Last year I participated in an air-to-air workshop with Moose Peterson. I wrote about it here, and I think it gives a good perspective on what it was like to experience the workshop. But that’s not the point of my post. Just a couple weeks ago, some one had mentioned that they loved the photos I took from that workshop, and asked why I didn’t have them in my portfolio. To me, it brings up a great topic of whether or not “workshop” photos belong in your portfolio.
I Love The Photos Too
I actually love the photos from that workshop. And I’d love to put them in my portfolio, but I have a very specific reason why I didn’t. And it could totally just be me – I recognize that. But to me, although I may own the copyright to those photos because I’m the one who pressed the shutter, I don’t feel like those photos are really mine. I mean, Moose set up the workshop. He hired the pilots, planes, coordinated everything and simply placed me into a spot to get great photos. I don’t feel like those photos are representative of something that is mine. Some one simply placed me into a position and basically said press the shutter. It wasn’t quite that easy, but it wasn’t much harder either. And if some one hired me to produce something similar I wouldn’t be able to because I don’t have the contacts, nor know the logistics in producing such a photo.
Or let’s say you go to a wedding photography workshop where some one hired professional models (who already know how to pose themselves), picked a great location at a really fancy hotel or church, and set up lighting for you to step in a take a photo that 20 other photographers are taking next to you. Is that representative of something you could produce? If some one hired this person to shoot their wedding, would they be able to reproduce photos like this? I guess only the photographer really knows if they could set up the lights, pose the couple and pick great locations like the leader of their workshop did.
One more example. I’ve seen people post photos in their portfolio, from the live shoots that Westcott has at Photoshop World (using the constant lights so nobody needs triggers for flash). Heck, I’ve even seen people win awards at photo contests using those photos. Here’s an example of a Photoshop composite that I created using one of these setups.
These shoots are already pre-lit, pre-planned, pre-stylized, and basically pre-everything. Don’t get me wrong. They’re fun and it’s always interesting to see what you can get from those shoots. But I never quite think they belong in people’s portfolios because they’re not representative of what that person can shoot. If some one hired them to produce something similar, they may not be able to because some one else set the entire thing up.
So What About Landscapes?
Here’s where it gets interesting. What about landscape workshops? I mean, you can go to Moab for example, and look on a map of all the photo spots that some one else has found and go there too (with a workshop or alone). Do those photos belong in your portfolio? It’s definitely a gray area. To me, composing the landscape is one of the hard parts. Figuring out what to put in the foreground, what lens to use, what to focus on, f-stops, exposure, etc… So it’s not just about location, it’s about much more. Trust me, I’ve been to many landscape workshops and seen people walk away from the same location with drastically different photos. But everyone in my air-to-air workshop or the Photoshop World pre-lit shoots I just mentioned have photos that look nearly identical.
But with the air-to-air workshop, I think the leg-work ahead of time is one of the hardest parts. For the pre-planned photo shoots I spoke about at Photoshop World, I think the lighting, stylizing, posing, and overall ideas of the characters they use are the hardest part. That’s where the creativity comes in. When you have a guy that looks like the samurai above, it’s hard to mess it up. But when you’re standing in front of, say, Mesa Arch in Canyonlands NP, I think it’s easy to mess it up.
A Gray Area
Anyway, I thought the original question I was asked about the air-to-air workshop photos raised a good point. It’s definitely a gray area, and I’m not sure there’s a right answer. In fact I’m sure there’s not and mine is only one opinion here. I think it’s a very personal choice and different for everyone. For me, going back to the original question I was asked, putting those air-to-air photos in my portfolio isn’t something I would personally do. But after all, it is my portfolio and my choice and I’m sure what some one else decides to do could be very different.
How about you? What would you do? Thoughts? Comments?
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