Would/Should you include Workshop Photographs in your Portfolio ???

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: February 28, 2010

Category: General

Leading up to the launch of my new website I was spending quite a considerable amount of time deliberating over what images I should include in the new Portfolios: Male, Female & Commercial.

By coincidence, at the same time I was going through this ‘new build’ so too was fellow photographer and friend Rick Wenner, who is based out in New York. Clearly both keen participants in the ‘Social Networking’ world I noticed a question that Rick had posted up on Twitter asking if it was okay for photographs taken during a Workshop to then be used in a photographers’ portfolio. Needless to say a question like this raised quite a few responses; some for and some against.

I’ve attended (and continue to do so) many workshops around the world from Photographers such as Joe McNally, Zack Arias, David Ziser and Damien Lovegrove but have chosen not to include any of the photographs that I took at those workshops to appear in my portfolio. This decision is purely a personal one and by no means am I saying that to do so would be right or wrong but what do you think? …ย Would / Should you include photographs taken at a Workshop you attended in your Portfolio?

One of the reasons I’m interested to get your opinions on this topic is that in the near future I’ll be ‘going live’ with my ‘InSight Photography Workshops’ and the question of using photographs in portfolios is bound to crop up as it has done several times already during the testing phase.

I’d love to get to know your thoughts on this subject so why not leave a few words in the comments section below so others too can get an idea of the overall opinion. It would be great to see the views of ‘clients’ on this topic also and get to know what they think. What would a client think if they saw photographs of the same model, in the same attire on different photographers’ websites? Would it dissuade them from hiring those photographers or would it have no bearing on it at all?

Like I said my own decision has been not to include any photographs that I have taken at a Workshop in my portfolios but I’m going to ‘sit on the fence’ here and not say if I think it’s right or wrong.

Speak soon ๐Ÿ™‚

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26 Comments

  1. Dan Davies

    To me, it’s a question of honesty. If you’re new to the game and building a portfolio, then why not include it, so long as you explain the circumstances that it was “born” in? There’s no harm in explaining to clients how important continuing education is as a photographer is there?

    Reply
    • Glyn

      100% with you Dan on both counts; honesty and continuing education…both so vital not just in our kind of business but any business that wants to move on.
      Thanks for dropping by ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  2. Jurgen

    Glyn,

    This is an interesting question. Let me answer by asking: Why wouldn’t you? What is the purpose of a portfolio?

    You want to present your best work. The images, you present should be a true reflection of what you are capable of. If that was in context of a workshop, you did it in that context. Of course, you want to avoid a case, where another participant at the same workshop took a very similar shot. This comes back to your own personal style.

    For young photographers it is a way of building a credible portfolio.

    On the other hand, you will take your learnt lessons from the workshop and apply them to your daily work. You probably will shoot better images over time because of your learning experience and further integration into your own style. Over time that question would become redundant. Sometimes, you shoot an image that is just great and stands the test of time. If it would be taken at a workshop or as part of a professional assignment wouldn’t make any difference to me. The result counts.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Jurgen, thanks for your thoughts on this. It’s clearly a subject that people have an opinion on; some saying it’s fine and some saying not to do so. I guess the main thing to consider is that the photographer is able to reproduce the quality once away from the Workshop.

      Thanks for taking the time ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  3. Richard Hales

    There is no real reason why you can’t use such an image, as you took it and therefor its your copyright etc.
    There is a moral/ethical issue involved though; how much did you contribute to the pose, lighting, location etc.
    If you can recreate the style of image then this isn’t necessarily an issue, especially if you have similar images in your portfolio taken outside of the workshop situation but if you can’t recreate the image then, ethically, you shouldn’t use it a representation of your abilities

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Richard.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I guess following on from what you say, if a photographer is able to produce the kind of images they took on a Workshop and they have similar already, my initial thoughts are why, if that’s the case, include the Workshop images?

      Would be great to see what a clients opinion would be, but then as Dan has mentioned, if they’re honest about the origin of their images is it an issue?

