Over years of first taking and then giving photographic workshops, I’ve come to realize that there are a number of reasons people attend. Understanding and responding to those reasons is critical both for marketing my workshops but also for creating the best experience for my workshop participants.

For many workshops, a primary “draw” is the photographer giving the workshop itself. Much as the artist himself or herself is often one of the primary reasons people buy a piece of art, a sense of connection with the photographer, whether it’s someone you’ve met in person or only seen the work of, is often a deciding factor for a client. For these clients (and many others), making sure that you give each some casual personal face time (on location, but not during “best light”, often works well for this.), this will help build that connection (and potentially insure repeat business in the future.) Many of these folks want a glimpse into how I see or think about photograhs, I try and communicate very openly about my processes and thinking both in the field and during critique sessions as well.

For many students, learning to take better photographs more consistently is a goal. (This isn’t surprising, what surprised me most as I started to give workshops was discovering that there were folks for whom this wasn’t a primary goal.) Feedback in critique sessions is a really important tool here, both for providing positive feedback on what works in an image as well as providing constructive suggestions for how the image could be improved. I’ll have more to say on “critique technique” in a future post.

Some students take workshops in part as an introduction to a location, getting some personal tips on the most dramatic locations in an area and the sorts of times and conditions that suit those locations best.

The social aspects of photo workshops aren’t to be ignored, either. Many photographers lack regular face time with groups of photographers that have similar interests, and for them a workshop can be a pleasant immersion that allows them time to meet new photographers and discuss photographic ideas. Shared meals, shared lodging, and other shared “down time” can really contribute to making a workshop a better experience for these clients.

Just having time dedicated to photography can be a gift for many clients, busy lives and families leave many aspiring photographers too distracted to usually manage a full day devoted to photography, much less a week. A workshop provides an easily accessible framework for people to put the rest of their lives aside for a while and engage with their photographic passions, making a workshop a true vacation.

Of course, any number of these factors may be important for any particular student, it’s important to spend time talking to students from the start, determining both what they hope to get out of a workshop, but also getting to know them well enough to spot the other factors that come into play. With this information you can create a better experience for your students, and those better experiences, and that will translate back into repeat customers in the future.

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