Review: David Ziser Digital Wake-up Call Seminar

David Ziser is currently on tour with his Digital Wake Up Call Seminar. Last night he was in Tampa, and I went to see his presentation.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve never actually been to this sort of seminar before. Occasionally, a big-name photographer will pass through Tampa running some sort of seminar and I’ll toss around the idea of going to see it… but usually I pass. I’ve been a fan of David’s work for some time and so I decided to lose my virginity with his seminar.

Since I’ve never been to any other photographer’s seminar I really don’t have anything to compare it to. But it certainly seemed like a lot of work had gone into making this seminar a success. Tickets are $60 in advance and $80 at the door. In addition to the seminar, you get a goodie bag with offers as well as a DVD from David which is a nice touch because he talks a mile-a-minute during the class. In fact, I really think he should be offering two different classes: one on shooting and one on marketing. It was a long night. I arrived at 5:15 and left at 10:45 with my cell-phone ringing as my wife tried to figure out why I wasn’t home yet from a class that is supposed to end at 10:00.

David has an excellent blog, If you’ve read his blog and studied the tips and techniques that he writes about there, then you’ve already learned 90% of what he will teach at the seminar regarding lighting techniques. This is the reason that I have never gone to a seminar before. The wealth of information that is available for free on the Internet has always made it seem a little stupid to spend money to go sit in a room for five hours. However, David does an extensive talk on marketing which is very informative as well as a section on light room (which I don’t use but seemed well-received by the audience.) Also, many people prefer to learn this way, through instruction, where as I’m more of a “just let me read it myself” kind of guy.

At one point during the program a photographer who was sitting next to me leaned over and said, “I feel like there is a lot of selling going on and not a lot of teaching.” Well, I’m a cynic. I’m always looking for the angle. My radar for when I’m being bamboozled is pretty accurate and I didn’t really feel like David was taking advantage of his audience to try and make as much money as possible. Yes, he certainly talked about a lot of different products that he uses, but you can’t really expect someone to teach you their craft without showing you the tools that they use. The fact that I actually ended up buying some software at the end of the night is proof that I didn’t feel I was being too pressured. If I feel I’m being pressured there is no way you will sell me anything. I had been thinking of buying Lumapix for my album designs and David was selling it with a whole pile of templates, brushes, instructional video and the like. I didn’t plan to spend the money last night but I knew that if I didn’t I would eventually kick myself when I bought the software eventually and didn’t get the value that David was offering.

Is the seminar worth the money? If you’re a photographer who is just starting to learn about shooting portraits at weddings than this seminar will teach you a great deal. David produces some of the most beautiful wedding images you’ll ever see and he makes it look effortless. If you’re already well-versed in the techniques necessary to do great portraiture on location then a lot of what David teaches will be familiar to you. However, during the course of the evening there were two tricks that he showed us that I had never seen before. One involved a high speed shutter sync and the other one had to do with with how he sets up for his formal portraits inside a church. For me, the price of admission was worth it if only for those two pieces of information. If you are a new wedding photographer, this seminar will teach you a great deal.

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