Recently, I attended a very interesting workshop on street photography in Rome, Italy. The experience has been very exciting and fulfilling, not to mention the new perspectives on this genre that I was able to pick up.
Just to give you an idea of the structure of the workshop, I will break down the different phases:
- Day 1: Introduction to street photography and its evolution from photo reportage, Introduction to several shooting styles followed by the an introduction of master for each style and her remarkable photographs, Practical tips and technical settings for street photography, Critical Review of the photographer’s portfolio.
- Day 2: Photographic session on the streets, Introduction to post production and critical review of the photographs made on the day.
I would like to highlight that this is quite an intense formula. Indeed, we spent 6.30 hours undertaking the activities of the day, with a break of 1.30 hours. Overall, it was quite dense and tiring. So if you like for a more relaxed approach, you might be better off looking for a longer workshop, instead of one concentrated on two days.
I know that generalizing this experience is not advisable. Indeed, the workshops organised in your country and city might be completely different and offer very different experiences and learning outcomes. Nevertheless, I would like to share with you which have been the best aspects of this experience, so that you might take them into account the next time you are wondering whether to attend a photography class or not.
1. Go Back to Basics
Most of the times when attending a workshop, other people will be there too. It is indeed very rare to find a one-to-one workshop setup, and even if you could, prices would inflate enormously. This means that some people will be more experienced than you are but some might be not. Therefore, the typical entry-level workshop tries to communicate the concepts in a very direct and understandable fashion, which is understandable no matter the degree of experience of the audience.
This is incredibly good, especially if you have been into the genre for a bit. Indeed, this setup gives you the opportunity to refresh some of the key concepts in photography and street photography, more specifically.
Going back to the basis knowledge of photography might enable you to discover the underlying roots of you passion for the medium, which made you approach photography at first.
Moreover, this arrangements opens up to another interesting situation. If some of the other attendees realises your that your level of experience is higher than theirs, they might take you as a reference point. Therefore, you might be asked to explain difficult concepts in an easy way, which will help you understanding whether you really absorbed the concept or not.
Moreover, I have personally realised that as you become more proficient in something, you tend to underestimate the positive influences you can get by observing the masters. Therefore, by looking at the basics of photography you might be able to catch some concepts, styles and approaches to the medium that you had lost on the way. Furthermore, being the world of photograph so vast, you might get to know new photographers, who might offer you some value added concepts.
This is exactly what happened to me. Even though I have been photographing the streets for a while, I cannot say that I know every photographer who made this form of art great. I know some of them and I ignore many others. Therefore, approaching the genre with a fresh perspective allowed me to get to know new names, whose styles I loved immensely.
2. Meet New People
As I mentioned above, most of the times workshops are social. So, depending on the space availability, you might find yourself working and learning with many other photographers. This is a great opportunity.
Firstly, it is good to network. Indeed, you will meet people who are interested in photography as you and might like to see what you have to offer. If you have a blog or social networks account, they might become new followers or users. If you sell your own product, they might become new customers. Networking is always good, indeed. It is especially beneficial when you are sure to be meeting people, who share your same interests – a niche market which you might exploit.
Secondly, the other photographers you will meet will approach the medium from very different perspectives. Indeed, photography, as any other arts, is shaped by one’s cultural awareness, experiences and influences. Therefore, you might get in touch with new styles, techniques and ideas, which might change the way you make photographs and make you a better photographer. Surely, by looking at what others have to say through their images, you will be enriched greatly, both humanly and culturally.
Finally, you are forced to photograph in a group. Many times – at least to me – photography is an individual experience. I am a lonely wolf crawling on the streets in search of the inspiring photograph. Very rarely, I photograph with someone else – unless I am on holiday with other people. Being with others might be good at times, especially if you are not used to it.
When you practice a sport – even jogging or going to the gym – you might notice that you tend to perform better when there are other people around. This is because we want to be perceived as better athletes than the ones we really are. If we repeat this process long enough, thanks to a better and more intense training we actually become better athletes. The same applies to photography. Photographing with other forces us out of our comfort zone. As a result, we might become better photographers over the long run.
3. Have Your Work Reviewed
When you work on a series, portfolio or photo-book, you will have to make several complicated decisions. One of these is about choosing the right images, which fit one with the other and tell a story. This is incredibly hard, as it requires many skills, which are not taught on online tutorials or blogs. You have to learn these skills by extensive studies and practice.
Moreover. another great problem exists: reviewing your own work. The main problem with reviewing our own photographs is that we get entrenched to them. Indeed, every time I look at a photograph I made, I remember everything about that moment. The more difficult it was to make that image, the harder it is to me to throw it away. We tend to attach a greater value to things that were difficult to get. I am sure that this happened to you too – maybe not in photography but in another occasion during your life.
These two reasons explain why having your photographs reviewed by an external expert is an optimal choice.
Firstly, he will most likely possess the skills to best advise you on how to compose you series. He will be able to guide you through what to include and what to exclude in order to share your message as efficiently as possible.
Secondly, he will not be influenced by the experience of making the photographs. Therefore, he will be able to separate the real value of the image from the personal value we attached to the photograph. This type of feedback can be hard to hear but your work will surely benefit from it.
My experience in a street photograph workshop was exceptional. The reasons I shared with you are purely subjective and personal and probably depend on multiple factors. However, you might take the following three reasons into account next time you plan to attend a workshop.
Firstly, you will go back to the basics of photography. This will give you the chance to learn anything you missed out or to refresh some important concepts, techniques and influencers.
Secondly,you will be able to meet new people. This is good for several reasons such as: networking, discovering new inputs for your photography and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
Finally, you can have your work reviewed by an external expert. This is exceptional if you want to create a powerful and effective series or if you want to know the real intrinsic value go your photographs by getting rid of many prejudices.
‘Learn from the Masters’ series:
- Learn from the Masters: René Burri
- Learn from the Masters: Bruce Davidson
- Learn from the Masters: Bruce Gilden
- Learn from the Masters: Elliott Erwitt
- Black and White or Colour Photography?
- How to Find Your Unique Style
- 3 Tips to Be More Productive When Making Street Photographs
- Why Equipment Matters
- Photography Basics and Street Photography: Composition
- Photography Basics and Street Photography: ISO
- Photography Basics and Street Photography: Aperture
- Photography Basics and Street Photography: Shutter Speed