My First Photo Workshop Experience

Young Lady at the Broken Spoke

[Update:  Some very important edits — mainly a shout-out to Dave Wilson — stayed on my desktop rather than making it into this post.  Adding them in the second paragraph now…]

I took a photography workshop this past weekend (my first) and learned first and foremost how much I have yet to learn about photography.  Teaching the workshop was Raul Touzon, a documentary photographer who does work for many big publications, including National Geographic.  Thought I’d share a bit of my experience here.

The first thing I need to do is call out Dave Wilson and thank him for setting up this workshop and inviting me to it.  Dave recently took a workshop with Raul and has been regularly posting images from that trip over the past few months.  When he sent out a note saying that a workshop was being held in Austin AND it was very heavily discounted due to a mix-up in dates, I jumped on the opportunity.  I’m extremely glad I did.  Great learning experience.  Great social experience as well — awesome, encouraging classmates.

Raul doesn’t mince words in his lectures and critiques and I got the definite sense that he rankled a few feathers among some students.  Admittedly I was scared to death in anticipation of my first critique, and unfortunately I was the last (of 20-ish students) to be critiqued…had butterflies in my stomach for a couple hours.  I did find it helpful to sit through the earlier critiques and by the end could predict much of what I would be critiqued on.  I thought that Raul kept a good balance between getting in your face and encouraging you — I came away without any emotional wounds 🙂

For our photoshoot on the second day we spent the afternoon inside the Broken Spoke — an iconic Austin country bar and dance hall.  We had models to shoot and were to work with the many different light sources in the place and to use off-camera flash when appropriate.  We had the following general rules for our shoots:

(1) Use your widest lens — 10-20mm in my case
(2) NO headshots or plain-old portraits — if you’re shooting people make them
environmental shots.  Use interesting angles.
(3) NO edits allowed — images presented for critique in front of the class had to
come straight from the camera w/o adjustment or cropping.

These restrictions were quite difficult for most of us — weren’t used to shooting this way at all.

I enjoyed shooting with the models (I can’t ever get my kids to model for more than 3 clicks these days).  As the day finished up I approached the young lady in the image above (a customer) and asked if I could photograph her.  She was more than happy to oblige and began to tell me about herself and some of the other ladies at the table.  This is one of the shots that the instructor picked as keeper-ish out of the 20+ I had to submit.  I was shot handheld with the camera in my right hand and the flash in my left.

While no one would describe this shot as “way out there”, it definitely is something I never would have shot before.  Wide angle for a portrait?  Would never cross my mind.  Angled composition?  Nope.  That half sign in the background?  No again.  What did the instructor like?  Unique angle, foreground of the hands on the menu, menu has the name of the place, the sign adds to the sense of where you are and explains the lighting on the hair, the contrast on the face.  The eyes — while normally you want to get those eyes lit the shadows exaggerate the heavy mascara put on for a night of dancing.  He explained much that could be improved of course but he pointed out some positive aspects that I could keep in mind for future shots.

I was certainly challenged to approach photographs in a new way.  While I need a lot of work to consistently execute what I learned, I have another set of tools and more ways to approach an image moving forward.

Dave Wilson’s site:

Raul Touzon’s site:

10 responses

  1. I’m glad you found the experience worthwhile. I’ve done 2 workshops with Raul and always come away feeling like a complete beginner! That said, I also always come away inspired by what I’ve seen and learned so, on balance, the experiences are definitely well worthwhile.

    I was sorry to miss the Broken Spoke day – I guess I’ll have to wait until next April when he’s coming back to teach his Portable Sun lighting class in Austin.

    April 27, 2010 at 8:52 am

    • DAVE! I had a final version which included credit to you for arranging the workshop in addition to a few other tweaks — accidentally didn’t post that version. Updated it just now. Sorry about that — it’s important to me to credit those who deserve it.

      April 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

      • Mike, there was absolutely no need for you to change the post! Any organisation involved merely a few emails and phone calls and many other people did a lot to promote the workshop and make it happen (Nina Mihm, Rae Dollard and Kelly Lynn James top the list).

        April 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm

  2. Great post, and wonderful photo, Michael! I would love to have been able to attend the workshop, but an already planned vacation took precedence. So thanks for posting your thoughts on the class; maybe I can put some of your experiences into my own efforts.

    April 28, 2010 at 7:52 am

    • Thanks! Wish you could have been there — we’ll meet one of these days.

      April 28, 2010 at 9:57 am

  3. Hey Mike! Great post, and I love the ‘young lady’ at the Broken Spoke, definitely one of my favorite images from the workshop. It was great to meet you this past week, I hope we can shoot together again soon. You rock!

    April 28, 2010 at 8:31 pm

  4. This is a really nice portrait and you were a wonderful part of the class. I’d love to come out and meet your family some time.
    Take care and please stay in touch.

    April 29, 2010 at 1:33 am

  5. Kelly and Kristin — Great to meet both of you (and everyone else in the workshop)! I had a blast. It would be great to all hook up for workshops, shoots, or photowalks again in the future. Kelly, thanks for assisting us with our shooting too!

    April 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

  6. Pingback: Raul Touzon’s Portable Sun Workshop « Michael Tuuk Photography

  7. Pingback: Raul’s Rules for Capturing Motion « Michael Tuuk Photography

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