classroom time. A tour is all about shooting. I'm there to help and you can ask any questions you want, but the emphasis is on time in the field and shooting.
 

by Jared. Lloyd on Sat Jan 11, 2014 2:35 am
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When I first started offering workshops, this was a question that I was very concerned about. I poured through this and several other forums looking for participants' experiences, reviews on other photographers, and to try and get a since of exactly what people want in regards to their experience.

One year, I decided to experiment with this a bit. Every other day I left my equipment back in the hotel on my wild horse workshops. What I found was that I could concentrate heavily on the technical aspects of photography, but when it came down to the more subjective aspects - such as the ability to visually work a subject for instance - it was lacking considerably. You can walk around, and search for other compositions of course, but its often times not until you begin to study a situation through the 2 dimensional perspective of a lens that you begin to discover the full potential of a situation. Otherwise, the low hanging fruit is all that you can reach.

One thing that has come up repeatedly in questionnaires sent out after the fact was that clients learned a great deal from being able to also watch how I go about finding and working subjects. I'm a wildlife guy. SO these workshops aren't just lining people up at Oxbow Bend for a sunrise shoot.  

I would venture to say that 80% of the clients I work with who attend group workshops to learn, fall into one of two camps. Either they are lacking in terms of technical knowledge or they are lacking in terms of their ability to see possibilities and move beyond technically perfect but cliche images.

To offer a well rounded workshop, that is to say, one that moves beyond just the rudimentary aspects of photography, you have to be able to find that balance based upon what your given clients need and / or want out of that particular workshop. So when you have clients who for instance are still learning how to read a histogram, then the majority of your time will be spent more or less looking over their shoulder and working with them on each and every step of the photographic process. This of course then means that there is the potential that participants who are further along in their skill set get held back or it at the very least it becomes hugely difficult to jockey back and forth between various participants and provide them with what the are particularly looking for or are in need of.

We are planning to address this with our 2015 lineup with a series of technical workshops in addition to our regular lineup. These technical workshops will be 3 day long instructional intensives that will spend an equal amount of time in the field as in the classroom. These three day tech workshops will be so focused on fundamental concepts that there will be little opportunity to photograph myself. For the other workshops however, they will still blend together several classroom sessions and hands on in the field instruction, but they will also be focused more on artistic vision for which case I will be shooting along side of clients while instructing.

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by Kathy Adams Clark on Sun Jan 12, 2014 11:44 am
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I will take people incredible locations, give them some brief tips for success and step back to allow them to work the scene. I will set up my camera and check the lighting and try to find some good compositions while they work. If I find something neat or interesting, I'll teach about it.  When I get inspired by a scene or lighting, I get excited and how people why the moment is so special.

I really jump in when I notice the someone doesn't know how to use their camera, doesn't understand a feature, or isn't reaching their potential.  I don't want someone to leave a photo tour without good images.  That's unacceptable in my mind.

If people have any questions at any location or need help with their equipment, they need to speak up.  I am happy to spend as much or as little time with each participant as he or she needs.

Classroom workshops are all about teaching.  I don't shoot then.  Those are places to teach.  Photo tours are places to teach and shoot at the same time.  I would miss a ton of lighting, composition, and teaching moments if I wasn't using my camera.
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by Anthony Medici on Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:33 pm
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I think there is a difference between a workshop and a tour. A tour is to simply get you to the desired area. A workshop is setup to teach you something. Additionally, even workshops have different formats. Some instructors teach indoors for a period of time then take the participants out to an area so they can practice what they learned. Other instructors will teach indoors and outdoors. What you get depends on the instructor and the setup of the workshop/tour.
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by bretedge on Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:52 am
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I've been leading private and group workshops for 7 years.  Most of my workshops are here in Moab but I do also venture out to the Tetons from time to time.  I'm often asked by my clients why I'm not photographing and I always offer the same explanation: You aren't paying me to pad my portfolio.  You're paying me to work with you, to educate you, and to ensure that your needs are met.  Some clients are more easy-going than others and I'll usually joke with them by saying that if Elvis flies by on a unicorn below a double rainbow they're on their own because I'm going to be busy filling memory cards!  I've heard countless horror stories from my clients about workshop instructors who basically said, "Put your tripod here" and then split to make their own photographs.  Why anyone would put up with that is beyond me.  I've also heard too many stories about workshop instructors who failed to obtain the proper permits, but that's a whole other topic.

Having said that, from time to time, I will get out my camera and fire off a few frames.  There are some topics/techniques that I find easier to teach by doing it first and then showing my participants the result on-screen.

In the end, I think much of it boils down to a couple of things: integrity and setting expectations.  If you're a workshop leader and you know you're going to use workshop time to focus on your own photography, be honest and explain that to potential participants in the workshop description and/or FAQ's.  If you're a potential customer, don't be afraid to ask the instructor about their own policy on the topic.  I often find that my favorite workshop participants are those who ask lots of questions before the workshop even gets started.

Great topic, and it's been interesting to read the responses.
 

by jeff Parker on Mon Jan 20, 2014 8:43 pm
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I think we/the industry need to standardize the terminology. Bret used the word "workshop" and generally does not photograph. I agree.

A "tour" is a different animal.
 

by bretedge on Thu Jan 23, 2014 9:05 am
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jeff Parker wrote:
I think we/the industry need to standardize the terminology.  Bret used the word "workshop" and generally does not photograph.  I agree.  

