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Tips & Tricks

5 Must Have Items When Attending Photography Workshops & Seminars

By Anthony Thurston on January 8th 2015

When it comes to packing for trips – especially photography related trips – I always go through an internal battle over what to bring and what to leave at home.

I will be attending Mystic Seminars in Portland,OR this upcoming weekend (make sure to say hi if you are going, too!), so I figured this would be a great time to talk about what to bring on a photo trip, specifically one where you plan to learn.

[REWIND: See You At Mystic Seminars 2015 in Portland, OR]

1a. Your Camera


This may seem like a no brainer, but really. You are attending this event to learn more about photography, and what better way to do that than with your own gear? I’m not talking about just any old camera either, your main camera, the one you use day in and day out.

1b. Your ‘Go To’ Lens


If you are bringing your camera, you are going to need a lens. It is important to pack fairly light on a trip though, too. So, I suggest limiting yourself to just your ‘Go To’ lens; the lens that you find on your camera the majority of the time. If you can’t narrow it down to just one lens, then bring only two.

It is important to think about what you are going to learn about, and bring lenses that you are likely to use in those situations. In other words, if you are going to learn about wildlife photography, don’t bring a 50mm lens. If you are going to learn about weddings, don’t bring a 300mm f/2.8.

2. Business Cards


These things are just as much about learning as they are about networking. People have short memories, especially when they are meeting lots of new people at once. It is important to have something physical to give people so they can remember you later.

Seriously, networking opens doors. Your primary concern may be learning, but you may just meet someone who opens new doors for you as well, so keep an open mind and a pocket full of business cards.

I like Moo‘s business cards, but they can be spendy for networking cards. Something like Vistaprint, for networking specific cards makes more sense.

3. Notebook


Yes, a Notebook, as in a pen and paper. A laptop works, but depending on the event, it can be a hassle to have access to power or a comfortable place to place the laptop to type. Audio recorders are ok too, if you can sit near the front of the room, but if you end up in the back half of the room they will likely have problems getting good sound.

A pen and paper does two things, it helps you organize and highlight important points that stood out to you, and, in my experience, helps with remembering. If I have to write something down, I am much more likely to remember it than if I listen to it or type it.

4. Portable Charger


As noted above in regards to the laptop, having easy access to power to charge your phone could be a concern at larger events. These little portable chargers can usually get you multiple full charges to your mobile device, which is a life saver at events like this.

I recently picked up this Rayovac model for like $13. I love it because it gives me easy power for both my Iphone and Ipad, as well as the ability to use standard AA batteries in a pinch. If you are looking for one, here is a great place to find them.

5. A Day Bag


This is probably by far one of the most ‘forgotten’ things when people think about packing for a workshop/seminar. We get so worried about packing our stuff into airline bags that we forget that we actually have to carry all this crap around with us all day, and having something other than a cheapo plastic grocery store bag is a HUGE plus.

I usually bring a bag that can carry both my tablet, and camera, as well as a little extra space for snacks, extra business cards, and other misc items. I recommend something with straps, and something that you will easily be able to recognize/identify should it be mixed up with other bags at some point.

My current bag of choice is the LowPro Transit Sling 150AW. It is small, but still allows me to carry everything that I mentioned above. One thing you DON’T want to do is bring a huge bag. Not only will it annoy you having to carry it around all day, but you will also likely make it uncomfortable for others who need to sit next or around you because your bag takes up so much space.


Bonus Tip: Pack Light

Always pack your bags a little light on the way there. You may not plan on it, but you will ALWAYS get some swag and other things that you may want to bring back home with you, and if you are packed full from the beginning, it makes the process of packing to go home a lot more stressful and annoying.

So, take this advice, and plan for bringing a few things back with you – and that means leaving room for them from the start.

What other items do you think it is important to bring to a Workshop/Seminar? Do you have any tips for other workshop goers? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tanya Goodall Smith

    Water and snacks! The on site food and beverages at most conferences are usually so expensive and not very tasty or healthy. I usually try to hit up the grocery store before hand and bring a water bottle.

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  2. Jason Boa

    How about an open mind – if you don’t take that you’re just wasting your time and money

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  3. Denis O’Donovan

    Agree with the bonus tip – travel light and leave room – that’s a good one.

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  4. Christopher Fuller

    Love the swag!

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  5. William Emmett

    I usually have a light meter, and Color Checker Passport in my bag. The CCP has a great gray card built in, and I always shoot using a custom WB. I also carry my laptop, with Lightroom, to process images.


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    • Anthony Thurston

      See, that is overkill for me. I don’t want to waste time at the event editing and processing shots. All that can wait for when I get back home, I want to enjoy my time networking and learning.

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  6. Mike McAdams

    I love the promotional ones you get from companies, I got 4 from bud cases over the summer because of friends and family visits lol

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  7. Erica Mengouchian

    portable charger is a definite must! :)

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I only got one semi-recently for my trip to PhotoPlus, and I can’t believe I had never had one before. Definite must have.

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  8. Mike McAdams

    good list

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