DISCLAIMER: There’s a lot of buzz in the industry right now about workshop reviews. Yes, that is absolutely the reason I am posting this. My husband, family, and friends are who truly matter to me in this world. Unfortunately, you may agree or disagree with what I write, but it is absolutely my opinion and personal review of the workshop. All in all, by posting this I feel free. We should all have the right to say what we think and critique what we spend our hard-earned money on. That is the point of consumer review product sites, and it should be the same within the photography community. I understand that this is delayed, and I should have posted my thoughts immediately following the workshop, but I was afraid of backlash by someone (and maybe friends?) who may not be so happy with my thoughts. It should not be like that, and I encourage all of you to be honest with yourselves as well, and share your experiences with others. So, thank you, to all of you recently, who have spoken up and made me feel free.
Day 1: The “Little Black Dress and your cutest heels party”
Honestly, I thought this idea was really cute. I don’t have a lot of occurrences in my life that require me to dress up in skirts and heels, so I was pretty excited about the party. I even held a little contest on my blog for my readers to vote for which shoes I should wear. Knowing that the party would be the first part of the workshop made me more relaxed and excited at the same time. At least I knew I wouldn’t be starting Day 2 knowing none of the other girls. It was a bit of a relief.
The party started with Scarlett running late, and honestly, that usually doesn’t sit too well in my book. I like promptness. Actually, I expect it if I’m coming down for your workshop. I took it as being slightly disorganized, and frankly this shouldn’t happen unless there were completely unforeseen circumstances. The reason for the late start was not explained to me personally, so I guess you can take it or leave it.
As a side note, I think you’ll find throughout this entire post that there is a recurring theme: The best thing about this workshop is that I made amazing friends.
Back to the party. It started off very cute, with some little fondue appetizers and oh-so-delicious cupcakes. There was a “photo booth” setup for us to have fun with, and it was a great time! We also spent some time going around the room and introducing everyone, so it was good to get an idea for who all of the ladies were and where they came from. After some mingling, we were all set to sit down and play a game called “Girl’s Night Out” (or something of the sort). Again, a great way to get to know all of the ladies a little better and break the ice. Probably would have been better without iPhone checking and boyfriends in the room, but oh well, it was still fun. The party ended around 9pm and me at the Retro Ladies (the other girls who were staying at the same hotel) all headed out to get something late night to eat.
Day 2 Classroom:
“A Little Surprise and Teaching from Scarlett”: Honestly, I can’t remember what the surprise was anymore. Maybe the chance to win some camera straps? No idea. This part of the workshop I’m calling the “motivation” section, and may be the part of the entire weekend where I gained the most amount of information.
We started off with a somewhat awkward vocal confirmation of “You were born for this. It’s time to show the world who Leeann Marie Photography is!” Ok. I get it. It fit within the context of this part of the workshop. We were then reminded to “Compete, don’t envy” and that “The future has nothing to do with the past or present”. Again, great quotes. I dig it.
We then got into filling some of the time with inspirational movie clips, some of which were a couple of minutes. I have sat in other non-photography-related workshops, and sometimes movies are a great illustrator or motivator. (Looking back, though, I can’t help but question if they were used to fill time. I’m honestly not sure.)
After some discussion on motivation and why we were here, each girl was able to stand up and share their personal story as to why they love photography. Mine? I love to help women to feel beautiful. This is what I got out of the workshop. Knowing this is a great motivator for moving forward and truly loving my shoots. It was interesting to hear all of the girl’s stories, and it brought us all a little closer.
We covered the topic of “How to Stand Out”, which included being personal, helping others, teaching, reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s book (which I have since then and blogged about), and networking. I do believe that each of these is a great tool to learn more about yourself and others.
We also talked about how to book your top package, and moving from shooting for free to being featured in magazines. Ok. Let’s be honest, though. These were 5 bullet points. That is all I have in my notes. So if you’re coming to this workshop on detailed take-aways on exactly the steps and strategies to do this, you may not get it. I have a feeling I understand the process, but there was no “this is what you submit, in this format, to the X Y Z people.” It was more basic broader steps on how you may be able to get to the point where you want to be.
We also talked about the good and bad sides of putting yourself and your business out there. She had some good points in “The more you stand out, the more critics will come your way”. Agreed, and “If your clients are happy, it does not matter what other people think”. Again, agreed.
Scarlett spent some time talking about how she went from a starting photographer to a photographer who charges $4500+ for her weddings. Her story was nice, although didn’t quite seem realistic to most other wedding photographers. She was lucky to have worked a wedding at a venue that referred her for a large, high-visibility wedding. She was then featured in a southern wedding magazine and raised her prices from there. While I can say that I always do my best to network with other vendors and venues, I do wish this part of the conversation had some more tangible take-aways that we could implement in our business. We talked about blogging and how it helps. Obviously, I agree with this 110%.
