Seminars for Fun and Profit


A photography seminar can be worthwhile and educational, providing you choose the right one. And while that decision may seem difficult to make when faced with a plethora of choices, there are only three factors to consider--the instructor, the location and, yes, the price.

Many well-known photographers teach. They’re willing to offer their services because teaching can be a great way for them to promote themselves, make a few bucks and travel to a different city.

But a good photographer is not necessarily a good teacher and communicator, warns Reid Callanan, director of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in New Mexico. Experienced photographers who can clearly communicate their ideas and motivate students make the best teachers.

It’s also important to find out if the seminar will be a show-and-tell workshop, which is usually shorter, or the longer, hands-on variety. Catalogues and referrals from people who have attended the workshop in the past can usually answer those questions.


Seminars take place everywhere, from Westminster to Rockport, Me. You need to keep travel expenses (transportation, lodging and meals) in mind when weighing tuition costs. The cost can quickly add up to as much as $2,000.

Callanan and his wife Cathy, who will operate the Santa Fe Workshops, worked for 14 years at The Maine Photographic Workshops, one of the oldest and most established photographic seminars in the country. Callanan arrived at Rockport in 1976, one year after graduating from college, to attend the seminar.

“I learned more in two weeks then I had in five years working on my own. It was the intensity and experience of the workshop. It was working with a master teacher. It was being able to take all the questions you’ve ever had and having someone to answer them.

“When you work on your own, you work in a vacuum. I was immersed in photography. I ate, slept, drank and breathed photography 12 hours a day. It was a turning point in my photographic career.”


After the seminar, he received a work-study position and worked in the lab. He became the manager of the lab and workshop store. In his last four years at Rockport, he was the workshop’s managing director.

“You never know what will happen when you go to a workshop,” Cathy Callanan said. “I attended (The Maine Photographic Workshops) as a photographer, met Reid and one week later he proposed.”

They left Rockport to start their own workshop in Santa Fe.

“We loved the town,” he said. “It’s a tremendously photographic place.It’s awe-inspiring and has beautiful light with a tremendous amount of this to photograph.”


Attending a weeklong seminar is a change of pace from college photography classes, Callanan said. “In most traditional academia you take one class a day or once a week. What you do in a workshop is compress the time. You get instant feedback.”

Workshop participants at Santa Fe will spend the day with instructors--even during meals--exchanging ideas. At night, there will be slide presentations. Instructors for the upcoming Santa Fe Photographic Workshops include celebrity portrait photographer Gregory Heisler, editorial photographer Sam Abell, studio photographer Nick Vedros, advertising photographer Michael O’Neill and Laguna Beach-based commercial photographer Rob Gage.

The workshop focuses on the professional photographer, but classes for beginners are also offered.

The weeklong workshops begin June 10 and continue through Aug. 4. Tuition, which does not include food or lodging, ranges from $395 to $650. For more information, call (800) 388-3258.


The Maine Photographic Workshops in rural Rockport, Me., offers a fine faculty that includes portrait photographer Arnold Newman, commercial photographer Jay Maisel, documentary photographer Mary Allen Mark, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Brian Lanker and landscape photographer John Sexton. Workshop prices range from $350 to $600, excluding food or lodging. For more information, call (207) 236-8581.

Other workshops include:

The Fine Art of Black and White Photography: Westminster-based photographer Larry A. Vogel offers three workshops suited for people who want an introduction to the workshop environment but who don’t have the time or the funds to attend a weeklong seminar. Vogel will teach technique and inspiration in Westminster, then conduct photographic outings to the beaches of Southern California and the Kern River. The cost is $200 for each workshop. The Darkroom Workshop runs Oct. 19-21. The Kern River Workshop is Oct. 25-28 and the Coastal Workshop is Dec. 7-9. For more information, contact Vogel at (714) 891-6956.

Owens Valley Photography Workshops: These workshops are intended for the serious landscape photographer. Directors John Sexton, Ray McSavaney and Bruce Barnbaum will have you dusting off your large-format camera and venturing out into nature. Upcoming workshops include: “Landscape and Darkroom: Personal Interpretation in the Pacific Northwest” taught by Barnbaum, July 22-27; “The Spirit of a Land--Photographing Northern New Mexico” taught by McSavaney, John Nichols and Jack Waltman, Aug. 11-17; Canadian Rockies Workshop taught by Barnbaum and Craig Richards, Sept. 9-15. Workshop prices are $350 to $450. For more information, call (206) 691-4105 or (213) 225-1730.