Education

Workshops in the UK

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I have been wanting to write this for ages but as a workshop provider people would just think it’s me looking for work but that is far from the truth. Workshops are not the bulk of my income they only provide a fraction of the income my other Photography work provides. I have been teaching less and less workshops and have now finished my own Street workshops so guess this is now the time to write this post.

There are now more workshops than ever in the UK in just about every style of photography you can think of. There is also a downside as well, some of the people teaching don’t have a clue what they are doing and just treat it as a money making exercise ! So much so that now we have big corporate companies getting in on the act to do the same this then makes people feel ripped off.

I dont mind the guys doing it at the weekend to supplement their income as long as they are good at what they do and are doing it for the right reasons.

There is however another growing trend, people go on workshops to get a Photo ! They dont go to learn how to create or make the photo but just to stand next to the workshop leader get them to do everything for them except press the shutter. They do this mostly  to win a local camera club competition and also some of the bigger competitions like LPOTY etc I had heard about this, but until recently I had never experienced it probably because my Street Photography workshops do not work like that. You cant get a great Street shot on a workshop or even in a Month or a Year it’s all got to come together Light, Composition, Moment, Great Subject and Emotional impact, to get a great Street shot, you cant just make that happen. On a recent workshop though my heart sank, four out of the five attendees when asked what they hoped to get out of the workshop all said an image for their Street Photography Theme at their Photographic Society ! I nearly fell off my chair. I told them that probably won’t happen today and from that moment on they were not interested in anything I had to say  and just made the whole day very difficult. One thing I did notice over the course of the day was they could not even use their cameras not even on basic settings. My workshops state that you must be able to use your camera, as they are geared towards Street.

Over the next few months I started asking questions of workshop providers and it appears there is a growing trend in this area where people don’t want to learn the craft of photography they just want a short cut to taking an  image even if that means paying someone to set it all up for them. I personally think that is very sad.

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One of the other big issues in the UK and I say the UK because in other countries there is not the same issue, people buy their cameras and they think they are a Professional photographer as soon as they get it out of the box ! This is worrying and scary ! They do  not want to pay to learn how to use it and will not go on basic camera workshops because they do not think they need to learn. I also hear people say the workshops are too expensive. In other countries they buy their cameras then have a thirst to learn and book on workshops and hoover up information.

I have to say some workshops are too expensive but most good ones are not and here lies the rub. How do people know good from bad and what is expensive ! We all have diferent budgets and needs so what price is learning !   I have set up workshops with amazing Landscape photographers like Paul Sanders at really cheap prices in the Lakes and Glencoe and this year we struggle to fill places at £299 people have said this is too expensive. We were in Glencoe a few years back and there was a group that had paid £5500 for the same workshop with a guy that was nowhere near as good as Paul and remarked how cheap we were !

I was one of the people who has never done a workshop, I have heard lots of people say people that teach workshops have never done one themselves. That always makes me laugh as for me its true. I have never taken a workshop but there is a reason for that. I am dyslexic and I have a capacity to learn very quickly,  I only have to read it once or try it out and I have got it. I am also over 50 so when I was learning my craft there were very few workshops about so I could not find anywhere to learn. I was lucky enough to have friends and family to point me in the right direction.

I am also very stubborn and did not think there was need for workshops so much so that I refused to teach workshops up until I was 49 because I thought there was no need. How wrong was I. The first workshop I taught had lots of Teachers and University Lecturers at it and that then changed my whole outlook on teaching. Their feedback on my teaching style was very welcome and so has the feedback from all my workshops over the years.

I learnt from teaching workshops that yes quite a lot of people can figure it out for themselves after all I did and these days we have Youtube and social media for help. But if you really want to learn and get to your final goal quicker real practical help in a workshop group can’t be beaten.

There is a small downside to workshops that I deal with right at the start of mine, it’s the know it all people that come on workshops to try and undermine the workshop provider and make himself look good.  I dont think they realise how much people in the groups hate this. I recently had a request from a lady to have women only workshops because of the men that do this and try to make women feel stupid ! I pointed out to her that it’s not always the men unfortunately.

In the years I have been teaching and organising workshops I have been shocked to see the amount of people that can’t use a camera out of  program and will also not admit they can’t use it. When we set up workshops we have beginner days and advanced days and the advanced days sell out first every time and the beginner days are a struggle. The annoying thing is on the advanced days you have three or for people that can’t use a camera taking up places of people that can.  I find this as frustrating as the workshop leaders as they just don’t have the time teach basic camera technique on an advanced workshop.

I own a little company called Fujiholics and we have been running photowalks and workshops over the last few years and the questions we get asked the most is ” When are you going to do basic camera workshops” “will you do Fujifilm Camera workshops as I have moved from Canon to Fujifilm” ” I have moved from Nikon to Fujifilm will you have workshops”  We listened and set up a set of workshops in London and we are setting the workshops up in the Northwest and Scotland and a few more places once I find the right people for the job and guess what ? So far no one has booked on the any of the workshops.

