The Internet has opened up a wonderful opportunity for photographers to share information, resulting in photography education becoming a business unto itself.
Although it is great that there are so many resources, it’s sometimes hard to separate the good opportunities from the bad. Based on my experiences, I wanted to share a list of some of my preferred methods for education, along with some specific recommendations.
Blogs are a great source for free information. While they may be difficult to keep up with on a regular basis, blogs can also be good places to search for specific topics. For example, there was some buzz last week about the “Supermoon.” I’ve photographed the moon in the past, but it’s not something I do routinely. So, it was nice to quickly search some of my favorite blogs to find articles on “taking pictures of the moon.”
Another favorite aspect to blogs is being able to look at images posted by other photographers that I greatly admire. Just like an actor learns by watching other movies, there is so much to learn by looking at other photographers’ work.
Although I regularly read about 20 different blog sites, there are three that I strongly recommend to others:
Scott Kelby is the president of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals). More than anything, he is one of the best educators out there on all things related to imagery. His three part book series on digital photography is an industry standard. His daily blog is always a quick and fun read, supplying lots of little nuggets of information. Every Wednesday, he has a guest blogger that leads to some of the more interesting and talked about posts.
David Ziser is one of the more recognized names in the wedding photography industry. He runs a blog dedicated to wedding and event photography with two posts a day. David writes in a conversational, casual tone that sounds like he is talking directly to you. The text posts are full of great tips and pointers and the image posts contain samples of his most recent work, which are great for inspiration.
Jasmine Star is one of the top 10 wedding photographers right now. Her work is fantastic. But, more importantly, it’s her personality that shines on this blog. I can’t imagine how many weddings she has booked purely on her candidness, charm and style.
Workshops are another great way of learning. Generally, there is a lecture/demonstration followed by some hands-on opportunity. I’m definitely a hands-on person and I find it much easier to learn by doing than listening.
However, it is very important to make sure that workshops that include an opportunity to take pictures have a cap on the number of students. It can be frustrating being elbow to elbow with 50+ other photographers in a small space trying to take a photo of a single model.
That’s not to say there aren’t some very good workshops out there:
A couple years ago, Gray Photography presented their In Camera Workshop in Jacksonville Beach, and I was extremely impressed. While, at the time, Zack and Jody only had a couple years of experience, they definitely knew their craft and had some great vision. I was also sold on the class because it was limited to only 10 students. Since then, their business has grown immensely, and unfortunately so has their prices. Even so, it is still worth it, as it was some of the best education I’ve ever received.
John and Susan from the Harmon School of Photography operate their photography school out of Harmon Photo in downtown Orlando. They teach a wide range of classes from how to use your camera to studio lighting to HDR (High Dynamic Range). Many of their classes are quite affordable, and they are very helpful to people of all skill sets. Having them in town is a perk limited to us in Orlando, but I’m sure there are similar educational opportunities out there. So don’t discount your local camera stores!
If you want to know how to take a picture and use a flash, this is THE workshop to attend. Joe is one of the best photographers on this planet, and he’s also one heck of an educator. He has taught several workshops under different titles. He is currently touring the country as part of The Flash Bus tour with another great photographer, David Hobby. If this tour comes near your town, I would strongly recommend you attend.
Podcasts have essentially replaced radio for me these days. I’m constantly listening to a diverse group of podcasts, many of which are geared towards photography. Some of these podcasts have been around for years, and thus have accumulated quite a library of episodes in the archives. That makes podcasts, like blogs, a wonderful source for searching topics. I should also mention that each of these podcasts also have associated websites with a wealth of additional knowledge.
There are three different podcasts that jump out to me:
Scott Bourne runs this Q&A based podcast that comes out the 5th, 15th, and 25th of every month. The episodes can run the full gamut of photography topics as the listeners ask the questions. Many of the lessons learned can be applied to all disciplines. Scott generally has another photographer on as a co-host and he’s fantastic at explaining complicated issues in a way that is easy to understand. If you are frugal minded, you might want to close your ears sometimes as Scott has no qualms in recommending a $6000 lens.
Chris Marquardt is based out of Tübingen, Germany and recently crossed the 500 episode mark. He is also a regular contributor to The Tech Guy nationwide radio show. I do strongly recommend this show, but some episodes can be hit or miss based on the subject matter. For example lately he is focused more on the use of film photography.
In trying to narrow down my favorites, books were by far the hardest. There are so many fantastic books out there on photography. I’m constantly finding great new books on Amazon. The diagrams and explanations of a setup are especially useful in the books, along with some of the behind the scenes stories of the images.
There are three books that are a must-have for any photographer:
Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Boxed Set, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 – Okay, I cheated a little as it’s a three book set. I previously discussed Scott Kelby’s phenomenal ability to educate, and this book series does not disappoint. This three part series is fantastic; covering almost all aspects photography from “What is an f-stop” to “How do I photograph lightning.” I have read each book in the series so many times that the bindings are starting to fray.
Captured by the Light by David Ziser – David took many of his lessons from Digital Pro Talk and his workshops and put out the ultimate wedding photography book. While it is more specific to wedding photography, I’d recommend it for non-wedding photographers too due to so many great lessons on lighting, posing, and choice of equipment.
The Moment It Clicks by Joe McNally – This is one book that perfectly balances amazing photos with amazing stories. Joe has photographed many fascinating people and places over the years, and in The Moment It Clicks, he shares the stories behind the images. This book is more about the emotion of the image than the technical aspects.
With video training, I tend to shy away from conventional DVDs as there is limited re-watch value. I prefer video training that has an ever growing collection of material. In other words, I prefer the Netflix membership model as opposed to picking and choosing specific video training opportunities.
This is the third time Scott Kelby’s name has appeared in this article (I said he was the best educator out there). His group runs a site that has many different training videos, generally about an hour in length. There are constant updates as new videos are added. For an annual fee, you have access to the entire library — Photoshop, design, photography and web development are a few of the topics covered. It should be noted that the videos need to be watched over the Internet (no offline option) and they don’t work on the iPhone or iPad (Adobe Flash). Regardless, Kelby Training is a great value.
When the concept for free education was introduced, I was curious as to how this business would sustain. They have periodic in-depth workshops (2, 3 or more days). The content is very similar to what you’d find on higher priced DVDs, but it is broadcast live on the Internet completely free! If you enjoy the courses, you can also buy them for about $100 each. The advantages of buying the courses is that you don’t have to be glued to the website all weekend long and the download quality is much better than the live streaming version. Also, once you download these videos, you are able to copy them to an iPad or smartphone and watch them anytime, anywhere.
Photo Vision is essentially a video magazine. For a very affordable subscription, you receive a DVD four times a year. The DVD consists of about 8 segments (ranging from 10-30 minutes) of small training exercises by great photographers. One disappointment I find is that sometimes the training content may be in areas that I may not be as interested in. That’s one of the advantage of CreativeLive or Kelby Training, as you can pick to choose what areas you are most interested in seeing.
I posted about the WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographer International) Road Show last year. It’s a well organized presentation by photographers and industry leaders, but it is a bit heavy on the sales and marketing side.
Photoshop World is held twice a year (generally in Orlando and Las Vegas) and is by far my favorite educational resource. Three days of small workshops, lectures, presentations by some of the leading photographers and designers in the industry, and amazing network opportunities with other photographers make this an annual must do. Unlike WPPI, which is a mix of photography and business, Photoshop World is purely about delivering the best image possible by using the tools available today.
Photoshop World 2011 kicks off next week at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. I’ll be attending the event and will try to post daily blog entries about what’s happening. So, please come back for updates!