Elevate workshop: Images and Workshop Review

Sometimes is good to see the world in a different shape. Here are a few favorite images from my top notch Elevate workshop experience. The overall experience of the Elevate Workshop 2011 experience from start to finish was: positively awesome!

Workshops are the last place you want to waste money. You can’t ‘sell’ your workshop experience on craigslist like that 105 macro lens you bought, rarely used, then turned a profit re-selling craigslist (I’ll tell you how to do that in person). You can’t “sell” your workshop experience to clients. They simply don’t care.

Which is why it is VERY important to carefully choose HOW you spend your money when it comes to selecting a wedding photography workshop, especially when top dollar is concerned. You have think not only how it suits your business, but how that investment might compliment your personality and learning style.

If you were to only read one thing: Go BIG or go home.

And when I say BIG, I don’t mean BIG names. Like Denis Reggie or Mike Colon or Jessica Claire, “kings” in the wedding photographer industry. You don’t have to be ranked a “Top Ten Wedding Photographer in the World” to offer an effective workshop experience. In fact, I kinda want to hear about the people who have rock-solid businesses that are not trying to “sell-out” because they have been affected by “the economy.” I want to learn, share, collaborate, and interact with students those who are not burned out. At least 50% of the people offering wedding photography workshops right now fall under “burned out” or “desperate” category. Sad.

As a 6+ year workshop instructor myself, I appreciate instructors who are able to adapt to various learning styles and excel at doing so. When teaching a workshop there is an unstated golden rule:


As a student, you should never feel bad about asking a question. Nor should you be made to feel bad for asking a question. I can name a dozen college drop-out turned-awesome-wedding-photographers who rock the planet who will testify the same. I even know a few who quit law school to become a full-time wedding photographer and rock it. So the story goes.

As an instructor, you can’t offer your students death by PowerPoint. Or go unscripted with papers flying. Or ridicule them for not understanding an f/stop. There’s gotta be a balance.

And from my experience, not all ‘rocks stars’ in the wedding photography industry know how to teach. You might spend $1500, with nothing in return. Gulp.

A few of my so-called facts to preface:

  1. Education is the best investment you will make in your business.
  2. I have spent over $15,000 in wedding photography related educational experiences. That’s no chump change, but cheaper than the typical grad student loan.

I strive to practice and follow effective rules of public speaking. Having taught 100+ workshops ranging from 2-10 days in duration to over a 1,000 students from Alaska to Maine, I’d make a great motivational speaker. Down by the river.

I cringe when my photographer friends return from big-name workshops, rolling their eyes in sorrow at their empty wallet. I toast that will never happen again. Cheers!


Elevate 2011 was like a classic love story film, where there was a balance of highs and lows, a bit of necessary drama & stress, with the closure of an walking away with motivational message and call to action. Three words to describe the experience:




Eliesa and Judd served as awesome models during my shooting workshop. They knew how to be their “cool selves” in front of the camera… no posing needed.

Eliesa’s Jay-Z style Cribs portrait. wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_03-2011-02-9-21-477.jpg The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs had the coolest props to shoot… A real-life Crate and Barrel (one of my favorite stores) shoot took place concurrent with workshop… super cool.wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_04-2011-02-9-21-477.jpg Judd rocks the underwater camera.wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_05-2011-02-9-21-477.jpg Tons of poolside shenanigans to boost learning:wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_06-2011-02-9-21-476.jpg Of course there were so many pretty things to photograph, including impeccable floral designs by Jen Harthorn:wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_07-2011-02-9-21-475.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_08-2011-02-9-21-475.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_09-2011-02-9-21-475.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_10-2011-02-9-21-475.jpgYou come to a workshop like this not to hob knob with other photographers about the industry. You come to share a common bond. Here, I found my brotha from a notha motha, Brandon Werth, uncontested jowl champion of Palm Springs:wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_11-2011-02-9-21-474.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_12-2011-02-9-21-474.jpgAt night there was a lot of this:wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_13-2011-02-9-21-474.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_14-2011-02-9-21-474.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_15-2011-02-9-21-474.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_16-2011-02-9-21-474.jpg A SFME self-portrait with me andBrandon Werth, one cool photog with heaps of creative inspiration.wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_17-2011-02-9-21-474.jpg The crew photo:wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_18-2011-02-9-21-474.jpgHad a chance to complete a few more cactus portraits in Joshua Tree National Park before/after the workshop:wpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_19-2011-02-9-21-474.jpgwpid-RJK_3934-Edit-2011-02-9-21-47.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_20-2011-02-9-21-474.jpgwpid-elevate_workshop_ace_hotel_21-2011-02-9-21-473.jpg

Below I’ve compiled my thoughts from my workshop experience. I am excited to share them with other photographers looking to search for their next workshop.

