It means photography and your photography learning goals are more important than the “fine dining” or “luxury” accommodation that you’ll read about on many photography workshop providers’ websites.
Does that mean cheap food and very basic accommodation?
No, it doesn’t. Unless that’s what you prefer.
After we have risen before the dawn chorus to photograph either side of sunset, we go on to a decent cafe for any kind of breakfast you like to eat. And, because we’ll be out photographing all day, we’ll visit a bakery or local store to buy as simple or as sumptuous a lunch that suits our appetite and budget. This way we maximise our photography time in the field and keep the price of the workshop affordable.
Photography first means that, for the rest of the day, we don’t spend precious photography time driving to-and-from cafes, or waiting for service in a swanky restaurant, or waiting for people to finish their afternoon tea and scones before we can carry on doing what we came on the workshop to do.
“But I like my food, especially after a long day?” Don’t worry, so do I.
After a rewarding day’s photography, you are invited to dine with me and your fellow photographers at the best, reasonably priced local restaurant. Here you can order and pay for anything you like. And you won’t be wondering how much of the cost of the workshop pays for the food, and how much is profit for the leader.
You may have been on a photography workshop where “luxury” accommodation was included. Even if it lived up to the hype, you may have thought it “over the top” or “a waste of money” given, if it was a decent photography workshop, you will have been up and out before dawn and back after dinner ready to go to sleep ahead of the next day’s early start.
This is why I don’t go on about extravagant accommodation. Accommodation on my workshops is comfortable, secure and reasonably priced. Enough said.
What about transport?
Transport on a photography workshop with me is what you’d expect. We travel in modern vehicles suitable for the terrain and with plenty of room for people and gear.
For multi-day workshops, I rent a minibus or a four-wheel drive. This way, I don’t have to incur – or pass on to you – the expense of a vehicle when I am not using it.
If, elsewhere, you’ve read about chauffeur-driven or private, air-conditioned 4WDs, well, that’s just marketing the hell out of standard features, isn’t it?
A note on group sizes and “individual tuition”
On my one-day workshops, I take a maximum of three people. I run the workshop even if there are only two guests. On multi-day workshops, I take no more than six people.
These small-group numbers mean that I can offer what all photography workshop providers promise but most can’t realistically deliver: quality one-to-one time for everybody. If you’ve done your research – and you’ve read this far, so it looks like you are the sort that researches – you’ll have noticed that practically all photography workshop providers talk about “plenty of individual tuition”. This in spite of taking eight or more participants, even on a one-day workshop. If you’ve been on one of those, you may have wondered about that word “plenty”.
What about locations? Lots of them?
It is common for photography workshop leaders to include five or more locations in a day. This can mean more time spent in that “luxury chauffeur-driven” minibus than time photographing – not to mention driving to and from all of those swanky restaurants and cafes.
In the 30 minutes or so that a too-many-locations approach allows at each “stop”, it is possible to set up and grab the shot that the leader points out to you. But where’s the workshop in that?
On my workshops, we take as much time at a location as the photography and photographers’ learning goals require. We also visit some locations more than once – either to familiarise guests with the location prior to a sunrise or sunset shoot, or simply because that’s what good landscape photographers do.
This approach may mean fewer locations in a day, but it invariably leads to better results.
That’s what photography first means.