** What is a 'workshop?' **

02nd August 2016
There has been debate recently about the use of workshop images in local camera club competition. The debate has been fuelled by a very small number of begrudgers, but unfortunately their views (perhaps deliberately) cause others to have a total mis-conception as to what a 'workshop' image is. None of them have ever been on one of my workshops, because otherwise they would realise how wrong their stance is.

I have been running studio lighting workshops for camera club members for a couple of years. People attend from far and wide - just yesterday I had a photographer travel all the way from Cork, as well as Dublin, Ballymoney and Clones. From the 5 people who attended on Saturday, 3 of them had been on at least 3 workshops with me previously. Maybe that is a sign that I do them well? Several of them had already achieved either LRPS, LIPF or CPAGB Distinctions, and one was an AIPF.

The perception being bandied about by the begrudgers, is that attendees stand in line, press the shutter like little monkeys, have no idea how or why the lights are positioned where they are, and go home with award winning images that are way beyond the level of photography that they are personally capable of.
For a start, that does me a great injustice, never mind the attendees. At the start of every workshop there is a complete explanation of camera settings. Camera settings for studio photography are pretty basic, let's be fair - shutter speed of 1/125sec and ISO 100. Those never change. The only thing that changes is the aperture. The aperture is dependent on the power of the flash, and the distance between it and the subject.

I have a certain style of lighting that is easily demonstrated and totally repeatable. The main light on the subject is at 90 degrees to the subject. There you go - my secret is out! (I don't 'do' secrets by the way. I prefer to share my knowledge and my skills with anyone who wants to improve their own understanding and skill). When you stand facing the subject, the main light is not pointed at the subject - it is at 90 degrees, a right angle to the line of shooting. Simple. Repeatable. Works every time.

So attendees then have to work with the model. This is basic human inter-action. Some are better at it than others, and it shows. People are taught not to approach the model with the camera up to the eye, 'hiding' behind the lens, shooting in silence. They are taught to speak to the model; to introduce themselves; to explain and discuss with the model, the type of photograph they are hoping to take. For instance, is it a head-shot? Is it 3/4 length? Do they want eye contact? Do they want a high shoulder, a low shoulder or something more symmetrical? What type of expression do you want - sad, neutral, happy?
It is a joy to watch people very quickly get to grips with how to work with a model. They go home with a selection of RAW files that it is up to them to refine, edit, and print. Some will be better at it than others. They will produce final images that reflect their own skill level. The more workshops they attend, the more confident and the more proficient they get.

It is extremely rare for anyone to attend one workshop and never come back. Most attend again and again. They are eager to improve and know that by spending money on a workshop rather than equipment, they are doing themselves a favour. Yesterday, because everyone had considerable previous experience they were given an opportunity on 2 occasions to have complete free rein with the model and the studio, to sit with the model and discuss what they wanted to achieve. I was on hand to assist if required - and I was not needed. During this one-to-one session, all the other attendees are on the opposite side of the dividing wall - they do not get to witness what the person shooting is up to. Even I do not know whether they are shooting on the white stage background; or the grey fabric; or at the window; what props they are using, or not using; They are doing it themselves.

Editing of pictures is a completely separate skill from taking them. 3 of the attendees at the weekend were from a Dublin based Camera Club, and their camera club has arranged for me to come down next Saturday and do an all-day photoshop workshop. Again, I am totally open with my knowledge and my skills. They will be provided with images of mine, and we will work through the various steps that are essential to a good workflow. This is the 3rd Camera club in the Irish Photographic Federation to avail of this particular type of photoshop workshop.
Do I hear any of these begrudgers saying that anyone's image is not their own, because they have attended a photoshop workshop? Of course not. They have learned the skills. The exact same as when they took their pictures on the studio lighting workshop.

My studio lighting workshops also include a section on natural light. The same 90 degrees principle applies. I call it "get the light and not the shite." The model stands at one end of the window, and you stand at the other, shooting along the line of the window. As if the window is the big softbox that you set up at 90 degrees to the model in the studio. That way your lens is getting the 'light' from the window, but not the 'shite' that is outside the window. Simple. Repeatable. Works every time.

This is an example - total 100% natural light. The attendees are told to find the exposure themselves, making sure that the histogram gets as close to the right hand side as you would dare, without clipping the highlights. They then work one-to-one with the model. There is no 'paparazzi style' shooting ever!!



So in conclusion, those that 'diss' workshop images are either a begrudger or have been poisoned by a begrudger. They fail to realise that whilst they are busy bitching behind people's backs, others are actually upping their skills. People who they regard as novices, are suddenly beating them. They don't like that you see. But you fail to realise, they are no longer novices. They improved. They are better than you now. In more ways than you think.

Thank you for your time :-)

Ross McKelvey MPAGB FIPF EFIAP/S ABPE