1. Overall Vibe

Awesome. Positive learning environment and great people in one of my new “happy places.”I felt I was one of your clients and saw how you treat them by over delivering in a great way. I will squeeze at least a year’s worth of wisdom from my three-day experience, which isn’t easy considering my hard-headedness. I loved the website, the little pencils/pens and notebooks, the branding of the workshop, the approach to be different and come together for a common good to help Elevate the participants to a higher level, the M&M’s, and “surprise guests,” the over the top florals, great models, relevant topics, and your energy! There were a variety of skill levels of attendees, but all had their own businesses at various levels. It wasn’t amateur night, which matched the intended audience of the workshop aimed at “advanced wedding photographers.” If you ask me, there are waaaaay to many workshops aimed at amateurs. Pros need to learn, keep skills polished, and stay inspired and challenged.

2. Food & Location
Satisfying creature comforts creates the stage for learning.The Palm Spring location at the Ace hotel was seriously perfect. I liked that some meals and lodging were provided, along with some savory snack treats. The venue added to the overall experience. Sometimes “place” can distract (think Vegas or Bourbon Street). Crate and Barrel were shooting commercial work at the same time and near our location. Super cool.

3. Price
The price was right. When it comes to putting on a workshop RIGHT, so much money is spent on creating a memorable experience. Think of an awesome concert and stage effects used to make it stand out. I loved the food, models, venue, snacks, booze and hot tubs. Signing up was the easy part.

4. Length & Schedule
The length of the workshop was appropriate. Squeezing a learning experience out of a one hour talk, a two-hour workshop, or even a one-day can’t compare to a three-day experience. Despite a three-day workshop and all we needed to cover, I felt we stayed on schedule and had a well-thought out itinerary, printed beautifully.

5. Content
Speakers came prepared with images, speaking points, demonstrated preparation. I wish I saw that all the talks at PartnerCon and WPPI and other industry trade shows. People REALLY cared about their talks. The panel talk on the last day was very open, honest, and informative.

6. Mentor Sessions. Connecting one-on-one with workshop instructors is essential. Eliesa set up mentor sessions with the instructors to allow for plenty of individual question and answer time. All too often the speakers are too busy or not present at workshops after hours.  I’ll all about the open doors philosophy in terms of helping people at workshops…. even conversations that continue past dinner and into the night.

Would you recommend Elevate to others? Why?
You bet!  200 times over!!  This is wedding photography workshop 3.0 and more people need to experience this type of workshop. We discovered things we just didn’t want to hear, but NEEDED to hear. I’ve attended at least more than a dozen workshops by world-renown photographers.  I got more out of it Elevate than I did by workshops given by Jessica Claire, Dane Sanders, Mike Colon, and Jeff Newsom. John Michael Cooper’s workshop comes in a close tie, only because he doesn’t “do” flowers and cute surprises.

What did I take away from the workshop?
I will continue to keep listening and taming the voice inside that makes me nervous on shoots. I usually get my best shots when I do. Again, I re-affirmed when it comes to a stressful shoot, attitude is king. I loved the ideas to challenge ourselves, think outside the box, and appreciated all the logistics behind the scenes (models, gear, florals, permission, ect). I thought the challenges were very appropriate to lessons people should be learning. They were very doable in the time allotted. Most workshops fail to even go this far. Elevate created opportunities by challenging ourselves creatively, by pushing us outside our comfort zone by offering little time, rules, and concept to execute. I like.

PS – For this workshop I kept a dirty little secret: I challenged myself to shoot outside the box all my images I shot with intent of printing at a 40” x 20” aspect ratio, very different than the typical 2×3 aspect ratio created by most pro dSLRs. Sometimes it’s good to pre-visualization outside the box.

2 Responses to “Elevate workshop: Images and Workshop Review”

  1. Pingback: The Hit List: 33 Photo Tips & Tutorials from 2011 | Kern-Photo

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