Financing the Cost of Attending Workshops

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by lilmsmaggie, Jul 25, 2010.

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  1. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    I'm new to LF photography but already, I can see my potential in selling quality prints as a way to gain more experience and cover the cost of attending a workshop. Let's face it - workshops are very expensive. If I could sell a print or two, to pay for a workshop, it would be more than worth it to me.

    I just finished a 1-week workshop that was inexpensive compared to the costs of a lot of workshops being offered and it was well worth the money I spent. If one attends one or two workshops a year, the cost of the workshop, plus travel expenses, hotel accommodations, and food quickly add up. One could easily spend $1500 or more on a single workshop not including travel, food and lodging. And in my case, the cost of a rental car.

    So if you've spent $1500 to gain the knowledge to produce a fine print - where's the breaking even point for selling the artistic byproduct (print, etc.)?

    Knowing ones potential market and pricing accordingly, really means knowing your potential target clientèle. I think it is just as easy to under-price one's work as it is to over-price it. Undercutting yourself is not a good idea, so how do you find a balance between the time and work you put into making a print, and offsetting those cost in the selling price? How much is your time worth? Your creativity? I think the materials cost is much easier to figure out.

    Also, at this stage in my photographic development, I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time in the traditional darkroom. I think scanning film negs and making prints from digital negs would be my best option. I'm way ahead of the curve in setting up a digital darkroom versus a traditional darkroom.

    So my question is this: How does one promote themselves in such a way, as to finance attending 2 maybe 3 workshops a year?
     
  2. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    The problem is, no one is going to buy your prints and pay you the kind of money that you'd need to finance a workshop selling one or two prints unless you're already well known as an artist. In that case, you don't need to attend a workshop, you'd be qualified to teach it. Workshops are playtime for rich amatuers and a way for professionals to fleece the rich. Professional fine art photographers (that is to say, those who sell prints regularly) don't go to workshops. They're either self taught, or they went to art school or a university art program and got a fine arts degree.

    How do I know? I'm a full time professional artist. I earn 100% of my living selling my prints, licensing my photos, and occasionally doing commercial work. I learned the basic technical stuff while earning my art degree at Indiana University and taught myself by practice everything else. Workshops are overpriced and basically involve paying to spend time in the presence of someone famous so you can brag to our friends about it.
     
  3. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    I don't see it that way Chris,but I'm not a Professional Fine art Photographer,I'm a truck driver and not a rich one.Been to one of these workshops and thought it was great,did not cost me over over $350.00 travel,motel, food and workshop.Made some good friends and learned a few things about photography,going to another in the next couple of months and looking forward to it.I guess it on your point of view.
    Mike
     
  4. lns

    lns Member

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    While I totally agree with you that workshops aren't the way to become a professional photographer, I think the above language is a little harsh and probably came out differently than you intended.

    I have never been to a workshop, and having a busy family to take care of, I am sure I never shall. I certainly wouldn't be qualified to teach one. However, for those of us who spent college learning something other than photography, it seems like a great idea. You get hands-on instruction, an uninterrupted time to photograph and print, and contact with other students interested in the same thing.

    -Laura
     
  5. apconan

    apconan Member

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    nope, chris is right. i'm sure it came out exactly as he intended.
    if you didn't take photo in college, there are limitless ways to learn a variety of techniques. any self-respecting teaching program doesn't call themselves a 'workshop', because workshops have now become synonymous with scam. "Pay me $5000 to accompany me to Iceland! Does not include airfare, accommodation, or expenses! In fact, includes absolutely nothing!"
     
  6. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've done occasional workshops, and have found them valuable in terms of understanding my own creative process. I primarily learned most of my photography in art school. I find it, at times, quite helpful to come together for a weekend workshop to look at and talk about my work, and the work of others. I did one week long workshop in Maine about 5 years ago, and found it propelled my work forward in a way that I had not imagined it would, but I also felt after, that I really don't need to devote quite so much time and money to workshops, so I've only done about 2 shorter and less expensive workshops since.

    I must say, like others, there are a lot of workshops out there that look to be a total rip off, and I would simply say, buyer beware. The best education will far more likely be found in an accredited university, and not by cobbling together an education through a lot of workshops.
     
  7. marcmarc

    marcmarc Member

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    Chris Crawford stated it perfectly. I also feel the same way about portfolio reviews. These are where one pays big $$ to have a photographer from a prestigious photo agency or a curator from a art museum look a sample of your work and then give you their opinion. While I'm not a pro, I'm very happy with how my work is growing and expanding with lots of trial and error experience along with a couple of great teachers at local city colleges where I took a couple of classes.
     
