Photography Workshops in 2020: Where Do We Go From Here?

Photography Workshops in 2020: Where Do We Go From Here?

It’s no secret that COVD-19 has affected nearly every element of our lives and plans for 2020, and photography workshops are no exception. 

While we typically bring you a list of 40+ workshops to consider, we’re changing that approach this year. Below, you’ll find details about how popular workshops have pivoted due to the pandemic. Predictably, many have adopted online models while a handful of others have chosen to cancel their plans altogether.

In addition to sharing updates, we also reached out to a few organizers to find out what to expect this year, what the initial responses have been from online participants and how they arrived at their 2020 plans. Will the switch to online instruction continue for these organizations post-COVID? That remains to be seen.

But with so much unknown, one thing that’s reassuring is that even during a worldwide pandemic you can still get facetime or advice from many of the world-class photographers you know and love. It’s just that this year shoes are optional.

Responses from workshop leaders were lightly edited for clarity and length. Cover image provided by Momenta Workshops.

Workshops

Summit Workshops

  • Known as “Summit Online” they’ve switched to exclusively offering virtual sessions
  • Options include 1-2 day workshops, 2-4 week options and even 1:1 personalized workshops
  • Cost is $399 per two week session. Topics range from sports, lighting tips, editing help and more. (Note that the $400 price tag is a huge savings compared to previous years.)
  • Registration is open

On the initial response from participants —

Chris Steppig, Workshop Director: The reaction since launching Summit Online has been incredible. Everyone from long time alumni and completely new students have really jumped into this new delivery of the same Summit Workshops. Students have really appreciated the positive, collaborative and truly education/growth based orientation of the workshops that have continued through our online workshops and 1:1 opportunities with faculty (Summit Sessions). 

Our faculty has had a similar experience in this new space. The 40+ faculty who teach with Summit were understandably hesitant at the prospect of teaching from sometimes tens-of-thousands of miles apart. However, the feedback has been extremely positive. Faculty have felt highly successful in truly connecting with students online and delivering a working understanding of a topic and ability for practical application. 

Our Summit Team has been incredibly humbled by how the Summit Family has truly risen to the occasion during this truly challenging time. Through Summit’s online platforms, we have worked to simply take down the barriers to support passionate people to connect, grow and hone the critical skills/concepts for chasing whatever photography and/or storytelling goals each student has for their future. Summit’s success thus far is truly a reflection of our community that is ever growing and changing. If not for our student and faculty’s passion and deep commitment to their craft, this pivot would have not been successful. 

On whether they plan to keep this going post-COVID — 

This COVID reality that we are living in really created space for Summit to take a leap that had been an idea for a few years. Taking this concept over the last few months means Summit can now reach a wider audience of photographers and storytellers than ever before.

Our methodical work has truly paid off to ensure that all of the pieces are in place and we feel confident that this is now a mainstay for Summit now and in the future. Through Summit’s full spectrum of learning opportunities, students can completely tailor their engagement with photography education to whatever fits their life best. With such a wide offering, we can truly now meet every photographer’s educational and experiential needs to help them achieve their goals.

Eddie Adams Workshop

  • Went virtual but October 9th – 11th date remains
  • Still working out details and will update their site as they make more concrete plans and decisions
  • Published letter from the board of directors about the change highlighting benefits of the remote workshop
  • Are doing their best to keep traditional format intact but are also offering pre-recorded talks as well as streaming 
  • Tuition is free for those accepted!

Women Photograph

  • Went virtual for the first time this year due to COVID
  • October 27-31, 2020, with two sessions each day
  • Registration is open, with a fee of $40 (and an option to request financial assistance)
  • Workshop will include talks, panels and breakout sessions around a variety of topics, including grant writing, negotiating contracts, digital security and more. 
  • Applications are now open, but note these workshops are for women and non-binary photographers only. 

On how going virtual and accessibility—

Daniella Zalcman, Founder of Women Photograph: While we’re very much going to miss the opportunity to gather in person and learn and build community together, we’re excited to be holding our first-ever virtual workshop. We know that these online opportunities can be much more accessible and democratizing, and we’re looking forward to being able to welcome participants from around the world from the comfort of their living rooms. Strengthening connections with our colleagues is more important than ever, so we hope that this workshop can build some new bonds in addition to providing some skills building and inspiration.

Business of Photography Workshop

  • Workshop is on hold due to COVID

On the decision to not go online —

Todd Bigelow, instructor and creator: I’ve had several inquiries regarding going virtual, but I’ve politely declined because I want the experience to reflect the testimonials from those who’ve attended in person. 

My course thrives on creating energy from topics that are typically dry and emotionless and, quite frankly, avoided by many freelancers. Going on my eighth year of teaching the two day workshop, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how to effectively draw students into conversations for an intensive fifteen-hour course. For example, my workshop goes into the fine details on how to build and leverage an archive for licensing income and I tend to get very animated and enthused during the discussion, oftentimes walking throughout the room and detailing personal examples. This really helps with student engagement because they can feel the passion I have for the subject matter. In my opinion, and based on my own experience teaching online, that energy cannot be replicated virtually at the level I want. 

In fact, I incorporate a majority of my workshop into a course I teach at California State University, Northridge and our quick transition at the beginning of the pandemic to virtual learning provided a great case study for my theory on how students respond. What I found was that there is a substantial loss of retention and enthusiasm for the business topics when students attend virtually versus in-person. 

The workshop will again be held in person at UCLA hopefully no later than early January 2021 and additional workshops, including a new location in Indianapolis, are in the works as well.

