You’ve spent a lot of time looking for a photography workshop that looks great. You read the descriptions, you check the dates and the price, and then you book your space. At that point, most people go about their daily routine patiently waiting for the workshop. The mistake everyone makes is they do not prepare for the workshop.
As with most everything in life the more you know about something, the more you will enjoy it. I always do some research in the weeks or even months before a workshop, and it goes something like this.
I read the photography workshops itinerary and look for any locations or activities that would be new for me. If I am going on a trip and it says we are going to snowshoe then a) I signed up for the wrong workshop or b) I take a class or watch a YouTube so that I know if I can or cannot participate in that event. If I see a location that I have not been, I read the internet or even “gasp” a book about where we will be photographing. If we are going to a foreign country, I learn about local customs and beliefs. You should also ask the instructor questions BEFORE you leave so that you have an excellent understanding of the trip and are prepared rather than just winging it.
I love photographing birds, and even if the workshop is not specifically about birds, I will look and see what kind of birds are possible and if there is any possibility of rarities in the location. Few things in life are more fun for a bird photographer than getting a new bird in your portfolio!
Another habit of mine is to look at a ton of images that other people have taken on a similar workshop. And I look for other photos online from photo sharing sights like 500px and of course social media. I use this to pre-visualize images that I want to create on the workshop. If I happen to be going back to a place that I have previously photographed, I will also look for shots that I messed up on my previous trip and try to make it happen this time around.
Now that I have some goals in my mind, it’s time to chat with the workshop leader again. I go over the images that I am interested in creating with the instructor to see if I am on track for the locations and his itinerary for the workshop. Before you leave for the workshop is also a great time to share some images with the instructor to get some feedback on the photos. This feedback will do two things, the teacher will understand your skill level, and you will know how they think about photography. Talking to the instructor about your educational and photographic goals ahead of time is often easier than during that first meet and greet on the workshop.
The zoo is an excellent place to practice before you venture out on a wildlife photography trip. You’ll get an idea of the facial expressions and some behavioral tips too.
Set up bird feeders in your back yard or patio to work on your technique before a bird photography workshop.
If you have any new gear for the trip, practice with it a lot. You cannot miss a shot because you were fumbling looking for a button.
If you are a “handhold” shooter and the workshop does some landscape or astrophotography, make sure you know how to use your tripod, ballhead and shutter releases.
Check Your Gear
I make sure that my gear is in tip-top shape before every trip. I send my camera to the “spa” for thorough cleaning, and my local camera store does everything including the inside of the viewfinder and of course the sensor. Regularly for me means, before every critical trip like an African Safari and also after any particularly dusty expeditions, like a Tiger Safari in India.
I have had all of my lenses focus system micro-adjusted to match each camera body that I carry. All cameras have a small amount of back or front focus issues, and this micro adjustment can mean the difference between a sharp image and one that will cut glass.
I double check to make sure that the firmware in my cameras and lenses is current. I also make sure that all of the computer software is using the latest version and again that the hardware is also up to date. Remember, internet connectivity may be an issue on a remote trip like the Polar Bear Workshop above the Arctic Circle, and if you have a software problem, you can’t just download a new copy!
How to Prepare for Your Workshop
- Research the location on your own and with the instructor.
- Look for images that you want to create on the workshop.
- Practice techniques that you will need on the workshop.
- Make sure your gear is working correctly.
- Know how to use your equipment.
Leave me a comment and let me know if you have any special tactics that you use to make you got all that you can from your photography workshops.