How To Run A Photography Workshop, Part 1


A workshop

Something I have been toying with is running a photography workshop. If you are new to the photography world, you will find out that these are the new hot topic and every photographer and their dog is doing one. So why not join them right?

This idea has actually been floating around in my head for about a year or more. I have test run the activity with a few people here and there, but nothing big and nothing more than a local public romping park. I have been considering doing a full on workshop with people from around the country, and I figured why not now. So in order to force myself to do this I am going to write about it here and show you what I have learned and what you need to do to pull off one of these yourself.

Come along with me as I learn how to do this and for those out there who have been considering this for themselves, you might find out just how to do this as well.

First things first though…

Choosing a Location

Let's begin with choosing a location. This will change every aspect of what you are doing. It will determine insurance, permitting, price point for customers, how much it will cost you and so forth.

Where to begin then? First begin with your favorite photography locations. Are they worthwhile to visit or are they just your favorite spots due to their solitude? If they are worthwhile then, yes set up a workshop. If not, don't.

Common locations to consider.

National Parks: National parks are fantastic places for running photography workshops. They have stunning views often within easy reach and they are relatively safe locations to visit. They also come with more red tape.

Word of advice don't do a workshop in a national park without a permit or you may find yourself in serious trouble. They can confiscate all your gear, fine you and even ban you from the parks.

Public Lands: This includes BLM lands, Forest Service, and other lands owned and administrated by the federal government not run by the National Park Service. These are often easier to work with and are cheaper to work with as well. Since they are so big there are lots of options for great photo shoots as well.

Private Lands: Private lands is something more common back east than out here in the west. If you want to do something on these lands you simply need permission.

State Parks: These can be a bit touchy. When I was talking to my buddy who used to be a manager over multiple state parks, she often said that it depends totally on who runs the parks. Some parks are glad to oblige but others want to preserve and protect. This has to be investigated to find the answer to this on a specific basis.

Once you have decided on which general area to visit, write out which parts of the location you want to visit. I didn't do this when I began this adventure and when I reached out to the land management agencies they said I needed to give them some locations. This matters as some areas on public lands are considered more sensitive than others so they want to have more restrictions on them.


Permitting is totally based on where you are visiting. Some locations have much longer wait times, while others have shorter wait times. As a general rule give yourself three months to get all the permits fulfilled.

Let's do a bit of a break down of each type of area.

National Parks: These require a lot of specific permitting. When national parks were set aside they had the mission of preserving and protecting. This includes restricting the use of these lands for commercial use. Since you as a photography workshop runner falls under that commercial use you need permits. In order to find the permits needed for the parks you are interested in, you can do a quick google search and you will find the papers needed to be filled out and submitted before you can run anything there. I think most national parks require at least 180 days of processing time. That is half a year, so this is not a last minute decision.

National parks also need specific insurance requirements which may not be cheap. Each park also has different liability coverage requirements. Zion I think needs $1,000,000 in coverage while others only ask for $500,000. This will change your insurance rate, so make sure you have chosen the highest one you expect to deal with to make everything easy to do.

Public Lands: These require permits, but the wait time appears to be much shorter than the national parks. But that is also based on how busy they are. I bet the Columbia River Gorge offices are very busy and it might take a bit for permitting to go through, while Nevada public lands might be pretty lax on what is needed and it might be quick to get. They usually require about 90 days though as a rule of thumb.

State Parks: Each park is individual and will require you to contact them specifically.


This is one that I know the least about. I have spoken with three different photographers about this and their price of how much they pay and who covers them varies dramatically. I simply reached out to my local insurer and they seemed to have covered everything for a good price and without much fuss. Make sure your insurance matches what is asked of you in the paperwork.

Number of Participants

I was once standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and a large group of photographers descended upon me. It turned out that Gary Hart, a photographer I admire, showed up with his workshop. There were about 15 of them and soon the area became very full. Another time I was in Zion and I saw a guy standing on the sidewalk with another photographer giving him a one on one instruction on what to do.

The moral of those stories is that the workshop size is totally up to you. I am shooting for about 4 so everyone can fit in my vehicle, but I am not opposed to 5 people as well. If you are really comfortable with your skills and teaching others than shoot for a larger group. Larger groups have bigger payouts and while smaller groups allow for more one on one and probably more time for you to shoot as well.


Where am I on this journey? I am at the acquiring permitting phase and establishing the details of the workshop. If you are interested in joining me around September for an End of Monsoon Southwest Photography Workshop Contact Me.

These four points will get you started on what you need to do if you want to set up a workshop in your area as well. The next article will establish marketing techniques, information for customers, and anything else I run into in this process of doing a workshop. Stay Tuned!

3 thoughts on “How To Run A Photography Workshop, Part 1”

  1. Good article. I spent money on a workshop (with Improve Photography- to Iceland!) and the instructors cared nothing about the photographs that the participants were able to caputure. Their agenda was to get photos for their own portfolios. Instead of leading the workshop they were up and running at the crack of dawn with their own agenda. I believe the leader of the workshop shouldn’t even need to take their camera. I would think they had previously visited the location and already had the photos they needed and instead should be helping their clients achieve the same type of photos. A good workshop leader will ensure that every participant gets the level of support they need and will be on hand to offer help. An experienced instructor will help you master technical skills while providing ample time for participants to explore their own vision, not to be their for their own financial gain. Unfortunately for the workshop I paid for, this was not the case.

    1. Interesting that the article doesn’t mention anything about the ability to teach or how to deal with multiple students with varying skill levels. What about the overall experience? I don’t see how anybody can learn very much on a workshop with 15 participants. A workshop leader shouldn’t be taking his own photos unless it’s of the clients, or the clients specifically say they want you shooting too.

  2. I’m anxious to read more about this as I have mulled over the idea. I was interested to read that you are transporting your students in your own vehicle. Does this cause additional insurance considerations? I’m sure this also varies by state, but are workshops like this, a service, taxable in your state? Finally, how do you decide what to charge? Maybe all questions you can answer in your next article. Thanks for doing this!

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