      Cheers, Glyn

      Reply
  4. Gerwyn DURY

    Glyn

    I have to say that I agree with Dan on this one and as he rightly says, I think honesty is the key.
    For many photographers just starting out, then it can be difficult to gain the experience, contacts, knowledge and the technical skills to become successful in the industry!
    So then, why not use the images in your portfolio. That by rights you have still taken (albeit with a little help from a friend)at a workshop.
    However, I think the problem occurs when the photographers who use these images they have gained from part taking in such workshops, don’t use the expertise that they have gained from such and experience, to continue growing and learning in their particular field. Thus giving the potential client, a false hope of what they can expect from their chosen photographer.

    This is an interesting and thought provoking topic and one that I am sure will cause debates amongst photographers for a long time to come.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Keeping the momentum going once you’ve left a Workshop is definitely ‘key’.
      Thanks for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment Gerwyn.

      Cheers

      Reply
  5. Noel Hannan

    I think the issue here is about being able to reproduce the image yourself at a later date. If, for example, I was on an Annie Liebowitz shoot, camera in hand, amongst the extensive lighting setup, the half a dozen assistants, the make-up artists and the gofers, and I take a shot, almost identical to the shot Ms. Liebowitz has taken (apologies to Ms. Liebowitz…) then, no I wouldn’t include it in my portfolio. I might blog about it and certainly show it as a good photograph. But the problem would be that I could not replicate it. I simply do not have her resources. If I did, that would be a different matter.

    If I go on a ‘one light’ workshop, well, I have one light, I can practice the technique if its one I didn’t have before and I can replicate it.

    I went on one of Glyn’s excellent ‘taster’ workshop back in December and took a great shot of a male model, Danny. I went back home and was able to replicate the technique again and again. Danny is in my portfolio. Great debate Glyn…

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Thanks for the comments Noel. It’s a good point you raise about kit that was used to create the image as in the Annie Liebowitz example. Sure, it’s not the kit that makes the photographer but without certain stuff then there are looks you’re not going to be able to recreate just as Tim mentions in a later reply.

      Thanks for contributing to the ‘chat’ ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  6. Sebastian Bober

    Hi Glyn. Let me contribute to this discussion ๐Ÿ™‚
    Personally, I can’t see the problem with workshop images. Sure, they will appear on few websites. The same model, location, maybe even pose. But: these are only a part of portfolio.
    More advanced/pro photographers can use them to enhance their original work and young guns (like myself) should use them to start building up their collection (we all know how hard it is to get the first images to your portfolio).
    I am quite confident (Have I wrote it out loud?! ) about my skills and I am able to reproduce the images that I took on most of workshops/seminars that I was attending – If “you” can do it to, there nothing should stop you from putting these photos on your website and being proud of them! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Glyn

      I guess being able to ‘do it’ is the key as opposed to having everything all set up and the attendee just walking up and pressing the shutter. That being said, all manner of things come into play i.e composition, framing etc… so unless the ‘instructor’ has held the camera for them too, I’m guess it’s valid to say the attendee does playa part in creating that final image (?)

      Cheers, Seb

      *Oh, and yes you did say that out loud…lol

      Reply
  7. JJPare

    Philosophically, I lean towards not including them โ€” again from an ‘honesty’ point of view. Even if the style of shooting from the workshop matches the aesthetic that I’m going for in my own work, nearly everything about the shot was controlled by someone else. I may have tweaked the pose a bit, and the composition, but overall the shot says nothing about my ability to walk in to any room and get the kind of pictures that’ll make a client happy.
    Of course, having just said that, I have to admit that if you were to sneak a peek at the current lineup in my portfolio, you will notice a couple of shots from the OneLight workshop we attended. However, you might also notice that there are only 9 shots there in total. Having recently decided to focus myself to that style of lit portraiture, I’ve had to lose pretty much everything else I’ve shot over the last 6 years. As a result, I have very little to show around while I work to build a whole new body of work, but in order to get clients to hire me I need to show *something*. And so those couple of shots were added. (And at the very least, I don’t think they stick out at all when compared to the other images thereโ€”if anything, they’re probably the weaker ones)

    But they will also be the first images to be replaced as new work comes in and then, at best, they’ll show up in a blog post.

