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Workshops and group shoots - just one guy's view
Old 12-20-2006, 12:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I've been shooting for (counts....) 6-ish years now. I started out wanting to just shoot places and things, then got interested in "documentary" stuff, then decided portraits would rock, and thru some twists of events, ended up doing a whole bunch of "pretty girl" work.

As a rank beginner (meaning, my early work was RANK!), I took classes from a photography shop here in Atlanta as well as a few - just a few - workshops. I chose my workshop attendance based on how much it would cost, who was putting it on, and the model line up. If all of those ingredients added up for me, I attended.

(keep this in mind as we move forward in my ramble - I was shooting 100% film - with a few notable exceptions, mostly b+w - doing my own processing and printing in a rented darkroom)

The first such event I attended was a very small event. It was intended to be a one on one event - the mentoring photographer and me. I was to spend two hours learning directly from the mentor about *how* to shoot. Overall, I was mixed about my experience with that event. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I do know, however, that I got three images out of that day that I still show as some of my better work. No, I did not provide the models with images afterwards.

The next event I attended was a weekend long workshop utilizing different locations and a variety of models. It was my first experience with Over The Shoulder Shooting, Model Hogging, and general boorish behavior from the attendees as well as some of the alleged instructors. Again, however, I came out with a ****e ton of images to add to my growing portfolio, and did so at a cost I could not have done on my own. There was no way I could have paid for the 4 or 5 models, the 3 MUAs, rented the lighting equipment, or secured the locations without the event. Other than a few Bad Practices, the event was run smoothly and professionally. Again, there was no requirement by me to provide images to the models, although I did. But only those images I felt were my best work. A few models didn't get anything from because, frankly, the shots I did with them sucked - AND I was still shooting film! In addition, I had one model begin to <em>demand</em> images from me.

In those early days of digital, film shooting was expensive. If I paid $250 (for example) to attend a workshop, I had to take into account an additional $200-$300 for film and processing. If I shot b+w, I had to take into account *HOURS* of my own time processing the film, making contact sheets, selecting "the best" from the those sheets, then hand printing my images. Just one 8x10 b+w image sent to a model would cost me well over $15 to produce. On top of that, when I did shoot color, I shot chromes! Running down to my local foto-mat to run off a few 12 cent prints was not an option.

When I chose which workshops or events to attend, I had to take into account my total cost, which was BEYOND the fee for attending.

Then, of course, there was useage.

At the first two workshops and various classes I attended, I got model releases which allowed me self-promotional use. That meant, to me, that I could use the images I created of those models in my land-based physical portfolio, my personal website, and on such message boards as Garage Glamour, to show off what I was capable of and to get comments, critiques, and suggestions from a community of photographers whose work and opinions I respected and valued. I passed on other glamour shoots because it was made very clear that the work I created at that workshop could NOT be used on-line! I could hang prints on my wall, or put 'em in my physical portfolio, or hell, even have them in my wallet, but I was not allowed on-line useage without paying an additonal fee.

I have since attended two other events where I feel like I met some incredible people - photographers, models, and MUAs. I have also felt comfortable enough with the event organizers to express to them when I felt an instructor was Model Hogging or that the bumps and hurdles such events are heir to were not being taken care of, and to feel that my opinion was heard and appreciated.

To this day, as better as I've gotten, I will not pay to attend a workshop or group shoot where I am [em]required[/em] to provide images to the models afterwards or where I have to pay an additional fee to use my images for self-promotion and education.

Will I provide images to workshop models? Hell yes! But only when I feel I am providing them my best work. I don't want to send a model any image I feel is less than what I am capable of doing. Am I timely in providing images to workshop models? Hell no! I'm horrible about doing so. I have my myriad reasons - full-time day job, part-time night job, family, my own weekend model shoots, confidence in my post-production skills, etc.

So - to close my ramble - those of you on here who are looking at workshops and events and wondering where to spend your money - DO NOT base your attendance simply on the name of the organizer or the sponsors. In fact, don't even depend on the published model line up (none of the shoots I have attended had all the models expected to attend - I have noticed most promoters now say "scheduled to attend" - good for them!). Don't ask the promoters about the events. Find people who have been to their workshops and ask for their opinions. Remember, too, one man's Great Experience may be another man's Rip Off. I've heard huge complaints from attendees of workshops I loved, and I had complaints about workshops other saw no problems with.

Weigh your costs. There is the fee for the event - then there are the additional fees of post-production, prints or digital image to the models and/or MUAs, maybe even model releases.

As with lighting, lenses, and cameras, go for the best value for [em]your[/em] dollar. Avoid the marketing hype. Look for the return on your dollar. Do you need hands on instruction? Do you want unique "yours only" shots? Do you prefer lectures and demonstrations over actually doing?

(jeeeez, I'm as long winded as some others!)

Think about it... and feel free to ask me how I feel about the shoots I've attended
Ed Selby
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Promotional releases are they really valid?
Old 12-20-2006, 12:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice post. Great points. On "promotional use," releases, that is a "gray" or "grey" area. While I'm no laywer, but as a State of Texas Certified Mediator, from what I have seen, any image placed on-line used to "promote" yourself (publicly) where you may gain a benefit, monetary or otherwise, such as more models wanting to work with you, could be considered "commercial use" if challenged in a court of law--again, I'm no attorney, and if I was, it'd still be up to the judge and jury based on precedence case-law and the mitigating circumstances. I'm sure someday those "promotional" releases that run rampant in tons of workshops will be questioned.

