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Never Stop Building Your Skill Set

Intro by Skip Cohen

Five years ago Michele Celentano got up to speak to a group of photographers at an SCU boot camp we held in Las Vegas. She looked around the room, was quiet for a second and then said,

“Twenty years ago I was sitting right where you are and wondering how long it would be before my work didn’t suck!”

The audience was instantly put at ease. She followed up her comment by sharing a dozen of the worst wedding images I’ve ever seen. It was a classic Celentano moment and a perfect example of why she’s one of the most respected and loved instructors in the industry. She’s never forgotten her roots, but she’s also never stopped being a student herself.

I wanted to share this post by Michele because it’s a great reminder your education as an artist never slows down. Marathon’s blog is also the perfect place to talk about education. Marathon never stops helping you raise the bar on the quality of your images, marketing efforts and your business. In fact, that’s what their blog is all about.

Technology is constantly changing and giving photographers more creative tools, but if you don’t stay on top of all the changes you’ll miss some incredible skills and opportunities to help you capture the ultimate image!

“Michele, how did you become such a good photographer?”

Budding photographers ask me this question all the time.  Here is my honest answer.  It didn’t happen overnight or over the Internet or even in a book.  While technology has given us new tools to start the education process in a way that did not exist for me initially, the real reason my skills improved over time is hands-on workshops, PPA schools and monthly meetings at the Professional Photographers of Greater NY group.

Spending a couple of days or even a week in a live hands-on learning class is truly the BEST way to improve your craft. An amazing chemistry of friendship and inspiration comes together when you fill a room with eager students and a passionate instructor. A personal bonding and the best friendships are formed.  Some of my life long friends started off as classmates in a live workshop.

Sometimes five days was not enough for me to spend with a gifted teacher.  I took Monte Zucker and Hanson Fong’s workshops five times each…. By the fifth time I showed up in their class they both said to me “What are you doing here? You don’t need me anymore.”  But I did – there was always something more to learn from how they handled subjects, how they found the light…. No joke – I couldn’t figure out how Hanson used the palm of his hand to find directional light until the third week I spent with him and then the light bulb over my head went on.

I crawled under their tripods to get the best view of what they were shooting – I was always wiggling my way to the front of the group so I could get a better view.  I asked questions, brought my work for critique and gladly listened as they explained what I could do better.

Not only did I get an education from the instructors I studied with but also from the students I was learning with.  Each person had a unique viewpoint – in the evenings after class, we sat around exchanging ideas about business and photography, we looked at each other’s work, gave suggestions based on what we learned that day.  We ate, slept, breathed and lived photography for five straight days and when it was over tears were always shed as we said goodbye because each of knew that ours lives had been changed forever by the experience.

I cannot tell you enough about how passionate I am about LIVE Hands on Workshops.
No instructor that is worth anything teaches for the money…. Believe me, there is far more money to be made staying at home and photographing families, seniors, babies or weddings.

Great instructors teach for the LOVE of teaching.  They leave their businesses, home and families to give back to the industry – to lift it up – to help those getting started to improve their skills- to mingle with new people and to watch that light bulb in the eye of a new photographer light up when they realize they got it, they learned something new and their work will never be the same because of it.

Take the time, spend a little money (it will come back to you tenfold) – invest in your craft – learn from professionals who have been where you are now and can help you grow.  Dive into a few days where all you have to think about is your passion. I promise you adding live workshops to your education is the BEST money you will spend on yourself this year.

I am truly sad to see schools dwindling and attendance going down.  Some schools I attended for summer workshops had 10-15 instructors and 400 students.  I miss those days – they were some of my best memories growing up in this beautiful, crazy, fun, passionate business.

So, how did I become a good photographer…. EDUCATION with the best in the industry – by hiding under tripods, taking the same class over and over because I could never learn enough and investing in my career.