On plans for the future of the workshop—

My workshop and the manner in which I teach it is always evolving and I try to adjust according to the level of experience and enrollment size (though I limit enrollment to keep the course more personal). That said, the only direct change that I see going forward is the ability to point students toward the guidebook that I finished writing this year during the COVID-19 lockdown. I’ve been asked practically from day one of the workshop if I had a book for students to reference, but given my freelancing and teaching responsibilities, I never had the time to write one. 

I began The Freelance Photographer’s Guide To Success: Business Essentials (shameless plug!) in January of this year and had it mostly completed before the lockdown, but the added time at home put me across the finish line. Focal Press has it set for publication next year so I look forward to finally being able to offer students what they’ve asked for.

Eloquent Light

  • Still accepting registrations. Workshops are tentatively scheduled but because of COVID there are no guarantees. We recommend watching for any updates in the coming weeks. 
  • Tuition fees vary but are around $1,300

Momenta Workshops

On using their experience in the 2008 recession to inform decisions in 2020 —

John Christopher Anderson, CEO Momenta Group: The full measure of starting a business on the eve of a giant global recession was an experience that will teach you a few things about optimism and pragmatism. It taught Momenta to be agile, streamlined, and controlled in its business overhead like a religion.

With this approach, we were able to assign real value to our own goals of nurturing a community that felt passionate about documentary journalism, volunteerism, and humanist outreach.

Through our work, Momenta has donated more than a million visual assets to small, underfunded nonprofits, hundreds of thousands of man hours, and tens of thousands of dollars to help global outreach organizations do incredible work around the world. 

Every additional day we move through life is a bonus round we get to play without regret of loss, knowing Momenta brought so many people together to find a concerned, mindful path into the future. Collectively, we made a difference, brought about happiness to others, and the community we call “family” will persist beyond our time at the helm of Momenta.

In 2008, those goals were what we set out to accomplish. In 2020, we know it will still remain as the path and constantly receding destination.

On their post-COVID plans—

Jamie Rose, COO Momenta Group: I am elated at the openness of remote learning in our marketplace! For years, Momenta has been planning to add online learning opportunities but the technology and our audience wasn’t quite ready for what we had in mind. Now, with our new Sony streaming studio, we are able to roll out our expanded online programs all this month. 

The virtual classroom allows us to reach more of our global clients and create programs that can expand for weeks instead of days. Additionally, we can include more faculty on one program than was feasible during our in-person programs. 

The Sony gear and software we are using in the studio will travel with us after the pandemic, opening to the door to incredible possibilities. I foresee remote presentations and remote participation being a permanent addition of Momenta’s in-person programs in the future.

National Geographic Expeditions

  • Seems very touch and go. Have suspended trip departures through the end of October 2020. Are posting updates here 
  • Actively working with participants to reschedule and/or issue refunds

Art Wolfe

  • Most in person workshops canceled for 2020, cite COVID-19 could affect plans for 2021 and 2022 as well 
  • Two online offerings: 
  • Art does plan to teach a few very small local workshops this late summer and fall, with published guidelines for any participants. He told us that these precautions will likely stay in place for the foreseeable future due to the nature of his audience skewing a bit older

Additional information on the guidelines for any in-person workshops (provided by Deirdre Skillman, Archive & Special Projects Manager) —

  1. Will have a temperature gun to take each participant’s temperature at the beginning of the meet and greet before they join the rest of the group
  2. Request that each participant wears a face mask and will provide them as needed 
  3. Providing large enough classrooms so all participants can remain 6 feet apart during inside sessions as well as hand sanitizer
  4. Workshop instructors will be tested for Covid-19 prior to the start of the workshop

Strohl Workshops

  • No changes since these have always been held online
  • Working to adapting content to be more relevant for this year’s challenges
  • Photographers guide to resiliency workshop is being offered free
  • Other courses vary from $150-300

Xposure

Light Land (UK)

  • Major COVID-19 notice that mentioned flexible booking, prioritizing safety, refunds, etc.
  • Tours will move forward as planned with best practices in mind

B&H

  • Making the switch from live events to live virtual events. Recordings of past events are available as well 
  • Everything is free! 
  • Almost daily events on a wide range of topics with big names and major sponsors
  • Happy hour photo critique every Thursday

So will this be the model going forward? Are virtual workshops the new norm?

Eh, it’s not looking like it. With human connection and personal instruction being some of the biggest enticements to participating in workshops, the overall goal appears to be to resume in-person workshops as soon as it’s safe to do so. 

That said, with so many destination workshops out there, you can expect significant changes in protocol and best practices while traveling for a photography workshop. (But that’s to be expected). Even with more connectivity online, there really isn’t a one-to-one substitute to sharpening your photo skills in some of the world’s most beautiful locations. Plus, everyone is eager to resume travel in general.

On top of the online workshops mentioned above and our suspicion that in-person workshops will still be the standard, one nice trend we’ve noticed is an uptick in free or heavily discounted online courses. Frankly, we’re all for anything that makes the workshop experience that much more accessible to photographers looking to sharpen their skills — especially ones who might be strapped for cash because of COVID. 

We know this list of industry workshops only scratches the surface. If you have additional workshops you want to shoutout or personal experience with workshops in 2020, please feel free to comment below or email theteam@photoshelter.com with more information.

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There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Chris at 6:47 pm

    Thanks for this info. I don’t have much photography work on due to covid – 19. So I may do some training and the online remote learning looks a good option.

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