    Good work on the blog, by the way. It’s become one of my regular stops.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Jason. Thanks for dropping by and yeah I do tend to agree with you re the ‘honesty’ thing.
      Good luck with the new portfolio and thanks for the comment re the blog; I appreciate it mate.

      Reply
  8. Jon Watkiss

    I’m of the opinion that it depends on how much you contribute to the result and if you can replicate it, if someone else had rigged lights, reflectors, built the set etc I waltz along, take a shot and use it, I think I should be hunted down!
    An example of workshop shots: I have pictures on my PC that I instructed on in the fact that it was someone new to shooting {a little workshop I do every now and then locally}, they wanted to learn, they told me what they wanted the image to look like. I told him what would happen using different techniques and settings, he posed the shot, instructed the model, told me where he wanted the lights and he took the shots, I would have no problems with him using these images in his portfolio. If I’d done all the ‘leg work’ and told him to just push the button then this would be a different matter!

    Defo a long debate though Glyn, good luck finding the answer ;^)

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Great contribution Jon, and yeah I agree this is a definitely a topic that could be talked about for some time.
      Cheers

      Reply
  9. Tim Wallace

    This is a discussion that I feel has valid points on both sides, the question is very open and the answer not simple by any means. From a purely legal and objective point of view it would depend on how the image was shot and set up. A photographer attending a seminar who takes a shot on his own equipment does indeed own the copyright to that image, however if the model and the lighting was setup for him then he goes to use that shot to help him gain a commission from a client then in open terms he is breaking the trades description act as he is gaining funds through the commission based on work that he did not ‘create’ in the full sense of the meaning. I run seminars each year with some of the top UK car manufacturers and as part of the tutorial I do a live shoot with multiple lighting setups and shot on Hasselblad equipment, this is to give people a full understanding of what is possible out of camera, very much in the same vain as Glyn is doing. The images that the pupils shoot after I’ve done my demo in the morning will indeed use the cars that we have put in place and the lighting that we had previously setup, however in the strict sense of honesty the photographer can not say that it is his work and that indeed he can reproduce that level of lighting and quality in any other situation. Seminars are training environments and not portfolio days. This said of course people will get good shots and they will use them ion their portfolios and can we blame them. The interesting point is that this will only normally be a few images and if they take away the lessons learned and shoot their own stuff in addition then its an honest act of capability. If they do not then its pretty obvious as the images will stand out and be apart from their other work. My own site has around 400 images on it and they are all in the same style pretty much and varied over a number of years, this shows a prospective client that I have both experience and pedigree if that’s the right term.
    The answer, well its not open, indeed its like trying to answer the question is photography art? – in short you can never give an answer that everybody agrees with. The setup, if its the main reason for the shot being a good one, is very clearly down to the person giving the seminar, the capture, in its purest form is the person clicking the shutter. Another way of looking at this is which takes more skill?
    One solution in seminars is to teach the lighting breakdowns fully and teach why they work in such ways, do test shots yourself to prove your point and then move the lighting to breakdown, reset the stage and invite them to play with the lessons they have learned, this is my favored action as it then stands more chance of actually sinking in with the pupil.
    Is my answer right or wrong, not sure, who can really say as neither party is on the fence for both in these cases.

    Reply
  10. Rick Wenner

    Thanks for taking this question public on your blog Glyn. It’s been very interestig to read what others have to say about this topic. I’ve decided to only use photos from workshops that I know that I can recreate AND that I had major involvement in the posing, lighting, angles, etc. This caused me to take out a number of images from my portfolio (which kinda sucks) because based on my experiences at workshops, most of the work is done for us. Dave Jackson (www.davidejackson.com) also made a good point that they’re not “my” models, meaning that I did not choose who I photographed for my own reasons. One main part of a photographer’s brand is their portfolio. The subjects that they choose to photograph show what they like to shoot most. You get more jobs based on what you show. If you show commercial style models in your portfolio, than that’s what you will be mostly hired for. If you show high fashion, you’ll get more work shooting high fashion. When you have bands in your portfolio…well, you get the point. I’m starting to write my own blog post in your comments, so I’m done now. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  11. Mike

    I don’t think workshop organisers really give a rats ass as they want bums on seats. You go to a workshop to gain knowledge, tips, network, get some alternative location/style shots if that is what’s included. On some workshops I have seen advertised, they have stated that they don’t want images to be used commercially or in print competitions.

