Why I Teach Photography Workshops

I’m pretty sure I’ve addressed this topic before in other articles posted elsewhere, and certainly I’ve discussed it with many people over the phone and inperson. But I often get asked why I teach photography workshops, and how I got started in it. So I figured I’d answer that question, in typical fashion – in a long string of thoughts and explanations. At first glance, people often see my photography workshops, punch the numbers quickly, and think that they might be a great way to make money. Sadly, I initially thought that as well, though I learned pretty quickly that that was not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t start teaching workshops as a way to make money, but rather as an answer to people asking me for help and guidance. And sure, I could put together workshops that are set in some extravagant location, with camping, smores, etc etc and charge an arm and a leg to attend it, all while filling my pockets with cash, but that’s not really my format, and it goes against the very idea of my photography workshops to begin with.

My photography workshops are designed to give state-of-the-art training, using the industry standards of gear, and with high caliber models. That is why I’ve been able to get sponsors like Phase One, Profoto, Tether Tools, Savage Universal and more to be a part of the workshop process. The goal, first and foremost, is to give state-of-the-art training, so in regards to money, I think I don’t even break even until the class is at 80% capacity. But again, the goal isn’t money, it’s high-quality education.

The reason I started teaching photography workshops, had everything to do with how I learned my skills as a photographer. Like so many others within the photography field, I didn’t have a traditional education when it came to photography.  I went to school for Business Management and got my college degree in such. At no point was I even able to take a class on photography, because my degree timeline forbids it. So my education in photography was as untraditional as they could be.

My skills as a photographer came directly through trial and error, and by completely obsessing about the topic. I would spend hours and hours on various photography forums, spend days reading through gear manuals and finding people who inspired me. My first photoshoots were failures by most standards, and I was learning through that process of failure.

The Turning Point

At some point in college, somewhere around ten years ago now, I got in touch with a local photographer, to see if he would help me and a band I was in at the time, to get some band photos to use for promotion. Sure, I was shooting at the time, but it was pretty much impossible to both be in the photos and to take them. So I reached out to my now friend Bill Strome, and he was able to help us with some photos. Following the session, we started talking gear, technique and a million other things, and he invited me to check out his studio in his basement.

Eventually, I was able to work with Bill to use his photography studio, and while I still didn’t understand what I was doing, I was always excited for the experience. Before long, Bill needed to go out of town for a work project and asked if I would look over his place while he was gone. The job was simple, I’d just need to bring in his mail every few days, and make sure the everything in his house was in working order, but it also gave me access to the studio while he was gone. This was the biggest turning point.

I think by night one, I had invited my friend Becca over to his house and offered her a six pack of beer in exchange for her company and her willingness to sit in front of a light for a couple hours. While conversing with her, I was meticulously moving a light from one position to the next, taking a photo, and studying what it was doing. By night two, I had my friend Jeremy over in the studio with the same agreement, a 6 pack of beer and company in exchange for a model, and from here, I doubled the lights to two.

Those two nights were a turning point

From there, I finally had a guideline as to how light shapes faces, and how to manipulate it to change the mood of a scene. While it seems simple now, there is no way I would have been able to learn that as rapidly as I did, had it not been access to that studio.

So why do I teach Photography workshops?

At some point in my career as a photographer, people started seeing me as a mentor, and educator. This could have came from the hundreds of articles I contributed to Fstoppers and other sources, but I began getting asked, often, if I taught one on one photography training or photography workshops. I hadn’t really considered it until that point, and didn’t have a format in place to help others – as my strategy has always been “do it wrong until you figure out how to do it right”. But through the barrages of questions, I decided to finally put together a plan on helping others with their photography problems, and Zach Sutton Workshops was born.

I’m fully aware that I had a completely luxury to have access to a fully functioning private studio, and access to friends who cared about my passions in photography, and willingly gave themselves up as a means for me to test and learn. I know that not everyone has that available to them. Studio lights are expensive, the photography community can be weirdly competitive, and learning can be incredibly expensive and time-consuming – I knew there was a better way for people to learn these fundamental and advanced techniques, and so I made sure I could find a way to help others.

So to answer the question in the headline, I don’t teach workshops to make money, or do it for some trivial reason. I do it because I know I have over tens years of experience in the field, and that I had to work very hard, and with a lot of mysteries to get where I am – and I know there is a better way. In a time where “everyone is a photographer” and “my phone can take really great pictures” I’m working to build a higher standard of photography, through growth and education. The only way the entire industry gets better, is if we all get better – and that is why I do this.

Upcoming Workshops

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Two Day Photography Lighting Workshop Extensive in Albuquerque, NM

This Photography Workshop is set to take place on August 20th & 21st 2016, and is a 2-day extensive workshop with a comprehensive look into photography, and light shaping both in studio and on location In Albuquerque, NM. With over 16 hours of hands on training, this 2-day workshop is designed to give the modern photographer a jump start into success within the industry. This workshop is designed for the beginner to advanced photographer, and is formulated to teach photographers of all skill levels, bringing them up to pace quickly, drastically improving their work and workflow. Each day can be purchased individually, or at a discounted rate for the entire two-day package.

Day 1

Outdoor Lighting Workshop

  • Lighting Principles Explained
  • Lighting Modifiers Explained
  • Lighting Techniques Explained
  • Using ND Filters Effectively
  • Modern Lighting with HSS
  • Balancing Light Outdoors
  • Photo Breakdowns
  • Practical Light Balancing Tutorial
  • Building Effective Lighting Sets
  • Model/Client Interaction
  • One On One Training

Day 2

Studio Shaping of Light

  • How & Why We Create W/ Light
  • Light Modifiers Breakdown
  • Lighting Guide for Better Photos
  • Tethering Methods in Studio
  • Capture One Overview
  • Light Shaping Made Easy
  • Effective Gelling Techniques
  • Developing Emotion W/ Portraits
  • Client Interaction Training
  • Hands on Training / Experts

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