With the exception of ClickCon coming up, we’re past convention season. That means many of you will be considering independent workshops coming to your area, or perhaps you’re headed to one elsewhere in the US or overseas.

In the same way, I’ve written about what a bride should be looking for in the qualifications of the photographer; it might be helpful to give you a few reminders before you put down a deposit on that next workshop.

We’ve all been to various kinds of workshops over the years, some great, others average, and then there are those programs that could put a rock to sleep. So, what makes a great program?

It should be obvious but start by thinking about what you need the most. A good workshop should provide you with some “low-hanging fruit” – changes you can make in your skills or business that have a quick return…but that’s only a tiny part of the experience. Your time is valuable, and you must consider your expectations regarding what you want from each educational experience.

But let’s go a little further:


  • A Great Guide/Instructor: Research the instructor, starting with checking in with your peers. Next, wander over to YouTube. There are a lot of instructors who have videos promoting specific techniques and concepts. Watch how they teach and consider how it fits your learning style. 
  • Who are the Sponsors? Pay attention to the sponsors for various workshops. While many are independent and well done, a sponsored program may have other benefits with additional discounts on future purchases, etc. Also, a representative of the sponsor, if in attendance, can add to your learning experience and help to build your network.
  • Small Groups: Pay attention to the venue and the kind of workshop it is. If hands-on, then you want small groups, not ballroom presentations. I’m a huge fan of smaller venues and a chance for each attendee to get to know not only the instructor but the other students. 
  • Subject Matter: Growth only occurs outside your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to pick a subject/workshop you know little about. However, look for a logical connection to your existing expertise. For example, a wedding photographer would have a logical connection to maternity, newborn, and children’s photography. 
  • Values: This is a hard one to explain but learn everything you can about an artist who you’re going to trust to learn from. Social media makes it easy to follow an instructor and see how they interact with their audience/readership. It’s also easy to spot an instructor who has a reputation for being helpful and truly cares about his/her audience.

Last but not least – a workshop should be fun. “FUN” – that’s one of those words too often lost today. It’s buried underneath the stress of business. A great workshop is about working hard and playing hard. It’s also about the camaraderie that grows with the other attendees and building your network.

The bottom line is simple – just do a little research beyond just liking the description of a program.