I'm an amateur landscape and wildlife photographer, I have a decent understanding of composition and photographic method (more on landscape than wildlife) but I'm not an expert. I want to go on a photography workshop, however, since I'm not a professional or an expert, I'm worried I'll either be a distraction for the instructors or be overwhelmed by how much I need to learn.

What should my experience level be before going on a photography workshop?

  • would be useful if you've posted workshop website/info here – aaaaaa Mar 3 at 1:30
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    This is a question you need to ask the marketer/leader of the workshop. Without more information than what you have given us, we have no idea what level the workshop is designed to serve. There are workshops for total newbies. There are workshops for advanced experts. There are workshops for every level in between. – Michael C Mar 3 at 7:02

The specific workshop should indicate. I'd actually be more worried about the other end of the problem — a lot of them are targeted at people learning how to really operate their camera outside of automatic mode, and how to get correct exposure (either with manual mode or better understanding metering and EV compensation).

A class marked "intermediate" should hopefully be beyond that, but there aren't standardized rules. You really should check with the instructor or organizer of the workshop you are interested in before deciding.

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    +1 – "Check with the instructor or organizer of the workshop." Knowing significantly more than the intended audience is about as bad as not knowing enough. – xiota Mar 3 at 3:47
  • Setting this as correct answer since it has the most upvotes, however all of the answers, I think, provide something of value to consider. Thanks everyone! – binarylegit Mar 3 at 19:03

Ask the tutor or organisation in question - there are workshops for virtually every level of expertise (more on the very low end than on the upper tiers, however).

And do not talk yourself down: Photography does contain an artistic and a technical stream - some people are good at both of them, some can compose extremely well but do not understand technicalities all too well, some can tell you the whole exposure table by heart and still make not-so-good photos. You will become better in both topics with increasing routine.

You can find some incredible images in the internet and at least to me, some are "intimidating" in the sense that I feel like I could never accomplish them. But it is all about expectations, and to become better in photography, in my personal opinion, it is necessary and good to both criticise and like your own photos.

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    Oh, and by the way: Looking at your photos and assuming that they are not random good hits, I would look only at the most advanced workshops. Your photos are fairly good IMHO! – flolilo Mar 2 at 22:49
  • +1 – "Ask the tutor or organisation in question." – xiota Mar 3 at 3:45

I agree with mattdm and flolilolilo, consider asking the workshop organizers what the workshop's target skill level is. Knowing significantly more than the intended audience is about as bad as not knowing enough because both lack and excess of knowledge will prevent you from getting as much as you can out of the workshop.

Also, whenever you self assess, beware the Dunning-Kruger effect. Do you really have a "decent understanding" of ...? (This is not a commentary on your photography skills, since I have not evaluated any of your photographs.)

Some indicators that you would likely benefit from a workshop:

  • You see pre- and post-workshop examples of previous students' work, where you feel the before photos are representative of your current skills, but the after photos are just outside your reach.

  • Workshop objectives would help you improve weak areas.

  • The workshop would allow access to environments or equipment you don't normally have access to.

  • The workshop is about a topic you'd enjoy even if you don't learn anything. (The experience is more important than the learning? In this case, consider going with a friend.)

I disagree with osullic regarding experts not needing workshops. As flolilolilo states, "there are workshops for virtually every level of expertise". Every year, there are multiple conferences and workshops in many fields, many of which only "experts" are even allowed to attend. (Proof of qualification is required.) There's always something new to learn.

  • As to Dunning-Kruger Effect (DKE): That is always a good tip, but I think that someone who even considers to be "not good enough" definitely is not suffering from DKE. – flolilo Mar 3 at 7:47
  • @flolilolilo – You're right. Someone who is underconfident is much less likely to be suffering DKE than someone who is excessively overconfident. But it can also be (sub) domain specific. I might think I'm competent in composition and method, while I'm not. I might also think I'm incompetent in astrophotography, while I'm correct that I'm not. – xiota Mar 3 at 8:58

Allow me to be a bit cynical for a moment... "experts" don't need to go to photography workshops, so if you don't think you are an expert, well, don't worry, nobody else there will be either.

If you have "a decent understanding of composition and photographic method", I think that qualifies you for any photography workshop. I am sure you will get a lot out of it, and I am also sure there will be some ground covered that is second nature to you. If you have questions during the workshop, speak up. Almost certainly others in the group will be equally interested to hear whatever discussion or tips follow.

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    "Experts" can benefit from workshops, but they have to be designed around the attendees' skill level. Every year, there are multiple conferences and workshops in many fields, many of which only "experts" are allowed to attend (proof of qualification is required). – xiota Mar 3 at 4:03

I think the experience you need is simply: sit down with the camera's thick user manual, and go through it page by page, following along with performing the settings on your camera. If there's anything you don't understand, such as "what is this setting or mode good for", that isn't explained by the manual to your satisfaction, write it down. Go through the entire manual, until you have used, set, played with every single setting that the manual covers.

Then do the whole thing again.

After that, you've had enough experience with the breadth of what the manufacturer has documented what your camera can do. And surely, having done this, it will have triggered some "a ha!" moments in you, where you will recognize how it can help the photography you are interested in.

There is no substitute for experience. But sometimes the seemingly small experiences (such as just exercising features of your camera that you never knew it had, or were too afraid to try) are enough to help you gauge your knowledge, and engage your creativity.

With that, you should be much more confident about attending the workshop, because you'll have a better understanding of what tools are available to you.

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