The advantage of photography is that there is an enormous amount of information available to read or videos to watch, but there is nothing like joining in on a workshop where you have your camera right there with you to hone in on your skills and to learn more one on one. I spend quite a bit of my time photographing by myself so when I saw that Nicole Begley was offering a Hair of the Dog Single Day Photography Workshop in Napa I jumped at the chance to sign up and learn more! I have been reading her blog for a few years now and it's one of the few pet photography blogs out there that speaks to both technique and the business side of pet photography, so to be able to get together with Nicole to talk through ideas and to ask questions on the spot was the type of education I really needed to move forward in my career.
We started out by scouting the downtown area for several locations that would work for the shoot, giving us a chance to look at different backgrounds and where we could possibly find soft, even light. Even though downtown Napa was hit with an earthquake in August that damaged several buildings we found plenty of spots that offered unique textures and colors, and being so close to the start of the holidays we took advantage of the decorations that were already up on the buildings. Just having Nicole talk about color and texture, and seeing those from a different viewpoint, really opened my eyes to utilizing different backdrops and unusual lines. Now it's a constantly on my mind and I practice picking out scenes no matter where I am, even if I don't have a camera with me!
Once our model arrived we headed out to the locations we chose earlier and started snapping away stopping every once in a while to switch out lenses, talk about settings, and how to navigate through a client session. It's so much more fun, not to mention educational, to be in a workshop where you can bounce ideas and compositions off one another and to try out new concepts. My favorite tip was to use the ExpoDisc to set your white balance (yes, I know I'm late to the game on this one) but it has made such a big difference in the quality of my photographs and I've saved so much time during post production that I use it during every session now!
After the session we went back to sit down and talk about the nuts and bolts of running a business. I've been listening to the Full Time Photographer podcast for over a year now picking up marketing tips, but to be able to sit down with Nicole and work through post processing, workflow, client relationships, and how to pull together and price my packaging was incredibly insightful. A consultant that I work with constantly says "I'm a for profit business..." and if you want to start working in the professional realm of photography then you have to be prepared to deal with the business and marketing aspect of photography as well. Your photography will speak for itself, but it's your client relationship and professionalism that will also set you apart. Learning a better workflow and having Nicole show me post processing shortcuts has given me more time to get out there and take more photographs and spend more time marketing! Every little tip and trick counts.
If you are wondering whether to take a workshop or not then I highly recommend signing up for one if you can. I appreciate the flexibility of Nicole's workshop and it's nice if you only have a day available to sign up for the Single Day workshop, but if you have more time then check out her Hair of the Dog Retreat which is three and half days of mentoring!
Stay tuned this week because I went back up to Napa over Christmas with a friend and her dog to work through a similar session and to practice what I learned in the workshop!