Becoming a Photographer – Training
Just before I bought my first SLR I posted a question on a London forum about photography training courses. Someone responded to tell me not to bother going on training courses and that I would learn more by looking at pictures on Flickr and reading photography publications like LIFE and National Geographic and that I should practice, practice practice.
I understand where that person was coming from – there is an awful lot to be gained from looking at other people’s work and there is plenty of free information out there about photography skills – but I whole heartedly disagree with the sentiment that training is unimportant.
Even if you have nothing left to learn from a technical perspective, there is so much to learn from others about creativity and there is so much to be inspired by. I really do believe that if you have stopped learning you have hit a creative dead end and you may as well give up. I would be on every training course going if I had the time and resources.
When I got my first SLR I immediately booked onto an introduction to photography course that covered the basics of aperture, composition, shutter speed, ISO, depth of field, focus etc and the way that these things could be used to create different types of picture.
I have since attended various photography workshops and completed an AS Level in Fine-Art photography (oh how I want to go on to finish the A Level and then study Fine-Art photography at degree level And I will when I have fewer other balls to juggle too).
I also have a plan for this year and the types of training/workshops I want to attend to move both my creativity and my business forward.
I think inspiring creative workshops are really important, especially if they force you out of your comfort zone. For a long time my work was entirely documentary so I was used to recording the world around me. When I attended The Mango Lab’s Learning to See in Photography, I learned a lot from working to a weekly brief and the Fine-Art AS Level I did worked on a project basis, which made me work in a conceptual way.
It terrified me that AS Level. I had no clue what I was doing and I was going through a rough time personally and those things combined made it a pretty rocky road for me – I spent the majority of the year doubting myself and wondering why I was bothering but I stuck with it and my photography came on leaps and bounds, as I learned to look at the world around me in a different way.
Workshops I’ve attended have done the same thing. I’ve attended workshops by photographers whose work I admire, including wedding photographer Steve Gerrard (not the footballer…) and fashion photographer Rossella Vanon. This has given me an opportunity to learn how other people work and to adapt my working practices.
Steve’s workshop in particular made me think about light in a way that I hadn’t previously and Rossella’s workshop was so far removed from what I usually do so I found it immensely enjoyable (pop back on Monday when I’ll be blogging the images!).
I think it’s really, really important to cast your net widely when deciding what training will help your development. If, for example, you are a baby photographer and you only attend workshops relating to baby photography, you’re missing a whole world of creative inspiration that could influence the way you work and make your work stand out from the crowd.
Of course getting the basic skills right is hugely important and if you’re struggling in that area you should make it your number 1 priority but once you’ve got the basics down, personal experimentation and learning from other creative people will help you to take the rules and break them to create something wonderful.
Workshops I’d like to attend this year will include a creative one (I’m thinking something around fine-art nudes or some other sort of fine-art workshop that pushes me to work in a different way) and I’ll also be doing something around business planning, sales and marketing which doesn’t get me all that fired up but is necessary, I think, to develop my business.
What do you think about training and workshops? Have you been on any that have really stood out for you? What do you have planed for this year? I’d love to hear what you’ll be doing to develop your photography.