I’ve been a massive fan of Sam Docker‘s wedding photography for a long time, his visual story telling is second to none and he seems to have a real knack for capturing some incredible, fleeting moments. Back in January when he announced that he was going to be running his very first wedding photography workshop at QUAD in Derby in April I knew I had to go. I booked a spot as soon as tickets were released, it’s a good job I didn’t hang around as all 15 places were snapped up in about 20 minutes!
Irrespective of what job you do, education and training are important to improve your skillset, learn new techniques and to give yourself a bit of a creative boost. Each year for the last couple of years I’ve tried to find a wedding photography workshop that would allow me to push my knowledge and photography techniques. Two years ago I went on Sam Hurd’s Epic Workshop and last year I spent two days with Lisa Devlin and Adam Bronkhorst at Photography Farm Elements in Birmingham. Both workshops were incredibly valuable and have had a big impact on how I photograph and operate my business, I was keen to see what I could learn from Sam. So two weeks ago I headed up the A38 from Birmingham and made my way to the QUAD arts complex in Derby City centre. Meeting up on the way for a dose of caffeine with my good friends Emily and Katy, from Emily and Katy photography, who were also attending for the day.
After a brief round of introductions Sam started with a little bit of his background story telling us how he started in the wedding photography game and how he got to where he is now. What then followed over the next 8 or so hours is what I would best describe as a “brain dump” of how he runs his business. We saw everything from the commercial side; covering areas such as branding, marketing, SEO, interacting with your clients, pricing and how to successfully close enquiries.
We covered the technical; looking at what kit he uses and why, different shooting techniques, camera setups, what lens combinations he used for different parts of the day. We also spent a good hour going through Sam’s dancefloor setups including a full breakdown of his off camera flash and shutter drag techniques.
One of the things that was a little bit different to most wedding photography workshops was that there was no live shoot. A lot of workshops sell this as a big draw, so that you can see how the photographer works with a couple to shoot portraits. Sam thought this wasn’t the best use of time on the day as it’s not representative of a real wedding and doesn’t work with how he shoots – he’s very (very, very) hands off! These live shoot sessions can also sometimes turn into a bit of a scrum. We still spent plenty of time talking through his portrait techniques and also reviewing some of his key images to understand the importance of light and composition.
Sam ended the day with a run through of his workflow and editing. This covered things like file organisation, backup strategies and tools, plus we got to see his post processing methodologies including editing some RAW files from a recent wedding.
Throughout the day we also spent a lot of time taking through some of the more esoteric things such as mentality, work ethic, focusing (and I’m not talking about the camera here), some of the things in his life that have affected how he shoots and how pushing yourself to work outside of your comfort zone can have an significant impact on you and your business. For me personally, it was these parts of the course that had the most impact and gave a real insight into how focused and driven he is. After the workshop ended we then hit The Brooklyn Social for beers, burgers and banter. It was a great opportunity to review the day and to discuss ideas with some of the other photographers on the course.
So what are my thoughts? Well, if you haven’t worked it out already, I thought Sam’s workshop was great. He’s such a lovely bloke and I think that’s one of the key driving factors in his success. He was incredibly open, very honest and didn’t pretty anything up. The course was delivered in an entraining but informative way and was full of passion and drive. The longer you’re in the business and the more training you’ve done in the past, then the gains from these types of activity will obviously become less. Even though I’ve now been doing wedding photography for 5 years I still leant so much from Sam’s course. I’m not going to go into the fine details of the workshop content but for me there were a couple of important themes that really ran strong through Sam’s work and approach. The key things were the importance in focusing on people and emotion, plus making sure you’re prepared and that you’re pushing yourself more to get the best for your bride and groom. Some of these things may seem obvious but can easily get lost or forgotten when you’re under pressure on a wedding day. I thoroughly enjoyed my day with Sam, it was a great leaning experience and I finished the day with my head swimming with ideas. I learnt far more from the business side of things than I expected, there were so many little nuggets of information that when added up I’m sure will make a significant impact. It was also fascinating to see how one of the UKs top wedding photographers does things and what techniques I can apply to my own work.
So have I got any criticisms? I think the only minor thing that I would say is that we probably needed a little more time, maybe another hour. There was a huge amount of information given on the day – my fourteen and a half pages of scrawled notes are testament to that! But considering that this was Sam’s first wedding photography workshop, it went incredibly well and I would thoroughly recommend this course to any wedding photographer looking for some inspiration and guidance. Sam will be running this workshop again in the future (I think not before 2018 though) and if you’re thinking of going, then definitely to do it . . . just don’t hang about when the tickets are announced!
Photo by the amazing Nigel Hayward from Nigel John Photography, pretty much sums the day up!