    Lets be honest, if the images can not be used on-line it still will not stop said photographer from showing off the images whether it be on the computer, in a private gallery or in print format.

    Reply
  12. Nick Gamma

    I was the city host for Zack Arias’ last Onelight Workshop in NYC. I personally saw the images that I shot as practice. I choose not to show these shots in my portfolio. My feeling is that only until I create the image on my own is it MY image. Having a lighting set up put together by someone else and have workshop attendees all step into the same set up does not feel like it’s my image. This is simply my opinion and I understand that some people see workshops as portfolio building opportunities. Just my thought. It’s an interesting question.

    Reply
  13. Scot Baston

    Just to add another thought to the pot..

    Today, I was on day 2 of a 2 day fashion photography course and we were given a brief for a shoot.. We then had to devise exactly how and what we would shoot. The location and model were chosen by the course leader, while everything else was up to each student. Each student came up with totally different shoots using different aspects of the location and different style.

    in other words, what I shot today was my work within the bounds of the brief. Quite similar to a brief from a client I suppose. At what point do we as photographers say this is not my work? I didn’t design the set, didn’t choose the model but I did have sole creative input into how I shot the image.

    In a slightly different context, I have done a few landscape courses, and while I received feedback on what I was shooting I still consider those images to be my own. I suppose I have strong ideas about what I want from an image and if I implement it, even while on a course I consider it mine to use as I wish. I didn’t choose the mountain range, but I did choose how I would shoot it.

    For me a course is more like a phototour or safari.. The course leader is more like an opinionated local guide.

    Reply
  14. John Shim

    Glyn –
    Great question and you can see the discussion you’ve generated. I think I agree with what people say. I say use it in your port but explain that it was shot at a workshop. Unless you setup the lighting, posed the model(s), and etc… there’s no reason why you should take credit. Even in a lot of print/photo competitions, rule explicitly state that you are not allowed to use photos taken at a workshop unless you’re the one that is running the workshop and is the person responsible for setting everything up.

    Even if you’re new or just starting out (like I am)… you have friends you can ask to model for you based on the lighting setups you learned at a workshop (i.e. OneLight).

    Hope you’re doing well Glyn!

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hey John,

      Great to hear from you mate; thanks for dropping in.
      totally agree with what you say; I think like alot of people have said, it all boils down to ‘honesty’. I like the point you make that if you do have the ability to set up such photographs, then why not set up and take your own away from the Workshop with friends etc ….

      All is well this end mate; hope things are good with you too.
      Take care and speak soon,

      Glyn

      Reply
  15. Peter

    Where are the amazing pictures of the police that you have on your business cards?

    Have you written to Annie Leibovitz yet?

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Hi Peter, Great to see that you’ve dropped by. Re the photographs of the police, there’s a couple within the portfolios but more on my Flickr page which you can get to from the Contact Page on my main site or by clicking here The letter to Annie Leibovitz is being done as we speak ;o) Cheers, Glyn

      Reply
  16. CallumW

    Good topic this one.
    I think a good analogy would be if I put birthday candles on an M&S cake then I can’t claim to have baked it myself ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I think it’s fair to show in a blog as it shows that you’re pushing to learn and expand your knowledge.

    A disconcerting thing I heard from a colleague recently was that some people are buying royalty free images from stock sites and putting them in their portfolio as their own work.

    The downside of both scenarios is that if someone asks for a variation on the style of ‘your’ image X and you can’t reproduce it for whatever reason, then they’re left discredited.

    CW

    Reply

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