On your journey to becoming a photographer, you likely invested time and money learning your craft, whether it was through reading books, taking online courses, or attending in-person workshops. Getting into photography isn’t cheap, but neither is the reward when you find success. One of the benefits of having acquired this specialized knowledge, in addition to being able to use it to capture amazing images, is being able to share your knowledge with others, particularly through hosting photography workshops.
Photography workshops offer students an invaluable experiential learning opportunity, and for those who host the workshops, a chance to earn additional—and sometimes significant—income. The best part is photography workshops are popular in most every genre of photography, which improves your chances of success.
Before you run off and start advertising your photography workshop, however, there are a number of important factors to consider. Without careful planning, you could end up disappointing students and creating a negative experience with your brand. It’s up to you to manage every detail so that your workshop is as enjoyable as it is educational, or else your first might also be your last.
Here are 15 tips for teaching a successful and profitable photography workshop.
1. Limit The Number Of students
When you consider the financials of a workshop, it’s tempting to increase the number of students. Doubling the number of students, for example, doubles the revenue. However, taking on more than 10 students per instructor can lead to a diminished student experience. Keep in mind that everyone wants shooting time in addition to the opportunity to ask personalized questions, so keeping your workshops smaller will help you ensure that you’re delivering enough value.
2. Charge enough to give a great experience
Make sure you understand fully your costs, including the following:
- Credit card processing fees
- Wardrobe, Hair and makeup
- Your total time
Then, make sure you’re charging enough to not only cover all of your costs but also provide you with a healthy profit on top. If you’re not charging enough and operating on razor-thin margins, the workshop may not be worth your time.
3. Hire professional models
Simply put, working with professional models will save you time and help your students create better images from the shoot.
4. Get the right permits
A group of 10 or more photographers in one location begins to draw attention, so make sure you have the right permits. Locations that you can normally get away with when it’s just you and your clients can start to enforce stricter rules when large groups gather. The last thing you want is to be asked to leave a location in the middle of a photo session with your students.
[Related Reading: Your 7 Step Guide To Photography Permits]
5. Get sponsors to add value
Providing sponsors for your workshop is a great way to increase the value of the workshop for your students and a great way to market your workshop. For example, if you get five companies to provide a freebie, discount code, or giveaway; and require that they share the workshop in their social media, you instantly provide benefit to your students and expand the reach of the workshop.
6. Don’t over promote
Related to the point above, make sure you do not over promote your sponsors throughout the workshop. Doing so can hurt your credibility and decrease the trust that you’ve built with your students. Instead, mention or use the sponsored gear organically, as you would in your regular workflow.
7. Create an organized presentation
Your presentation should be well organized with a balance of actual hands-on shooting and demonstrations. A clear structure, goals for each section, and a detailed timeline will help ensure that things go as planned.
8. Manage Expectations
As is true with any aspect of your business that involves clients, it’s best practice to manage expectations, in this case, your students’ expectations for the workshop. Clearly communicate the size of the group, which gear the students should bring, how much time they’ll have to shoot and/or ask questions, and give as much detail as possible regarding the topics you’ll cover, as well as the locations and models (or other subjects) you’ll use. Also, be up front about the students’ right to use the images they capture for portfolios or publication.
Regarding food, transportation, and sleeping accommodations, set clear expectations for your students. Will food be provided? How will all of the students get from one shoot location to another? For students who are traveling in, be sure to offer details on hotel accommodations (where to stay, deadlines for booking, etc.). If possible, contact hotels around the area of your workshop and reserve a block of rooms in advance so that students don’t suddenly find themselves without a place to stay.
9. Have a contingency plan
In the event that your workshop has to be canceled or cannot be conducted as originally planned, such as when unforeseen weather issues will not allow for a previously scheduled outdoor shoot, be sure to create a contingency plan. Consider the risks involved with each portion of the workshop and make a backup plan (or several backup plans). In a worst case scenario, be ready to reimburse the students if the workshop is cancelled, or else reschedule the workshop and reimburse those who no longer wish to attend.
10. Consider partnering
Partnering with other photographers to teach a workshop offers several benefits. First, each photographer will have his or her own following that will help fill the available seats. Additionally, each photographer will likely have unique skillsets to provide additional value in the breadth of information that will be given during the workshop. Working with other photographers will also distribute the workload in terms of planning and preparing for the workshop.
11. Do a practice run
Whenever possible, run through your itinerary in real time, at least to better gauge the time it will take to get from one location to the next. As most know, heavy traffic hours vary and can have a significant impact on travel time, so do the practice time at the scheduled time of the workshop for accuracy. Also, in terms of time management, ensure there’s ample time to drive to each location, as well as shoot and ask questions.
Another benefit of doing a practice run includes seeing the locations in real time to confirm whether they are the best location for that time of day, such as hitting the beach for a sunset session. While there are apps to help with this, it can’t hurt to see these places with your own eyes, especially if you have not previously visited to the location.
12. Create a poll prior to the workshop
Use your social media channels or newsletter to create a poll and gauge interest in your workshop. Google Form polls are especially easy to set up. The poll can either consist of a single question, such as asking who’s interested in participating in your educational workshop, or you can include several questions and ask about ideal locations, times, and topics. The results from the poll should help guide your content for maximum impact.
13. Provide walkaway materials for added value
In addition to providing students with sponsored swag, you can offer PDFs of the information you covered, as well as discount codes for future workshops or products you might offer on your website (such as Lightroom presets or Photoshop actions, video tutorials, etc.).
14. offer a way to connect after the workshop
Whether you use something as simple as a dedicated hashtag (like #Photocrew2019) or create a private group on Facebook, offering students a way to connect after the workshop will help build your brand and make students feel like they are part of something special. Encourage them to give each other feedback and engage in the conversations that unfold within the group.
15. Build a system to repeat
It (literally) pays to take the necessary time to create an efficient workflow for putting together a great photography workshop so that you can repeat the process and host similar workshops in different locations with new students. The better (and more consistent) your workshops, the better your reviews and chances of hosting additional workshops in the future.
Similar to the way comedians and musicians perform the same act on their tours, photographers should plan on maximizing the return on all of the time and resources spent creating and marketing a workshop by repeating the workshop to different audiences.
A little planning can go a long way, and it’s absolutely necessary to carefully plan ahead when asking students to pay for an educational photography experience. Here is a recap of the tips we discussed in this article for teaching a successful and profitable photography workshop:
- Limit your students
- Charge enough to give a great experience
- Hire professional models
- Get the right permits
- Get sponsors to add value
- Don’t overpromote
- Create an organized presentation
- Manage expectations
- Have a contingency plan
- Consider partnering
- Do a practice run
- Create a poll prior to the workshop
- Create walkaway materials for added value
- Create a way to connect after the workshop
- Create a system to repeat
We hope you found these tips helpful. For those who’ve either hosted or attended photography workshops, what additional tips can you share that we might have missed? Please respond in the comments below.