Going on a photography workshop can be a great way to jump start your inspiration and passion; to expand your creative vision; and to really grow and improve your photography skills. But what happens after the workshop is over and it's time to return to the realities of every day life? When the fun and excitement of that new adventure has passed, it can be difficult to maintain the passion for photography. This article will look at some things you can do to keep those creative juices flowing, long after you have returned to the ‘daily grind'.
A couple of months ago, my article “Why You Should Attend a Photography Workshop THIS YEAR” was published on the Improve Photography website. Whether you are just getting started or are a seasoned veteran, I still believe that a photography workshop is one of the best things you can do for your photography. Perhaps some of you reading this have attended a workshop recently, whether it was one of the Improve Photography workshops or somewhere else. Or, maybe you have a photography workshop on the calendar for later this year or next year. If you have not been on a photography workshop, I hope that you have the opportunity to do so. And soon!
Just a quick note before we move on. Although this article may focus primarily on photography workshops, the same principles can be applied after a solo photo trip, a trip with a group of friends, or even a family vacation where you take lots of pictures. Returning home after an amazing trip can be kind of a letdown. However, it is possible to stay inspired and to keep creating. I hope you find some of these ideas helpful for your own situation.
The Power of Post-Processing
You will take a lot of pictures when you go on a photography workshop. Usually, the workshop will be in some awesome place where you may have never been, so you likely will want to capture as much of that newness as possible. Each time I've been on a workshop, I have come home with thousands of images. I don't typically spend a lot of time editing the images while on the workshop (since I'm out shooting as much as possible). That means there is tons of post-processing time that can be spent after I get home. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's always interesting to dig through all those images and find the hidden gems. You generally have a pretty good idea while shooting which images will be the best. However, when you get them on the computer, you may find some that are unexpectedly your favorite images from the trip.
The task of post-processing all those images may seem daunting. However, look at it as a way to learn your editing software of choice much better. Try new techniques that you may not have tried before. Maybe you want to try a sky replacement, a composite image, exposure blending, or use luminosity masks. If you need help, there are tons of post-processing tutorials on the Improve Photography and Improve Photography Plus websites. Editing your images can be a lot of fun. It is not only an important part of making your images, but also gives you a chance to reminisce about the trip.
Keep on Shooting
You will probably learn lots of new things on a photography workshop. At least you should. Keep shooting after you get home and put those new ideas and techniques into practice. Maybe you learned a new way to bracket exposures, tried night photography for the first time, or learned a new lighting setup for portraits. Keep it going and practice the things that you learned after you get home while they are fresh in your mind. Not only will you improve, but you will get new ideas and try more new things in the process. They say that practice makes perfect. While I don't think any of us will ever be perfect, we can certainly get better and become more proficient at doing something we love to do.
This tip sounds great on paper (or on virtual paper, at least), but is not always easy to do. I believe that we all fall into the trap of thinking there just isn't anything to shoot close to home. There's no problem at all with finding interesting things to shoot at a workshop location, but when we get back to our familiar surroundings, it all seems boring by comparison. That's when it is time to break out of the box, and maybe out of your comfort zone, and try something completely different. If you typically shoot landscape and nature, head to the nearest city for some street photography. If you primarily do portraiture work, head out to the back yard or a park for some macro photography. If architecture is your usual thing, try your hand at astrophotography. Try new techniques. Maybe even break out that flash that has been hidden in the bottom of your camera bag. Start that project that you've always wanted to do, but never took the time. I think you get the idea. You may be in familiar surroundings, but maybe you just need to look at them a little bit differently.
Share Your Images
We've probably all heard at some point how important it is to share our work. Whether it is on social media, photo sharing sites such as 500px or Flickr, or on our own personal website, putting yourself “out there” can help in a few ways. For the full-time professional photographer, sharing is an obvious way to advertise and show existing and potential clients your work. The same is true for the weekend warrior who shoots an occasional family or senior portrait session or a wedding. However, sharing images can also be fun and an important part of growth for the hobbyist photographer.
I must admit that I'm guilty of not sharing my work enough, at least most of the time. As a hobbyist who has an occasional portrait session, there are many other responsibilities that take priority and there's not always enough time. At least that's one of the excuses I use. Quite often, I'm just not doing much shooting at all, or if I am, the images just aren't compelling enough for me to share with the world.