While at my workshops, where we charge a lot less than others, "commercial" releases which pretty much cover you from everything except malicious libel and slander, are voluntary--no one forces you to pay the model $50 for the release. And $50 for two to three days hard work, geez, when you look at it the other way, where you get your "so-called" promotional release, which I've seen xeroxed and on one page signed by all the models, even more reason to be skeptical about their validity, what is so bad about that?

I might add, we don't require no images to be provided to the models--heck, they are getting paid. But, when a photographer nails a great shot, why not, great marketing and networking when a model tells other models about your work. Again, not required, but smart for any photographer to send something, at least for networking.

Also, rarely if ever, with a few exceptions when we're going to have someone like a Playmate attend, do we publish who our models are--in fact, got to www.rolandogomez.com and see how many models are announced, by name, link to portfolio, etc., for France, Virgin Islands, Ocala (FL), San Antonio, Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.,--I think like one model is named. We take pride in people coming based on the endorsement of over 2,500 people that have already attended. In fact, using model's "likeness" i.e., images on a workshop page to advertise an event or workshop so people will drop $$$ to come is not "promotional use" it's commercial use of one's likeness--God I hope the model's get compensated to be used for advertising.

Pay $500 to $900 for questionable promotional releases (which I wonder if an attorney has reviewed them), or pay $99 to $399 for a similar event with "optionial" commercial release (approved by an attorney) plus self-promotional rights included regardless if you opt for the commercial release or not. Do the math.

I've seen many "promotional" releases that are basically null and void because of this. It's a greay area...

I also must note, your loyalty to your friends, including other workshop hosts is a plus and shows great character as a person, many people today show no loyalty and the world needs more stand-up people like you. Have a great holiday season, wishing you the best, rg sends!

(Shot with natural sunlight, reflected of course...)
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Promotional releases are they really valid? 
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Re: Workshops and group shoots - just one guy's view
Old 12-20-2006, 01:03 PM   #3 (permalink)

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Great post.

As I am one that used to teach workshops internationally on a monthly basis, I now only have time to teach them sparingly, as recently as 2 weeks ago, with another one in the planning stage.

I take my teaching very seriously, and I am very proud of the feedback that I receive.
David M. Blecman
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Re: Workshops and group shoots - just one guy's view
Old 12-20-2006, 09:56 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I really enjoy workshops for what they provide me. I always learn at least one new technique, I always come away with at least one new friend, and I always have at least one (usually many more) shot I'm really happy with.

Each workshop teacher has his own style and focus. I attended my first workshop with no training in portrait or glamour lighting and learned a lot. Subsequent GB&N workshops taught me about working as a team with another photographer and using natural light and reflectors.

David's recent workshop focused on lighting in small rooms and lighting ratios. So far, all the workshops I've attended were very much worth what I paid. I've never been surprised by any fees at the end, just read everyting you can about it before signing up.

The only disappointing element I've found is that many models do not acknowledge receiving a CD of their images after the shoot. Even if they aren't the best images, it would be nice to receive a return e mail thanking the photographer for his time. Two exceptions being Hillary Marie and Melissa Trout from Rolando's workshop.

I'll continue to balance my time between shoots I set up and workshops. I really want to go back to the Virgin Islands now that I have some new ideas.

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Re: Workshops and group shoots - just one guy's view
Old 12-20-2006, 10:45 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I always find it odd that model's complain about not getting images from photographers from the various workshops, but as you've noted, more often than not they do not acknowlege the receipt or even send a thankyou. Out of about 50 cd's that I've sent out to workshop models, I can count on one hand the number of thankyous. I'm becoming more reluctant to send out CDs.

"The map is not the Territory"
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Re: Workshops and group shoots - just one guy's view
Old 12-20-2006, 11:06 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I have been to Dave's workshops and Rolando's and I sign up for these for different reasons I thought. Dave is very intense so you better be awake, but on locations the atmosphere is a lot more relaxing. Learned from him a lot and worked with some beautiful models. Rolando's workshops, I sort of helped out with couple in Chicago, but he got my attention about the exotic locations like Virgin Islands and Maui. In both workshops I had a chance to shoot a lot with some magnificent models on exotic locations. Rolando is also very good helping you out on individual basis. I couldn't believe he offered to assist and haul the equipment to the Naval gun turette on Water Island so I could have a successful shoot with Holey Dorrough. Thanks, Rolando. I hope to be in both of these excellent photographers' workshops again and compare what i already know and still need to learn. Thanks to both of your, Dave and Rolando. Have Happy Holidays.
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Re: Workshops and group shoots - just one guy's view
Old 12-20-2006, 11:59 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by DaveB View Post

I take my teaching very seriously, and I am very proud of the feedback that I receive.

I'll back that. From personal experience of seeing you teach. Most excellent instructor, true to education of photography.

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