  8. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Chris and others of a similar mind could be right about some workshops. But I can say that two of the most rewarding days of my photographic life were spent in Bob Carnie's darkroom in Toronto learning the finer points of split grade printing with Les McLean. I had taught myself the basic concepts, but the time and money I spent on that workshop took my prints to a whole new level. And for my money I get brag to my friends that I got to spend time in the presence of two famous someones!

    As to what I took to be the central question the OP posed before the topic wandered off course, I think that few art photographers, or artists in general for that matter, can pay for all of the equipment, supplies, and other expenses associated with producing their art, let alone provide a living for themselves and whatever dependents they may have. Most of us do it as a labor of love. I think it was Ruth Bernhard who said, "I am an amateur. Amateur is the french word for lover, you know."
     
  9. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I don't see it quite the way Chris does, and it's hard to understand knowing that he offers workshops himself. Anyway, not going to workshops might be right for him, but different people learn differently. Some have no trouble with learning from books, others need hands-on experimentation combined with peace and quite to learn it all themselves, but many benefit from face-to-face group efforts with instructions as in workshops.

    There is no one-way-fits-all when it comes to learning.

    For people without a formal education in photography, workshops are a good alternative to books and instructional videos. I don't mind a penny I've spend on workshops, but one has to be selective, because there are some bad ones out there too. The best way is to talk to people who have already taken the workshop and ask them what they got out of it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2010
  10. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I just signed up for Project Basho's course in Philadelphia.
    Tri Colour Gum with Christina Anderson.

    I think three friends from Toronto are going to join me.

    $500 bucks all in , chance to travel into the States, which is our familys favourite outings. See a new city , and learn a process from an expert.

    Can't get any better than that and I cannot wait.
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    The first APUG conference was held here in Toronto.
    We even got Sean to attend, over 15 instructors, lots of headaches, met the owners of Harmon.

    The single most important thing I took away from this was the friendships of instructors and attendees. From that date, I still talk weekly with some I met that first conference , The referrals of their friends and meeting them has allowed me to grow as a printer and I believe some workshops can be the best investment one can make.
     
  12. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    I think it would depend on the specific workshop. I haven't done one in about 30 years, but it was a great experience. There's something to be said for spending time with people who share your passion- living/eating/breathing photography for an extended period of time.
    As stated earlier, look into the workshop, and it's references, before committing.
     
  13. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Curt, there are expensive workshops that are no more than glorified photo holidays with some tuition thrown in. One of my neighbours here in Turkey runs them, I wouldn't recommend her to anyone.

    I've been on excellent fairly priced workshops but others are grossly over priced despite the main featured tutors/photographers being the same, it's the organisers who are overly commercial & greedy.

    To the OP:

    Personally I wouldn't recommend a week long workshop, it's to much, a 3/4 day one is intense enough if well run. In weighing up the costs you need to set against them the probably significant wastage in materials learning via books, and trials & failures as well as the time you'll save climbing the learning curve.

    As good workshops usually incorporate portfolio critique session, which are extremely valuable, give yourself time - maybe 6 months/a year before scheduling another, that way you have time to shoot new work taking on board what you learnt at the first one so taht your portfoliio has progressed by the second workshop,

    Presentation & discussion of your own work at a workshop is invaluable, it's the feedback of other participants as well as the tutors that's key, it's like an interrogation, but lively and free thinking. The one question you'll repeatedly get asked about your images is "What are you trying to say".

    Ian
     
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  15. Exeter2010

    Exeter2010 Member

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    Lately, I've been asking myself a lot of questions about things like, "where is my photography going?", and "Is there some fundamental thing I'm missing here?" and I'm sure a lot of other questions most photographers (with the possible exception those who are already Professional Fine Art Photographers) ask themselves from time to time. I guess it would help me quite a bit to get involved with other local photographers and like minded people interested in traditional photography for some dialogue and some sharing and some exchange of ideas. With the aim toward growing as a photographer. I'm beginning to think that at some point, one cannot grow further without this kind of contact. (I'm sorta reclusive and don't show my work much, so I suppose some of what I'm saying here is painfully obvious anyway).

    The point is, it would be worth quite a bit to me to spend some time with others doing similar work to my own and I can't think why a workshop wouldn't be a great venue for this. Sure, my wife says things like "I like it", or "It's too dark" about my prints, but there comes a time when one might could use a little more than that in the way of constructive criticism. And all that before even considering what one stands to learn from the course or workshop. Oh, and as some others here have already stated, some quiet time, focused and without interruption, doing what one loves to do. Yes, choose carefully and get some advice from those who've gone before, but maybe not dismiss outright as scams or playtime for the rich. I'm open to the idea. I might even be able to sell a print or two as the result of the contacts and exposure.
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I just posted the question you need to ask yourself "What are you trying to say" with your images. (Previous post)

    Think themes/projects look at what else interests you mix/match the two.

