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Tips for Photographers (T4P) is a regular feature where I talk about a cool tip that I think will benefit my fellow photographers. For more T4Ps, click here!

Every photographer should have an annual education budget. No matter how good you are, there’s always room to learn and grow, and who better to learn from than your peers? Learning opportunities are a fantastic way to pull yourself out of a rut and get inspired to reinvigorate your business and provide a better experience for your clients. After all, when you stop growing, there’s nowhere to go but down. However, there are so many learning opportunities to choose from, and many of them require a large investment, so it can be very confusing to photographers who are new to the game. Here is a bit of info on the different educational opportunities available to photographers these days.

Conferences: For wedding photographers, there are two main conferences – PPA’s ImagingUSA, and WPPI’s annual conference. ImagingUSA is held in January in a different city each year, rotating around the country, while WPPI is held every February/March in Vegas. Most conferences include a number of master classes (full-day or multi-day workshops taught by a photographer or studio to a small class), keynote speeches (30-60 minute speeches by industry leaders given in massive rooms to hundreds of attendees), short seminars, industry parties, and trade shows. Although conferences are a great place to learn, the biggest value in attending a conference is the networking potential. Rarely do you get to rub elbows with so many of the best photographers in the world all in one place and see all of the newest trends and products affecting the industry. And, if nothing else, it’s a ton of fun! With airfare, hotel, conference fees, and all the money you will inevitably spend at the trade show, conferences can be pricey, but virtually everyone who attends will tell you that the money is well worth it.

Workshops: These are the most popular form of education among photographers. Generally, workshops last anywhere from 1-5 days and are often held on the workshop-giver’s home turf (although lately many photographers are giving workshops in destination locations). These can be taught by one photographer, one studio, or a collection of different photographers. Workshops are great because you really get to delve deep into the workshop-giver’s business practices and shooting style, and it’s usually easy to get personal attention from them if you have specific questions. It’s also a great networking opportunity – I have met some of my best friends in the industry at workshops. Workshops tend to be the most expensive option – usually $1000-$2500, not including travel or accommodations – and there’s always the risk that you won’t get your money’s worth. I’ve personally spent thousands of dollars at workshops that I didn’t learn much from. My best advice is to talk to several people who have done the workshop before, and ask them about their experience. If the majority of them were pleased with their investment, chances are you will be, too.

National Tours: Similar to workshops, these are one-day speaking engagements given by a photographer as he/she/they travel the country. Usually held in hotel ballrooms, these tours often have hundreds of attendees, so personal attention from the lecturer is virtually impossible. On the plus side, these tours are generally very affordable (most are less than $150 for a full day) and convenient to attend since they come to your local area, and it can be a great opportunity to meet other local photographers. Unfortunately, because of the large number of attendees, often the topic matter is very superficial and generic, and in most cases a large portion of the day is dedicated to advertising the actions, software, or other products that the photographer is selling.

One-on-One Consultations: These are, in my opinion, the best option for most photographers. Ranging anywhere from $500-1500, these consultations are literally one-on-one – just you and the person giving the consultation. The topics can be tailored to suit you and your business, you can ask as many questions as you like and skip over topics that don’t apply to you. Most of the time these consultations also include a short photoshoot so that you can see the photographer at work. With this type of learning experience, you’re much more likely to get your money’s worth, but there isn’t the same potential for networking that you get with conferences, workshops, and national tours.

Many photographers are now doing webinars or selling DVDs and books, as well. Webinars are generally sponsored by an industry supplier such as an album company, printing press, canvas manufacturer, or web hosting provider and are free or discounted to their customers. DVDs and books are generally sold by photographers as a less expensive alternative to their workshops. Most of these options focus on a specific topic (for example, Zack Arias’ OneLight off-camera lighting DVD or The Image is Found’s Crazybooth Guide). These options generally cost a few hundred dollars and are fairly well-known in the industry, so I recommend searching for reviews on forums before making a purchase (but beware of anyone offering to sell you their copy at a deeply discounted rate – this is often a scam, not to mention blatantly illegal).

When searching for the educational opportunity that is right for you, keep in mind who you are as a photographer and what your long-term goals are. If you want to work mostly local, you should not be taking workshops from people who primarily shoot destination weddings. If your goal is to shoot 10-12 weddings at $15k each, you shouldn’t be doing consultations with photographers who shoot 50-60 “shoot and burn” weddings a year. Sure, you may learn a lot from these people, but chances are that much of their advice will not apply to you or your business. Remember that everyone’s work is unique, and the quality of someone’s work rarely reflects the success of their business. Instead of taking workshops from people whose images you like, focus on the business models that fit you, and learn from those people.


  1. Thanks for the rundown! Your work and how you handle your business is very inspiring for me!

    Posted August 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  2. Latoya Roberson said . . .

    Wow!! Thanks Stacy this really helps. I hope to join PPA next month!

    Posted August 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  3. Pooja Mehta said . . .

    Stacy – thanks for sharing your business ideas and amazing images. I’ve enjoyed following your blog for sometime now. All the best, Pooja

    Posted September 1, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

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