I spent today, September 12th, with a group of interested photographers including my friends Isabel, Laurie and Joseph. We had all signed up independently for the Portrait Perfect session put on by Henry's Learning Lab featuring renowned New York City based fashion photographer Lindsay Adler. It was a most informative and interesting day.
I've taken classes with Lindsay before at Photoshop World. The young lady who taught today has come a long way in the two years since I last sat in one of her classes. Her confidence is catching and she was definitely on her game today, speaking lucidly and very quickly for the duration of her presentation.
The day started with a very fast introduction to studio lighting led by Henry's staff instructor Jim Ogilvie. Jim was engaging and funny and got a lot of material across very quickly. He knew he was (his words) the opening act and still delivered excellent content in a very short space of time. This was well received because while some attendees had significant lighting experience, for some, studio lighting was still relatively new and Jim did a stellar job.
Lindsay came on after a short break and blew her audience away with her enthusiasm, vivacity and knowledge. I had expectations coming in and they were completely wrong. I expected a lot of shooting tutorial and to take away methodology on dealing with fashion models despite the portrait orientation of the class. Lindsay is an amazing fashion photographer. By her own words, it is what drives her, and I wondered about the logic of having a killer fashion photographer teach a seminar on portraiture.
What we got instead was a vibrant, and very fast passed, multi-layered presentation on the business of photography, primarily focused on the full time professional but also well acclimated to the advanced amateur photographer looking to supplement income or help fund their gear addiction. I have been a photographer by trade in a past life, and I sincerely wish I had such a mentor and teacher as Lindsay when I was working in the industry some 34 years ago. The fact that Lindsay will celebrate her thirtieth birthday in the next week is telling about her level of accomplishment and commitment. Joe, who has shot professionally for over four decades, joked briefly about how annoying it was when these young folks were so darn good.
I cannot possibly regale you with everything Lindsay covered. Breathing appears optional for this talented artist. She delivered more unfettered content in under five hours, than I have experienced in other coursework spanning five days. Suffice to say, that exiting the class, if you don't know more about reaching prospective clients, dealing with models, the important of hair and makeup and how to use specific modifiers to achieve a specific look, I fear you were one of the very few who could nod off in this ebullient session.
Following the information share (what I would call a core dump), Lindsay went on to set up a series of template shoots using a very small selection of modifiers. She took the time to clarify where there was alignment between fashion work and pure portraiture and when there wasn't. I've been studying light all my photographic career and I came away with new perspectives and new ideas and for this I am very pleased.
Many photographers, and I include myself in this group, tend to undervalue our own work, and may lack confidence from time to time. Listening to a real professional with such clear tenacity who also told true stories about rejection was very affirming and supportive.
I wrote a piece a couple of weeks back encouraging readers in the greater Toronto area to sign up for this seminar. I have no idea if it had any impact although I hope it did, because I know that whomever attended as a result got real value for their dollar. At $200 per seat, $150 if you booked before August 31st, the return on investment was excellent. I've seen lots of other "training" programs costing much more that don't deliver one-tenth the value.
If you had thought about attending, and barring other complications, decided to give this event a miss, should it be repeated, don't miss again. The event was well organized, hit its timing and delivered much more than expected. The only coaching I would offer to Henry's Learning Lab is that the brochures could have been a lot more punchy and aggressive, because I confess that I am very impressed and feel that double the number of people could have attended and still gotten every useful tidbit of information. The majority of tickets were sold online, and I wonder what could be done differently at the country's largest photographic retailer to get more tickets sold in store. Training is always a tough sell. As regular readers know I am a part time instructor for Henry's Learning Lab and also do some course development, in addition to crafting and delivering in store free seminars. So I do have a bias towards seeing success. More to the point, regular readers know that my self-assigned mandate on this site and at the camera club that I conceived, is to help folks who love photography to grow from taking pictures to making images. If a reader thinks I am shilling for Henry's, fair enough but you're wrong.
I did speak briefly with Amy Stein, the new Vice President at Henry's, whose responsibilities include Learning Lab. She shared with me some of the things that she and her team are working on. They're very focused and skills oriented, not a means to sell you gear. Gear is useful, but worthless without skills. Those who attended the session with Lindsay Adler received a very effective boost to the skills inventory. Those who didn't, missed out big time. One might suggest that I point out that the opinions expressed herein are my own, and do not represent the views of Henry's or anybody else. Nuff said. I am The Photo Video Guy and this is all my opinion and perspective.
If you find yourself with the opportunity to see Lindsay Adler speak and do a live shoot, do not hesitate. She's awesome and your time is well spent.