Q&A time was mediocre with a lot of “ums”. I did ask some questions and she was able to respond, but I think I would have liked to learn more about marketing and getting yourself known more in your community. One of the recurring questions was how to get more blog readers, and
(maybe I’ll get them from this post!! TOTALLY. KIDDING.) the answer was to keep blogging and they will come. I also think it has a lot to do with personality and luck.
Then we had a dance break. Lydia and I danced. Because dancing rocks.
Day 2 Lunch: Scarlett did attend lunch. We learned how Esther teases her hair. Girl tricks and magic.
Day 2 Shoot: We met to shoot a recently-engaged couple, and they were really sweet. We headed out onto the streets and were instructed that each of us would get 5 minutes personally with the couple to be the “main shooter”, and the rest of us would shoot from behind. We started with the “skipping trick” to get couples to loosen up. Ok. Then we started taking turns shooting ahead and leading. Honestly, this took f-o-r-e-v-e-r. And I haven’t blogged or used any of the images from this session because they were mediocre at best. When I did step up to shoot, I wasn’t crazy about the location I selected, but worked with it anyway. That’s nobody’s fault but my own. Most of the other images were with the couple looking in different directions and never at my camera. I don’t know. I just wasn’t nuts about the images. And then I got REALLY cold. And I was in Florida!! We were out so long (over 3 hours) that my fingers literally turned blue. Then we got bored enough that we left early.
The instruction during this session was mediocre, and I don’t remember many “tips” or “tricks” for posing. Our lighting instruction was to put the subject’s backs to the sun. She busted out a video light in the sun, and I didn’t see a difference. Maybe I was missing something. Critique REALLY could have been beneficial, and I expected the instructor to have good criticism and ideas for every girl that stepped forward. Most of the time this was not the case, and critique was “I liked your location” or “Maybe you could have used a different bench.” Maybe there were tidbits in there that were truly enlightening, and if that is the case, it would be great if Scarlett would reiterate them again to me. Some girls were unknowingly shooting with improper signage (think, handicapped signs) in the backgrounds, and it wasn’t noted until I did say something. We made sure to get a picture of everyone’s Shootsacs so we could blog it to Jessica Claire. At one point, Stephen (Scarlett’s boyfriend) even stepped in to work with the couple and get his own shots. This was a bit out of line in my book. We also had to take a break to do some cutesy things (like all stand in line with our cameras) for the DVD that was being filmed while we were there. That will wait until the end. Oh, and we also got a beach picture of everyone at the workshop. This was a cute picture and I do like it. I did enjoy this session at the beginning, but I wasn’t fond of the lack of critique, the length of the shoot, and the number of shooters for only 2 people. (I think this is a common thread with other workshops as well.)
Literally. My hands were blue. I’m not kidding you about that one.
Day 2 Dinner: Scarlett did not attend.
Day 2 Evening: I spent the evening working with the Retro girls on some of the images from the workshop. We talked logos, design, working with clients, our thoughts on the session from the day, Lightroom, and Photoshop. I think that each of us gained some useful information that night and it was great to build these friendships even more.
Day 3 Classroom:
Vote for the best images from the day before. We had to pass around a portable hard drive and get everyone’s images loaded into Bridge. At one point Scarlett yelled at Stephen in front of everyone. A-w-k-w-a-r-d. This took a decent amount of time, and finally we were able to see everyone’s images. This was definitely interesting to see all of the girl’s work and how we each interpret the same situation a little differently. I never think it’s bad to do something like this. I’ve done it frequently with second shooting. There was no solid photography-related critique in viewing these images. Sometimes post-production effects were admired, but technique and outcomes were barely touched-upon.
Workflow and Editing: Atrocious. Pretty much the worst workflow and editing overview I’ve ever listened to, and trust me, I google and youtube the crap out of that kind of topic. I stopped taking notes about 5 minutes in, and the entire presentation took about 30 minutes. Staring at the computer the entire time. Editing is completed in Bridge, and the “trick” is to oversaturate and then decrease the orange saturation to get a better skin tone. Working in Photoshop consisted of pressing some buttons, and an overuse of Totally Rad’s “Pro Retouch”. We were shown the power of Liquify. In order to blog images, you need to drag and drop your new image overtop of an old one so that you get that same text thing at the bottom. Honestly, it really was bad. If you want to know more about Photoshop, Lightroom, and workflow, I would suggest looking up an Adobe Certified Expert in your area and asking for a private consultation or smaller workshop.
Our introduction to the America’s Next Top Model winner, Whitney: She was ok and nice enough to come talk with us for a few minutes prior to going to hair and makeup. It’s great that she stands up for being a plus-sized woman.
Day 3 Lunch: Scarlett did not attend.
Day 3 Shoot: Started a little late. This shoot was to be a focus on off-camera lighting and how to use it when shooting a bride. Stephen worked on getting everything set up, and he was a little pushy. Honestly, I could have dealt with him not being present at all during the workshop. I’ll get to that later.
