Lessons from the Scene: Workshops can be Better than New Equipment by Stanley Leary


By Stanley Leary, www.stanleyleary.com
Figure 1
If you are still looking for a present for a photographer friend, consider a gift certificate to a workshop. If they don't have one then give a VISA or AMEX gift card with a print out of the website to tell them you are giving them the funds to go to the workshop.
Difference between Photography Workshops/Seminars and College Programs
For the most part, Photography Workshops and Seminars are put on by working pros. Most of the college programs have people teaching who have academic credentials.
Some college programs do have working pros teaching, but this is the major advantage of a workshop and seminar. You get to talk to the pros shooting for National Geographic Magazine or Sports Illustrated.
They will teach you tips that will help you use what equipment you already have better and the recommendation for new gear will help you navigate that next purchase.
I continue to go to workshops and help put them on as well. I just attended earlier this month the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar.  That was a great refresher for me, and like always, a chance to talk to other pros doing what I am doing.
Advice to Students
If you are in a college program you need to go to a workshop/seminar to help you meet people in the industry. You may find a great place for an internship.
I have learned more in a weeklong photo workshop, than a semester of college classes. One of the best reasons for going is, that’s all you’re doing when you’re there.
You don't stop after an hour and then go take an English class and then later to a history class. You are not working on other papers and projects at night that is not related to photography.
Figure 2
One of my favorite programs is the Youth With A Mission's School of Photography. This is a 16 week photography program where guest speakers are brought in to get the students hands on training.
Many of the students have gone on to create their own businesses in photography and many have incorporated photography into other careers.
Tips to make the most of a workshop/seminar
•     Always have business cards. Gives you opportunity to share with not just the speakers, but those in class with you.
•     Always have a portfolio with you. With iPads, Laptops and photo books you should never not have your most recent portfolio to show for feedback and to help you grow.
•     Eat with the instructors if you can. Ask them if they have meal plans and take them to lunch.  This will be your best investment ever. Ask questions and listen. Don't take them to lunch to tell them all about you. 
•     Take notes.
Write down notes from speakers
Audio record them if they will let you.  Always ask first.
Take notes with your camera. (again ask)
•     Get to know as many of those in your class as you can. Sometimes the people sitting next to you are just as valuable of a resource as the teachers.
Cost saving tips
•     Register earlier to take advantage of discounts
•     Find the social media pages for the workshops. This is a great way to share rides or even rooms. I find many college students will fit a few people into a hotel room and save.
•     Find out if Nikon or Canon and sometimes a camera store will provide free cleaning for your cameras. They may limit how many items, but if they will clean two cameras that can save you $30 to $50 for each camera.
•     Try and eat at the meeting space rather than driving all around for lunches and dinners. You will find many of the speakers eat right on site to save on time. You can pack a sandwich and get something small just to sit at their table with other attendees.
•     Always let people know there are potential jobs in the area. If you go to a college be sure and check to see if any of the sports teams are playing nearby. Going early or staying later you may tag on a paying assignment which will help lower your costs.
Southwestern Photojournalism Seminar's
2-Minute Shows 
Southwestern Photojournalism Conference is March 1 - 3, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. They still have some slots left for the student practicum that takes place February 28 - March 1. 
2-Minute Shows: The conference has a great opportunity that I don't know any other seminar or conference offers. The first 45 to signup can show their work to everyone in 2 minutes or less.  This is such a great tradition that everyone loves to see everyone's work.
If you come to SWPJC and do not sign up for the 2-Minute Show you will have missed a great opportunity--especially if you are trying to get jobs or do this professionally in the long run.
My suggestion to any photographer who wants to be sure their loved ones know what they for a gift is suggest a workshop you might want to attend.