A lot of work-related conferences aren't all that exciting. You’re either cooped up in a cold conference room all day in an interesting place and you end up with no time to explore, your family is out exploring without you, or you’re alone somewhere that isn't an interesting place to hang out.
The people who run FStoppers.com solved all of those problems in one shot. As I’m writing this, I’m at the Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas for the first FStoppers Workshops. Lee, Lauren, Patrick and the rest of the FStoppers team gathered some of the most well-regarded photographers/instructors in the industry to teach classes. They chose the Atlantis and set the schedule to give everyone time to take classes and spend time with their families. While I was taking Peter Hurley’s Headshot Intensive on Wednesday and Thursday, my family was out and about at the resort’s water park and beaches. Friday was a “free day.” There were no classes scheduled but all the instructors gave short talks. I decided to hang out on the beach with my kids. Saturday I’ll be back at it for Aaron Nace’s retouching class.
I’m kind of surprised no one has done something like this before. It’s nice to be able to go do whatever class you need to go to, and not have to worry that your spouse is back at the hotel room bored out of his mind and ready to disown the kids. It’s also good to know you’ll have a day to hang out with the family and not miss a class you’ve paid for. It wasn’t hard to get the family on board for this, either. Usually when I tell my husband I want to take a trip out of the country to take photos, he rolls his eyes at me. This time, I said, “I’m going to Nassau for a photo class, wanna come?” He said “sure.” I booked it before he could change his mind. The only other issue I had scheduling this was deciding which classes to take. I picked two that would be immediately useful to me and my clients.
The Headshot Intensive
I ran across an online class by Peter Hurley at KelbyOne.com. He’s a New York-based photographer who started teaching his method a couple of years ago. He doesn’t teach a lot of photography technique. His workshops are much more about how and why you need to interact with your subject. On the face of it, it seems like a fairly obvious idea that a photographer needs to engage whoever it is she’s shooting. This focuses on the interaction during the photo session. Peter’s approach is way beyond “turn this way, smile, now look that way.” If the person you’re shooting doesn't like to be photographed or doesn't know what they’re doing, the photos are going to show it. The photo might be technically perfect, but if the person looks like a deer in the headlights, perfect lighting doesn't mean much. His approach and what I've learned from him has been very helpful. I started out doing nature and landscape photography, partly because there's no one to speak to. Buildings don't need you to draw a certain expression out of them, so I didn't need to worry about what to say. People, however, are investing money in photographs, and they need you to do and say whatever is necessary to make them look their best.
On the second day of class, we start taking photos. Other parts of the class may change each time he teaches it, but one thing he does in every session, is take photos of all of the students. It serves a couple of purposes. One, it gives everyone a fantastic headshot. Two it lets the photographers learn first hand what it's like to be in front of the camera taking the direction we've learned to give. So when I tell you that I will have you do things that will make you feel like you look ridiculous, know that I know it from experience.
Part two of this will come soon. I'll have more about the FStoppers Workshops in general, and information about the retouching and compositing class I'll be taking from Aaron Nace.