Pocketwizards. I love them. I also love off-camera lighting. I do not claim to be an expert. However, I will say that this entire shoot I felt like I spent a lot more time explaining how to use Pocketwizards and set exposures to properly work with off-camera lighting in different settings. I was more than willing to give my set of Pocketwizards to other girls to shoot with. Afterall, there were only 2-4 supplied by the instructor. And there were 20 girls + her and Stephen. There was very little time spent on the instruction of what the off-camera lighting set up was, how to set your shutter speed and aperture, and how to use the Pocketwizards. I experienced a LOT of frusturation during this shoot, and tried my best to explain how controlling shutter speed affects your available light, and how your aperture affects your off-camera light intake. This was not explained at all. Many girls, when I spoke with them, had some ‘A ha!’ moments with this.
I will by NO means claim that I am an expert with this. And I will by no means claim that I was the only one teaching and the savior of the workshop. I am just stating that I spent my time trying my best to help the other girls. Scarlett spent most of her time shooting for her portfolio with an expensive model that the workshop attendees paid for. Stephen spent time shooting for himself as well, and I believe at one point one of the girls was holding the lighting stand to keep it from blowing over. Additionally, the Pocketwizards “weren’t working” when we took the lighting set up outside, and I believe that Scarlett needed to ask for assistance from other photographers (not workshop attendees) that were present.
This shoot was extraordinarily disappointing, and I realized that little care was taken to teach a thing about off-camera lighting.
Day 3 Dinner: Scarlett did not attend my dinner. Don’t know about others?
Day 3 After Dinner Image Contest: This took forever and the Superbowl was on. We were all willing to meet back at the resort after dinner, but we couldn’t meet in our classroom. We were kicked out since it wasn’t reserved for a long enough period of time. Again, poor planning. We sat in the hall and spent at least 2 hours waiting for everyone’s images to be submitted via the portable hard drive. While we were there, we were taken aside to give video testimonials, and by this point I was frusturated. My testimonial, again, was that I made really great friends. Scarlett spent most of her time at this point editing her images from the shoot. I have no idea why this time wasn’t used to further chat with each of the girls, get to know their business or photography-related issues, and assist with providing answers. Disappointing.
After the image contest, we headed back to the Retro and all of us girls had a blast that night. We took photos of each other and made fun videos. It was really hard to leave them the next morning, but I was so incredibly happy with the friendships I made. They will be friends for life.
Lessons Learned and General Workshop Thoughts:
I had fun, yes. I made some great friends. Do I think I should have had to pay $1500 for great friends? No. And I do not believe that this workshop is “worth it” to others in the future based on the fact that I made great friends. I believe it takes a lucky group of people in the right place at the right time to form friendships like I did, and I do not believe that any workshop can guarantee you that. I believe that workshops should be registered-for based on content.
Planning was poor. Tardiness and delays were consistent.
I felt as though my workshop money was used for the wrong purpose. I was not happy that the workshop was advertised as “for girls only”, and yet we got to spend the entire weekend with Scarlett’s boyfriend, Stephen. He was an unwelcome presence and was rather distracting to both Scarlett and the other girls in attendance. I also felt like (in some small way), my workshop fees paid for his plane ticket (as a business expense) to come visit. The workshop fees were also used to pay the model we worked with on the second day. This is fine, but since Scarlett was shooting for her portfolio during this shoot, it also seemed as though our hard-earned money went towards building her portfolio. This is incongruent with my thoughts on how a workshop leader should act.
I learned very little in regards to photography. Again, posing techniques were not covered. Critiques were general at best. Off-camera lighting was not covered. Editing and workflow techniques, based on other smaller workshops I have attended, were not best practices in the industry.
I felt like the point of the weekend was to make money. For Scarlett. $1500 x 20 = $30,000. Sure, there were fees necessary to carry-out a workshop, but being that we were kicked out of the classroom early, it seems like some areas were skimped. “Prizes” were donations from other photographers and photography companies. Sure, I like some of them, and one of the girls won a Shootsac, but still. Much of the time and focus of the weekend was on creating a DVD, which I’m sure will be for sale in the near future. Please don’t buy it. Sorry, Scarlett, but the content just was not there.
I do think that her workshops could have a future if there is some serious re-work and thought put in. Discrete points and focus topics should be maintained, and Scarlett should focus on the things that she is good at – Marketing. Shoots should be either broken up into smaller groups, or there should be less workshop attendees.
And, finally, I don’t want to sound like a grump. I have attended other workshops, and they have been amazing. I’m just a harsh critic, because I catch on quickly. I want to know more and more, and feel as though workshop leaders should be experts. I do not think that I got my money’s worth, and I think future attendees should consider what they really want to get from this workshop. It may be best for very early beginners or a marketing focus.
I’ll end with this, a quote from the first day: “If your clients are happy, it does not matter what other people think.”
I was a client at this workshop. I matter.