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On photowalks I get so many people wanting to learn how to use their cameras its unreal. I am guessing people just dont want to pay in the UK and I don’t understand this as in other countries they pay a fortune to educate themselves.

I understand people go on workshops for many diferent reasons, some to learn, some to be with the people who are top of their game, some for the community element, some for a holiday and plenty of other reasons so it hard to address all these needs in one blog. One of the best reasons is to be inspired so that you go out and shoot with renewed vigour,  if you just learn a couple of new things every time but get inspired to go out and shoot it might just save you a fortune in buying that new camera or lens that you hope will do the same but never does. Lets face it a workshop is a lot cheaper option in most cases. There is also another reason people do workshops and courses and that is because they are single and its a great way to explore the world and far of places with a group of liked minded people and learn at the same time.

I know that sometimes great teachers are not always the best photographers they are just very good at teaching and vice versa so this also muddies the waters.

So it is very difficult to tell people who are the best people to go on a workshop with, but we do have Google. I recommend you google the person whose workshop you are attending and find out all about them, check out their work and check them out. Use Tripadvisor and Google ratings and even Facebook ratings and see what other people think before you spend your hard earned cash.

Street photography is a good example in in the UK there are not very many good Street photographers in the UK but if you google Street Photography workshops in London you would be shocked at how many there are and I know for a fact at least half of these workshops have been ripped off from some of the top guys in the field. I have even seen my whole workshop copied and pasted on Eventbrite to sell tickets. You really do need to do your research and look in to your chosen subject and google the hell out of it even read lots of top Street photographers lists and look at what a great Street images is before you decide to go on a workshop that has nothing to do with real Street whatsoever !  There is a great book by David Gibson called the Street Photographers Manual. I would recommend you buy it and read it before you start to think about a workshop. If you want to know some of the best Street workshops in the UK then email me matt@matthewhartphotogrpahy.com and I will tell you the ones that I think will be a great learning experience.  This is the Same for Landscape, Macro, City Scape, Long Exposure etc Google the workshop leaders and look in to them are these people that you want to learn from ?

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So why did I write this ?

I want all those people out there that want a shortcut to creating a great image to wake up and admit to themselves they need to slow down and start to learn how to use their cameras. There are no short cuts it’s a life long long journey this photography lark. You can shorten the learning curve by taking workshops the right ones will help you move up the ladder, if you can pick up one or two things from each workshop then you will get to your end goal a lot quicker but trying to get the workshop leader to do it all for you is like cheating at your exams ! Yes I know some people go on workshop after workshop to pay for an image but that is not the way. Some people are just not creative enough to succeed in photography with out cheating just as I am not a great writer I just know my limits.

So if you can’t use a camera out of Auto and struggle to create an images get your self on a basic camera workshop and start the creative process right there.

Workshops are not cheap you might think, a good basic workshop will be between £60 and £120 a day for a group or £350 upwards for a 1:1 depending on what you want to learn and who the person in teaching you. Trust me that is not expensive my commercial rate alone is over £100 an hour. I teach workshops because I enjoy it, not to make money it’s a loss for me every time I teach.

I cant tell you all the best price to pay for a workshop it all depends on your income or disposable income but I can say people do not like spending money on learning in the UK.

I am quite proud of the people that have come on my Workshops over the years and the ones that have come on the Fujiholics workshops, I have seen the progression in their work and some have come on leaps and bounds. I will not mention any names and embarrass my attendees but after only a few workshops they are turning out some amazing work whereas before they were just muddling along. I have had some people come on one workshop that changed their journey and some who have been on 10+  they all have improved. Quite a few have become good friends over the years as well.

We even get Pro shooters on the workshops and the main reason is to further their knowledge and alter their learning curve. I know quite a few at the top of their game that attend at least three workshops a year just to further their knowledge and make them think out of the box.

You would be surprised at the difference a good workshop or course can make to your workflow and enthusiasm , so go for it and give it a go. If you have has a bad experience in the past and this does happen then drop me an email and I will try and point you in the right direction. There is a hell a lot of difference between a snap and a great images and the only way to learn the difference is to start that learning process now.

 

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Being Dyslexic

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Before I start this blog post it’s going to be written by me and it will not be checked by Jane. My normal process for Blog writing is to write the Blog post and then get Jane to check it. However I will be using spell check, he says as he spells check wrong.

Being Dyslexic my Struggle at school was two fold. I was not only having a daily battle with all teachers but also with my parents. Well most of the teachers only two stood out. The Physics teacher hated me because I understood physics better than he did and my Geography teacher who was a brilliant visionary but died of a brain tumour just after I left School.

The Geography teacher predicted the future as it is now and I will never forget him. When I was 14 he was telling me how we would not have cash one day it would all be plastic cards and there would be less jobs to go around and how the government would not know how to deal with the free time people had and keep them in work doing nothing all day etc

At School I was called quite a few things but Mad Professor or Nutty Professor were the common ones. I did have the best Go Kart even if I could not spell it. I was not picked on much as I decided to fight back and that was the end of that.

