I started this business back in 2011, literally on a dream and whim. I should just call my company “Dream and Whims Photography” because really, it was all impulsive. I had no mentor, no guidance. It didn’t matter, because the photography industry was going through what they call “Rockstar Photographer Worship.” Suddenly, because of the advent of technology, photographers could share information and fast track baby photogs with info that took the rockstars years to learn. What luck!
I ate up all of this info, spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on videos, books, classes. Yet, as I kept diving deeper into the photography world, I found myself disappointed. I met idols who were dismissive. I went to workshops that made me feel robbed. I found way too many cliques that I wasn’t welcome in. I saw renowned companies create white-washed conferences that refused to acknowledge people of color. By 2014, I was over it. I pulled away from the photography world and just focused on my company.
However, that created some serious stagnation. In 2017, I found myself realizing that without inspiration of other photographers or attending classes, I didn’t quite know how to level up. So when Tony Hoffer announced his workshop, after a two-year hiatus…I was in. I clicked “refresh” again and again on the booking page, slamming my finger down to apply. When I got my acceptance email, I squealed and hopped around, envisioning the experience I imagined I would have.
Before the workshop, I went through my own personal hell. All 2017, I battled extreme anxiety and depression. My business had suddenly not become a sole focus, after six years of dedication. The relationships I prized with my clients weren’t there anymore. I was overworked and dropping the ball. My passion was depleted. I pushed myself to the limits to make sure I wasn’t robbing my client of anything, but it took six solid weeks of self-care to recover.
By the time the workshop showed up, I didn’t know what to expect. Spending four days with complete strangers? Jesus. An introverts nightmare. I promised myself to honor my sleep schedule, to eat, to go in with an open mind. I needed to know where to go with my company, the business that fed my soul. I just wanted to get back to my passion.
The workshop was wonderful. The people attending were wonderful. Holy shit, I think we all lucked out with the excellent chemistry between a dozen people. Honestly, if I had to be on a deserted island with a dozen strangers…these peeps would be my choice. We showed up on Friday afternoon, nervous and apprehensive. There were a lot of critiques on the timeline and I had never actually been constructively critiqued. Would they tell me I shouldn’t be shooting weddings? Was I even worthy to be in this industry?
I’m not gonna lie, when Amy and Tony got to my critique and told me how surprised they were at my “traditional” way of shooting, I wanted to crawl into a hole. I knew they were right, that this was why I came…and I’m tired of just “shooting pretty.” But I went back to our Airbnb that night and panicked. This was already so hard and I felt overwhelmed. I want so badly to achieve my highest potential, but also totally understand change is almost always at a glacial pace.
The following two days, we were given specific homework to work on during the shoots they organized. Each of us were given three various things to focus on, specialized to the weaknesses they saw in our work. I really valued this effort they gave, not just creating a generalized experience. Instead, I suddenly had the guidance I had thirsted for and knew what weaknesses to address. On the first day, I got so stuck on a singular idea, that after twenty minutes, I gave up. I burst into tears in front of Jim, who was so patient with my impatience. WHY WASN’T THE GENIUS FLOWING? But that’s how I knew the homework was working.
You know what I loved? Jim went to Tony, must’ve told him the issue and Tony came up to me to give some one-on-one guidance.
Now, in the past, photography idols have really disappointed me. I’ll never forget how at WPPI, I did a Thirst Relief shootout and asked an idol a question about his vision. He walked away from me. Dismissive and rude and crushing.
Having Tony just patiently guide me and teach me to shoot in bite sized pieces (I’m far too big picture at times)…was so confidence-inducing, I felt like I was floating. He helped me, in six minutes, learn how to be more intentional with a vision. The shot I struggled with for twenty-minutes, I nailed and while it won’t win awards…I got it done.
By the end of the third day…I was begging for critiques. I thirst for growth and this workshop was shoving it down my throat in bushels. Everyone there, including the associate photographers Farid and Jim…they were all dedicated to help us grow. It was wonderful. We were given space to struggle. It was okay to be frustrated. It was great to spend thirty minutes perfecting a single shot and learn about light. I loved this whole damn workshop.
I also loved the people. Have I mentioned that? But really, we all struggled and grew together. It was awesome. I know I’m loud, sometimes I get excited and don’t let others talk, sometimes I don’t know when to be quiet. Yet I felt liked and valued. A stark contrast to the workshops and conferences I’ve done, where everyone just wants to brag about themselves.
So if you’re wondering if it’s worth the cost, effort and frustration….I can wholeheartedly say this workshop is probably one of the best ones out there. I am eager for the next one, whenever that is. I look forward to seeing where I can bring my work. 2018 is going to be as transformative as I can make it and I owe my new sense of direction to the Hoffers and the Hoff Team.
And now I’m die hard Hoffer Obsessed now. I have to go, so I can get Tony and Amy’s faces tattooed on my shooting arm. For good luck.