Things change after being on a photography workshop. You will likely come home with thousands of images. All of those images won't be portfolio quality, but there will be plenty of good images to provide you with material to share with others. As you cull out some of your favorites to work on in post-processing, share the completed images with the on-line community. There are lots of photographers as well as non-photographers out there who would love to see great images of places they've never been or are thinking of going. It's a great way to contribute something through the work that you are doing and the feedback that you get can help to fuel the passion and inspire you to shoot more.
Tell Your Story
You've no doubt heard the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Sometimes, words can be pretty valuable, too. In addition to sharing images from your once-in-a-lifetime photo trip, tell some the story behind them. You can do this on photo sharing or social media websites or write a blog to document your journey. I enjoy blogging about my photo trips on my website. For me, it's a great way to organize my thoughts and remind myself that it's not just about the destination, but also about the steps taken to get there. A great image can be even better if there is a story to go along with it.
Sharing the experiences from your trip can also be a great way to inspire others and to provide information for someone who may be thinking about going where you have been. In my experience, photographers are generally very generous in sharing image ideas, camera settings, opinions about gear, and shooting locations. This generosity is a great way for you to bolster the photography community and be inspiring for others as well as yourself.
Make Some Prints
I won't go through all the different options for print labs or the different ways to print your images. There are tons of options! Jim wrote a great article on the Improve Photography website comparing 11 different print labs. You can read it here.
I would hazard a guess that the majority of us would say that we don't print nearly enough. I know that I don't. I'm not sure why that is, because I certainly never regret it when I do. There's just something special about making prints of your images. Sure, you can post them on Facebook or Instagram, or share them on 500px or your website, but there's something so much more ‘real' about a print that you can hold in your hands and hang on your wall. A print is something tangible that you created. A work of art. Your masterpiece. Maybe that's going a bit too far, but it is a good feeling when you hang your images on the wall of your home, or maybe at a local coffee shop or library. For me, it in some way validates my work as well as the time and effort spent capturing that image.
A print is also a reminder of where you have been. As you continue to improve, your images will get better. The better prints will replace the ones that aren't so good anymore. You will hopefully be inspired to shoot more, continuing to get better, to fill your walls with your awesome work.
Another great option is to create a photo book with images from you trip. It's a great way to tell your story and something to leave sitting out for family and guests to peruse. I will generally make a photo book following a trip. They are fun to create, relatively inexpensive to print, and a wonderful keepsake to have around for years to come.
Stay in Touch with New Friends
It is likely that you are going to meet new people and maybe make some new friends on a photography workshop. In my previous article, I pointed out that this was the most rewarding part of the experience for me. Making new photography friends and staying in touch with them over the years has been an important part of my growth as a photographer. Developing and maintaining those relationships has been a continual inspiration for me, far beyond the time frame of the workshop. We have almost daily communications, providing support and encouragement; sharing images and ideas; discussing shooting locations and giving gear reviews. We not only share images, but also provide constructive comments that can help make the images better. We share post-processing tips and techniques. There is really an endless supply of information to be shared. Most importantly, we have a lot of fun in the process, and to me, that's what it's all about.
Let's face it, we are all very passionate about photography. (At least I assume that you are, since you are reading this article). Our friends and family probably don't really understand the sometimes obsessive behavior. Why do we spend so much time trying to take a picture of a flower, a tree, a portrait, or a landscape? We may even lay on the ground or climb something to get a different perspective. To them, it may seem a little strange to go to such great lengths to get a picture that they could just take with their smartphone. The people you meet on a photography workshop share the same enthusiasm. Get to know them. Exchange contact information and stay in touch after the workshop is over. We can all learn from each other, no matter the skill level. You may even decide to attend another workshop together. Whatever the case may be, keep the lines of communication going.
Plan Your Next Trip
It may seem premature, but it's never too early to start planning your next photography adventure. Heck, I'm usually thinking of my next trip even before I get back home. There are just so many amazing places that I want to visit and photograph. If only there were more time…and didn't have to worry about that pesky day job.
It seems that some people make a photography workshop an annual ritual. That's not a bad idea. There is no better way to learn so much and have so much fun with a camera in such a short period of time. So, even if you're just getting home from a workshop, you can start thinking about the next possibility. Some photography workshops fill up fast and require planning and commitment well in advance. Find a location where you've never been, but always wanted to go, and target that spot on the map. If it is somewhere with epic shooting opportunities, then chances are there is a photography workshop there.
Even if you don't attend another workshop, there is always the option to meet up with a group of photography friends for a few days of shooting. Perhaps these are the friends you met at the workshop. Maybe they are people you have met at a local photography club. It's tons of fun to bounce ideas off each other and to come up with a plan for shooting together.