My parents were the biggest pain in the arse back then as they thought I was a thick stupid stubborn idiot. I was about 11 when they decided to have me tested by people that don’t have a clue and I got the Dyslexic label ! Great now I was labelled f%#}{]€ stupid ! Why did my parents treat me like an idiot ? Because I was adopted and they were academically clever ! Funny that word clever ! At 14 I could take most things apart and put them back together again and by 16 I could fault find nearly every mechanical or electrical fault there was. My parents expected a lot from me but the best thing they did was give me a Camera.

I hardly slept back then as I used to be inventing stuff in my sleep and even designed a car that ran on compressed air and electricity, I was told it would never work !!! However that was not quite true as I built a scale model later in my life from Air Tool motors and a compressor and it did work. I was told all my ideas were stupid and to stop drawing stupid things. I did stop, never picked up a pen or paintbrush again.

I have always been stubborn and wanted to do things my own way to see if there is a quicker route. People have always frustrated me because they spend all day doing something that I could simplify to do in a morning or even an hour. I have never understood why people have to be in work for 8 hours a day when they could do the days work in a few hours ! I guess it pleases someone !  Most of the jobs I have had I can see how much a waste of time and money everything is and ended up managing quite a few projects for that reason. In the early days my ideas were just stolen by my managers so I stopped telling them my ideas.

When my son could not tie his shoelaces because he was Dyslexic I got him Valero shoes, I did not make him do it for weeks on end and hit him round the head until he could do it like the old days. When he came home from School with 30 spellings to learn over the weekend I ripped up the paper and told him not to worry I could not learn them, so don’t expect him to ! But then the School labels him !

I met my real Mum when I was about 35 but before I met her we exchanged letters !!!! Her writing and spelling was worse than mine she had to be my mum !

I met an inspiring lady about this time Called Niki Stearman and she ran a Dyslexic charity called DARK and explained so much to me in changed my life. So much so she helped me to understand who I was for the first time.

My son is doing well in his job and I have also done very well. I am grateful for predictive text and spell check, even though it’s not perfect at least I don’t fall foul of the spelling Police as much as I used to. Jane has to check all my blog posts and emails and she is amazing for that. She once said do you just put full stops and comers where you think they go ? I said yes I just guess, as they dont mean anything to me. The truth is I probably pick up a big handful of punctuation marks and just throw them at the screen.

The other amazing thing about Jane is she believed in me she encouraged me to take my Photography to the next level and it paid off, I was always held back by the fact my writing and spelling would hold me back. I was also scared of standing in front of the Spelling police when I was teaching workshops etc.

Funny though every time someone pulls me up for spelling I wonder who they call on to fix their Car or teach them Photography, I also think why is it so important  ! I have got to this age very well thank you without the need be perfect in that area I wonder how many areas they lack in !

I found out that once I got in front of a group of people that I could talk to people and inspire people with my own stories and my knowledge without the need for writing and that has driven me on to this day. I now love passing on my Photography Knowledge and love the company of all the great people that have been on my workshops and to may talks.

Apart from a shit time at school life has been very exciting and good. My body language and people skills have always got me through. I was the one all my friends wanted to go out for a drink with at School as I was the one talking to all the girls and dancing the night away, so that was exciting.

I do feel I have been let down by the School system. If my Dyslexic brain had been given the room to grow and the systems and processes put in place to allow me to develop some of my ideas at an early age who knows how many of my ideas would have worked !

When you look at the long line of Dyslexic inventors and amazing people you realise the School system we have these days is useless in teaching kids that are a bit different ! I hear Richard Branson left School to get on with life. I tried to do that a few times but my Parents were having none of it.

I have always felt trapped in a box all my life and only talk about it to my close friends and family. Photography has always been my release and has kept me sane, well that was until Social Media I find it quite frustrating now because I have lots and lot of ideas but just like when I was a young lad and my managers stole my ideas, if I start a now project and post the images on Social Media now I just get copied. So I will probably end up doing some secret project from 2018 onwards.

My photography has helped me all my life to focus my creativity, I dont take millions of Photos and I like to keep it real with minimum editing. I am not keen on Photoshop but that’s because I can always see the fastest route to the end goal, so I dont want to spend 15 hours in PS when I can spend 3 min in Lightroom, seems like a waste of 15 hours to me.  I however have nothing against anyone who wants to use PS and I love some of the amazing graphic design that has been created. My brain however likes to keep things simple and real.

The most interesting thing about Dyslexia that Nikki Stearman told me was the fact the Dyslexic brain is not the same as other people’s brains and that Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area are not connected in the brain so our brains have to work in a diferent way.

I hear they are not finding this out with scans and there is some more information here.

We are not thick or stupid we are extremely intelligent and have amazing brains and this new Richard Branson backed project is inspiring. So inspiring that I have written this !

I wonder how many gifted and amazing people there are out there that have been shut in boxes over the years !!

Let’s hope this can change !

Check out Made By Dyslexia