There has been a lot online over the last week or so regarding photographic workshops, set-up images and of course this attracts the keyboard warriors with their overbearing sense of righteousness – the modern day puritans maybe!
As a photographer, I have attended workshops, visited hides and created my own ‘set-up’ shots under controlled conditions. I have also spent many an hour out in the wild tracking down and attempting to photograph UK and overseas wildlife; plus spending many hours in studios creating my own masterpieces. All of these things have helped me to develop and hone my photographic skills to their present level. So what are the pro and cons of these much frowned upon workshops and set-ups?

Nature Workshops

When I rekindled my interest in photography at the start of the digital age I need to learn, and fast. I also had a change of direction – away from landscapes and into nature but knew virtually nothing about the techniques required or availability of subject matter. The back pages of magazines were busy with adverts for nature workshops so I joined a small number of them to build my knowledge and skill set – they were invaluable as a learning exercise. And I got some half-decent images too. Often workshops can be the only way to photograph some rare and otherwise unavailable species that would cost thousands of pounds to see in their own environment.Another plus was the contacts that I made who were like-minded people on their own journey of discovery. The owl below was shot on a workshop local to me

Studio Workshops

Another genre that I have grown into is shooting people, sometimes in studios, sometimes out and about. Again, a studio environment was alien to me with lots of expensive looking and seemingly difficult technical aspects. So I went on a full day workshop at a dance studio to learn the basics of lighting, modifiers and capturing that moment in time. Since then I have attended a small number of group shots but have moved into a 1-2-1 approach to people photography – just me the subject and the light! Nowadays, I shoot some people images that I am very proud of, some winning camera club and national awards. Below is an image that I just would not have been able to take without having built up my skills on organised events.

So, what are the cons, the downsides to workshops and the like? I suppose their is a tendency to produce similar images to the other attendees, indeed judges have remarked on the number of of models wearing the same outfits in similar locations. Some people seem to generate a lot of their output from these events and maybe miss the opportunity to put their learning into practice in other situations. But whatever the cons may be at least people are out there using their gear and taking pictures.

Controlled Conditions – Set-Ups

Macro photography is quite a difficult genre as the subjects are typically tiny and need some decent close-up equipment just to capture any type of image. Again I attended a couple of workshops to understand how these types of images are created and what kind of set-up would be needed. Another learning curve. Now I have the ability to shoot ‘in the wild‘ or in more controlled conditions where high quality images can be created and captured. In these environments the care of the subject is, as always, paramount with no harm being done to either the creature being photographed or the environment. Typically a set-up will include some form of additional lighting, maybe a ‘clean‘ background, some appropriate props and a small table area to set it up. Below is an image captured in such conditions.

The Online Community!

We are all a part of an online community, even if you are only reading this article! and at times I do wonder if it is really worth it. Facebook and Twitter (in particular) seem to have given everyone with nothing good to say, a place to say it. The sheer nastiness, self-righteousness and condescending attitudes are rife nowadays and are dragging topics from politics to celebrity to photography on an ever downwards path. Indeed, the news this week covered the winning image for the BBC Countryfile calendar – shot in a controlled environment (shock, horror!). All completely within the rules and guidelines and declared as such. But nontheless the keyboard warriors and trolls are out in force; attacking the photographer, vowing to boycott the calendar and of course arguing with everybody that doesn’t take their puritanical stance. Come on folks lets get on with what we like to do and leave others to do what they prefer. Maybe then we can all enjoy our hobby without all the unnecessary bitterness.