A "tour" is a different animal.

I agree and good point, Jeff.  Workshops and tours are distinctly different.  I've led an "Undiscovered Moab" photo tour the past couple of years and I made it clear in the tour description on my website as well as in all communications with participants that this was not a workshop, and that it did not involve instruction.  Of course, when a question was asked while in the field I always answered it but I did not work with each participant one-on-one in a teacher/student capacity.  Any time I read "photo tour" I automatically assume there won't be much, if any, instruction. 
 

by Primus on Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:35 am
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From the perspective of a participant and an amateur:

I have done workshops/tours with at least eight different pros, mostly wildlife and landscape and one 'general composition' style. With the wildlife ones it was mostly an opportunity to be there since they had arranged the location/camp/guides. There was minimal instruction unless you asked a specific question, you were largely on your own and the pro did almost as much shooting as the participants. However, some workshops were promoted as such and there was indeed classroom style teaching involved too.

With the landscape ones it was just the right mix of taking you to a location that was unique and one-on-one teaching or at least asking if you needed any help, coming up with suggested angles, compositions, etc. Here the pro shot alongside, but minimally and later showed you his images and detailed his though process and workflow in PS/LR.

Only the 'general purpose' pro was with you all the time, walking to a destination, pointing out things, constantly trying different type of shots, looking at your work and absolutely not doing anything on his own.

I actually did not mind the wildlife pro doing his own stuff since without him I wouldn't have known how to get there (at least not then) or when the animal(s) would do what - the experience of the pro is quite useful in this regard. In some ways, it is reassuring when the pro is shooting alongside, at least then you feel he is not just in it for the money but also for the love of photography! But, it would be nice to have a little more help.

I find that I learn something with each trip. Having expensive gear does not mean one knows how to use it, or use it well enough! The 'eye' cannot be bought at a store. The best pro is the one who not just takes you to a 'secret' location known only to himself, but also imparts some of his philosophy, his vision and knowledge of the art. That is an extremely difficult thing to do given the large number of participants in a typical tour/workshop.

Pradeep
 

by Royce Howland on Fri Mar 21, 2014 11:36 am
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I definitely distinguish between tours and workshops that I lead, in the way most are suggesting in this thread. So far, I have made at least some photographs in all events I've run, and it has never been an issue for anyone. The primary reason is that I take very seriously the fact that participants have entrusted me with their time and money. I make it my goal to work harder than anyone to ensure that each person gets the best experience they possibly can, given the circumstances that we're working within.

However, even with that priority, there reaches a point where "helping people" becomes "hovering over people" or even "nagging people". I don't run events for complete beginners, but for intermediate and above. My event participants all have a basic grasp of photography and how they want to go about it. They're coming to me either to get a lot of focused field opportunities based on my knowledge of location and conditions, or to take their work to another level through valuable instruction. Or both. But because they already have a base to work with, they don't need me watching over their shoulder 100% of the time.

The best learning for each participant ultimately is when they can concentrate on applying themselves to making their own photographs, based on the places I introduce to them, the instruction I've given them, or both. Because I keep my groups small with a good ratio of instructor-to-participant time, and because I don't hustle people from one spot to the next spending only brief "trophy list check-off" moments at each one, this means quite often nobody actively needs my input... perhaps for whole minutes at a time! :)

During the times when the group is productively engaged with the location, I'm not going to keep being intrusive. I may scout around the area, or I may do some shooting of my own. If I shoot, I do it to create demonstrations and examples of my composition, response to the scene, and development workflow. I do it to keep my eyes sharp and my head in the game so I can point out good creative ideas to the group. I do it to keep myself occupied when they don't need me, so I'm not bugging them instead. I do it because I love photography. And yes -- I do it to take some personal advantage of good locations and light. ;)

Having said that, I almost always get on location for 1 - 3 days before the start of each event so I can scout. And I often stay awhile after the event officially wraps up, as well. I plan to do my serious personal shooting outside of the event days. That's because I would never prioritize making my own photographs over the needs of the group during the event. Participant satisfaction is always the #1 goal, so I'm prepared to spend 100% time actively engaged with the group even though it's almost never required...
Royce Howland
 

by Primus on Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:05 pm
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I think a workshop/tour leader should attempt to define who the workshop is best suited for and hope the right kind of people will sign up. However with so many pros in the fray, it may not be possible and I suppose many will take whoever pays up. The good people (or should I say the popular ones) are always 'sold out' a year or more in advance and may be able to afford that luxury. Not everyone can be that choosy.

It is perhaps even more important to lay down guidelines on behavior during a tour, maybe even have participants fill out a questionnaire to make sure you don't end up with a bad apple. I had the most miserable experience on my trip to Tanzania last year where people dropped out at the last minute (or maybe were never there to begin with, I would not know) and so it was just two participants and one tour leader. What should have been a wonderful opportunity turned out to be a nightmare since the other person was only interested in having her own road-fest photographing acacia trees and zebras for her own professional portfolio. Short of coming to verbal blows there was nothing I or the pro could do. Twelve days in such company is enough to drive one crazy. She was a professional photographer herself who had never been on a group tour and thus did not know or care about what the other person may want to do or how to be still when someone else is shooting with a long lens. I did write to the organizers afterwards but they said they had no idea that somebody could behave this way.
 

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