As long as I’ve been passionate about photography, I’ve been a voracious learner. I openly learn from people who I think have something to offer. Case in point is that I subscribe to a whopping 144 different weblogs ranging from technique blogs to other wedding photographers’ blogs. By keeping track of so much out there, I really feel like I’ve improved my photography end-to-end by leaps and bounds. And for the last couple of years, I’ve really tried to make it a point to share my experiences and learnings from wedding & portrait photography with others. I mean, what have I got to lose? Call it “Paying it Forward” if you will, but it’s all about offering something to others.
So last month I lead an outdoor portrait workshop with 11 colleagues in San Francisco (North Beach & Baker Beach). Since it’s something I’m quite familiar with, I felt I could help others learn some tricks to taking better outdoor portraits. I tried to break things down as much as possible to make sure I could actually deliver against what I was offering to my students.
Before the photo shoot, I held a discussion session about what folks should prepare for with a portrait session including goals around style & location. I didn’t want to dwell on equipment and settings since I felt it would get us away from most important part of the photo session – the couple. I used this presentation as a guide to help everyone focus and reference what I thought were the important things to keep in mind.
You can download the powerpoint presentation here.
After the session, I followed up with each student to ensure they had some specific examples of portraits which they wanted to refer to during the photoshoot. Yes, I had them all do homework I required this because I wanted the students to find what THEY loved and not just try to re-create photos I’ve taken. Not surprisingly, the students showed me a pretty wide variety of reference portraits.
Well, with ALL that said, here are some of the results!
I’ll start with some photos which I took during the photo session. While taking these photos, I was trying to provide specific points for the students to keep in mind and show where & how I position myself for the photos. Again, I tried to stay away from camera settings, but was happy to clarify how to accomplish a shot from a technical nature.
Here’s a selection of the photos from the students. As students were taking photos, I would chimp with them and ask about their settings and most importantly, if they were getting shots that they liked. I was also trying to setup poses/shots for each student based on their personal goals. I’ve picked 3 photos from each that I think represents their time & efforts very well. The photos were taken by the students, but I did the final editing:
After the photoshoot, I’ve spent time with students to go over their experiences before & during the photo shoot. I really want to understand if they learned what they had hoped for and how the session could have been improved.
I certainly found this session very challenging! I know there were just too many students at the session to really give each student the time I think they deserved. Many times I made the mistake of basically just telling the students “okay, go for it” and simply let them shoot away. This confused the students and the couple being photographed. A huge creative concern for me is that I ended up relying too much on poses during this session. My usual portrait sessions are a mix of poses & really casual/romantic stuff. With so many students, I tightened up a lot and just went to “winning poses” for the couple. Certainly, the poses aren’t bad, but I do think the variety of photos and the more casual nature of my usual portrait sessions isn’t represented with how I lead this larger session. I have other areas of improvement I’m still mulling over and I’m collecting feedback from the students about this.
In retrospect, I have a MUCH better understanding of how tough it is to run a formal learning session (call it a workshop if you want). While I put a lot of time into the planning, I still think I have a many improvements I can make to such sessions. I know the students appreciated the time & opportunity and I’d like to ensure that any future learning sessions I lead provide the most for everyone’s time & effort.
Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank our models, Krystal & Deven for their time and patience with us! They were real troopers with the posing and the weather. It was quite cold & windy out on the beach. While I’m used it (I was in a t-shirt & shorts), I think I was the only one out there so unaffected by the cold! I wish you two the best with your wedding later this year and I hope you enjoy your portraits for years to come!