    Ian


     
  17. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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    Workshops are very important for the photographs I make as a photographer. The workshops that helped me get going were those taught by Monte Zucker. He became my coach, mentor & friend. Don't you think you need a coach to help you along the way? Someone who sees the world like you do and can help you get better with your art?

    I've had also the good fortune of taking workshops with Ken Sklute, Doug Box and Hanson Fong. They are all very valuable. I learn from every workshop I take. I've met photographers from some of them who are now my friends. Check out Rick DeLorme from Michigan. I've helped him at gigs and he did my daughters wedding in Malibu California.

    I'm also involved with our local PPA organization and we put on about 9 workshops each year that at held at our monthly meetings. We average 150 plus people at each meeting.

    I also subscribe to many magazines, photography as well as Vogue, Vanity Fair and a few others. I desire to know about people, what they wear, makeup, clothing, posing, lighting, what's in style. I use that information along with what Monte Zucker taught me to make photographs. People like what I do. I get almost all my business by referral.
     
  18. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Another suggestion to the OP:

    Try meeting up with some of the APUG members nears you as a group or individually, it's cheaper than workshops and the sharing work is still valuable. I've met up twice now with a great bunch in Cornwall (UK) as well as many others individually. What was interesting this Sprig was 3 of us despite being at the same locations made entirely different images, style wise as well as actual content, and we are planning a possible exhibition, maybe publication as well for about 2 years time (we paln to meet up there again).

    APUG's a great resource I met up with another member here in Turkey 2 weeks ago, and am off down to shoot further south with him, and learn Plat/Palladium printing in a couple of days. He's the first film photographer I've met here in nearly 4 years !!!

    Ian
     
  19. Exeter2010

    Exeter2010 Member

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    Ian - Big second on the comments about getting together with local folks doing the same thing you're doing (film photography) and getting a little 'association' together to learn together and review work together. That's what it sounds like you have going and I envy you that. All workshops aside, I think feedback from others in the same pursuit has to be one of the most valuable things a photographer can get.

    my two bits.....Cheers!
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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  21. Exeter2010

    Exeter2010 Member

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    Ian - Thanks for the tip. I've only done a very quick perusal of the "Local" forum; might be worth a closer look...
     
  22. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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    I apologize if I'm blunt with some of my comments. Owning most any small business, especially in the 21st century is a challenge!

    I'm new to LF photography but already, I can see my potential in selling quality prints as a way to gain more experience and cover the cost of attending a workshop. Let's face it - workshops are very expensive. If I could sell a print or two, to pay for a workshop, it would be more than worth it to me.

    Great, you have taken up Large Format Photography!

    You need to sell more than a print or two or you need to keep a day job. Don't look at getting sales to cover just costs. Work on more than that. Aim high because you may come in lower than that!

    I just finished a 1-week workshop that was inexpensive compared to the costs of a lot of workshops being offered and it was well worth the money I spent. If one attends one or two workshops a year, the cost of the workshop, plus travel expenses, hotel accommodations, and food quickly add up. One could easily spend $1500 or more on a single workshop not including travel, food and lodging. And in my case, the cost of a rental car.

    Some workshops I pay that per person. That's one reason why good professional photographers charge what they do!

    So if you've spent $1500 to gain the knowledge to produce a fine print - where's the breaking even point for selling the artistic byproduct (print, etc.)?

    You have to figure that out! Sorry! Look at the workshop expense as an investment. Go there to learn. You can do some socializing but that shouldn't be the main focus of your time! With Monte Zucker we started at breakfast around 7:30 AM took a few breaks, lunch, dinner, then worked until sunset. Made beautiful sunset photos at the beach in Florida!

    Knowing ones potential market and pricing accordingly, really means knowing your potential target clientèle. I think it is just as easy to under-price one's work as it is to over-price it. Undercutting yourself is not a good idea, so how do you find a balance between the time and work you put into making a print, and offsetting those cost in the selling price? How much is your time worth? Your creativity? I think the materials cost is much easier to figure out.

    You need to know your competition as well, especially when first starting out. Some who have a "name" associated with notiority get more money. It's usually taken them a long time to get to that level!

    Also, at this stage in my photographic development, I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time in the traditional darkroom. I think scanning film negs and making prints from digital negs would be my best option. I'm way ahead of the curve in setting up a digital darkroom versus a traditional darkroom.

    Then find a good printer that works for you. Scanning is an alternative but I recommend getting a quality lab to make you prints be it analog or digital. Three good ideas to help with time management:
    1. Delegate
    2. Delegate
    3. Delegate


    So my question is this: How does one promote themselves in such a way, as to finance attending 2 maybe 3 workshops a year?

