At what point is a photo workshop really full?

It’s easy to consider a workshop full once we’ve received enough registrations to max-out the capacity of the workshop leader(s) to effectively work with everyone who’s participating. I guess, from one perspective that’s a good measure. There’s another measure that may even be more critical, however, especially participants. That’s the workshop agenda.

Before clicking the shutter release button ask yourself some questions about why you have framed the scene the way you have, what doesn’t need to be within the frame and more.

Now I’m making an assumption here. It’s that most people attending a photography workshop are doing so to expand their photography knowledge and enhance their photography. And, I’m assuming that means their ability to identify interesting subjects, see potential compositions, optimize elements in their compositions, understand how various elements impact those composition’s and, consider what they might choose to do in post-capture processing.

I understand, too, that often the workshop doubles as a vacation for some participants so there may be other interests. I have to suggest that if, at least in my workshops, one of those interests is a thing called “rest” participants could be out of luck. There’s a difference between an event being restful and it being restorative, however. It’s with this thought in mind that I develop my workshop content and agendas.

So, to my way of thinking, whether or not a workshop is full is far more agenda driven than it is based on how many photographers are participating. Take the upcoming Shenandoah National Park Photography Workshop as an

Consider your background as an important element in the composition.

example. There are still seats available and of course, I’d like to fill them. My focus, however, is almost totally on content and agenda. Sometimes half to two-thirds of the participants in my workshops are folks who have joined me before. So, we need to keep that in mind, too.

Of course, there is limited time during which to deliver value. Value, in this case, can be defined in several ways. We’re photographers so we look forward to plenty of time behind our tripods and camera. That said, I make the assumption that workshop participants, regardless how experienced and capable they might be, are also interested in what the experience can contribute to their ability to create meaningful and expressive photographs.

Now, some workshop leaders believe they can accomplish this objective while taking advantage of the opportunity to do some photography themselves. Perhaps they can. I have to tell you, though, that I can’t. When I’m behind my

The best time to make the black & white decision is while considering what you want your image to express . . . before you click the button.

camera intent on creating an image, my mind needs to be focused on that task. If I’m paying attention to my workshop participants’ needs, I’m not focused enough on the images that I am trying to create and vice versa. So, when we’re in the field during a workshop, my camera’s stay in the bag. Oh, I might sneak in a couple clicks to record what participants are doing, but even that will be rare.

So, what’s my game plan, you may ask?

Again, let me use the upcoming workshop in the Shenandoah National Park to illustrate. This is where my definition of “Full” comes in. The agenda is designed to see to it that we are immersed in photography from the opening moments on Wednesday afternoon (about 2 pm) until each participant rolls-up their just-printed favorite image of the workshop late Sunday morning. I would not plan on going home physically rested. You can sleep on the plane or plan on catching up once you get home. The days (mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights) will be full.

We used to say that midday was a bad time to shoot because of the harsh light of midday sun. High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, made more popular with the advent of digital

photography has put a damper on that thought process. We’ll stretch the limits of midday shooting and thus HDR shooting and processing will come into play. When we’re not in the field we’ll squeeze in some formal workshop instruction on such

Does the image have to have a 2×3 or 4×5 aspect ratio? Why?

subjects as Design & CompositionSeeing your image before you click the shutter, the basics of Post Capture Processing, and The Art of Landscape Photography.


Even so-called down times will offer us the opportunity to grow in our photography as we use these periods for popular Image Review sessions. These are always a highlight of our days as each participant offers a few images for the group’s appreciation. During image reviews we learn from each other, get to see options and opportunities we may not have considered and use the reviews to fuel our next opportunities in the field.

Our time together is scheduled, focused and intense. Still, while it doesn’t often happen, each participant is always able to “take a breather” if necessary, without negatively impacting others in the group.

So, regardless how many participants we have in the various workshops, they are always full. You should count on it.