    Many ways. I'll mention a couple. Do you go to a dentist? How about using the office walls to show your work? Rotate the prints every 3 months or so. Do it for free. See if you can have business cards on site. Where do you do your banking? Another spot to check out. Your Church or other places of worship? The library. Coffee shops. Flower shops. Bakeries. Offer to do photography for them.
    I make photos of cake, flower, presider and give a disc to them. Great PR.
    Restaurants. Retail stores. Hotels & motels. Let your mind wander. Try them all. Even if they say "no" keep on trying.
     
  23. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    I really don't understand the degree of negativity from professionals artists, especially those responses from those who themselves give workshops.

    I don't have a formal education in photography. My education and profession is in IT. Moreover, I'm employed with the State of California. For anyone who has been following the news, you know that California State employees were (1) furloughed for 18 months, and (2) and are now being threatened with making Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. As far as I'm concerned, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a pompous jerk who should have stuck with making lousy movies with very little dialog from him. In my situation, this little political game GAS played with us employees cost me $1K a month in lost wages for 18 months, and I had to declare bankruptcy. There are state employees that make far less than I do and fared less. Some loss their homes.

    Maybe I am naive, but I just spent a week with an APUG member who was not only a wonderful person, but a gifted and well respected photographer.

    The money I spent was well worth the time and effort I put into it. And if he offers me the opportunity to do so again, I would gladly jump at the opportunity to learn from him again.

    I may be naive but I didn't just get off the boat. I didn't just take the first workshop I happened to see advertised. I considered my options. I've attended college classes in photography; crowded darkrooms, ill-equipped labs, very little personal attention to students. It's a toss of the dice. You may get an excellent instructor who loves to teach, --then maybe not.

    Good way to get frustrated in my opinion. But for many, it is the only option other than learning on ones own and being self-taught.

    I'm not trying to bait anyone. I think I can subsidize the cost of attending a well put together workshop that doesn't broadcast itself as a rip-off. Oh yeah, many of them do just that: "Hey look at me! I'm rich and famous, and I cater to the rich and famous and those that don't know any better. Come spend a day or a week with me!" And by the way, you're on your own when it comes to lodging accommodations and food and you pick up the tab for travel as well.

    In any case, I thought this was a presentation and marketing thread. I had hoped to get some good advice from "professional artists," not participate in a flaming contest.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2010
  24. lilmsmaggie

    lilmsmaggie Member

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    Thanks Bill, your responses are very helpful. These are the types of comments I was looking for. Please understand, I'm not trying to make money here, that isn't the goal. I want to learn how to "make photographs," not take pictures. Anyone can take a picture.

    There are a lot of LF photographers here on the West Coast. I spent a fantastic and memorable week with one of them.
     
  25. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    No one was trying to flame you. We're telling you the truth. I don't teach workshops. I offer private one on one instruction for those looking to learn something specific, and it is not a big moneymaker for me. I have maybe 2 people a year hire me to do that. My income comes from selling my prints, licensing photos as stock, and doing a little commercial work that includes graphic design as well as photography. I do all those different things because IT IS HARD TO MAKE A LIVING JUST DOUNG PHOTOGRAPHY EVEN FOR THE BEST OF US.

    Bill Clark talked in his posts about the benefits he got from workshops with Monte Zucker. Zuzker was a wedding and portrait photographer (he died a few yrs ago), and if you want to do weddings and portraits then a workshop with someone like Zucker might be worth it if the instructor is a good teacher (not all great photographers are). Wedding and portrait work is marketed to consumers and is the only type of photography with mass appeal. What I mean is that EVERYONE hires portrait photographers and most people go to them multiple times to photograph children, etc. as they age. Most people hire a photographer when they marry. Because its a mass marketed form of photography, there are trends that emerge and die and are replaced by new trends and workshops are a good way to keep up with whats hot in the industry.

    I presume, however, that you, the OP, are not a wedding/portrait photographer but an aspiring artist. The game is far different in my field, fine art. It is VERY hard to get established and make a living. I have been HOMELESS...more than once....because I could not earn a living when i was younger and could not find a 'real job' either because of the economy where I live. Ask yourself if you can afford to not eat for days at a time, or to lose your home. You said you declared bankruptcy. The last thing you need is to waste money on a dream that is nearly unattainable. Fine art photography is fine for young men like me who were willing/able to literally starve, or for the wealthy. If you have middle class pretensions or kids to support...concentrate on working a real job or go into wedding photography.
     
  26. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

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    I have an MFA in photography and use it to teach at a university, but I still see the benefit to attending workshops if you are trying to learn something specific that may not be offered anywhere else. Wet plate, for example. There are some scams out there, but there are very good teachers, too.
     
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