Education. Education. Education. Jerry Ghionis Workshop in Denver, Colorado

I interrupt my usual program of wedding related blogging to bring you a little review/update on a photography workshop I attended last week.

One of the things I love about being a photographer is that you never stop learning. There is always something that you can work on and it's really important to me that I push and challenge myself to improve year on year.

In 2010 I set myself an objective of improving my reception lighting and after much reading, discussions on forums, a number of workshops and seminars and spending a LOT of time setting up all sorts of crazy lighting in my kitchen I feel like you can pretty much throw any reception set up at me and I can make it look good!

For 2011, my fourth year of photographing weddings, I decided I wanted to continue my understanding of light and take my couples and family pictures to the next level.

You'll notice a common theme - light. According to Wikipedia: The word photography derives from the Greek words phōs (genitive: phōtós) light, and gráphein, to write. The word was coined by Sir John Herschel in 1839

Often the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph is how the photographer sees and uses light. In my opinion, Jerry Ghionis is one of the best if not the best wedding photographers in the world for his skill and talent in finding and capturing the light. Whether it's his stunning & glamourous couples portraits or his meaningful & touching family pictures, he has this ability to make the ordinary totally extraordinary.

So when I found out that Jerry, who is based in Australia, was coming to the US to teach a series of photography workshops I knew I had to sign up. I could have attended a local class in July but that's a crazy busy time for me so last week I headed out to Denver, CO for a whole week of nothing but the study of light and posing and direction and business and just a little karaoke...

Of course it was considerable investment - both time (a whole week away from my husband and the dogs without editing, finishing off album designs, blogging!) and money (thousands of dollars for the workshop plus flights and hotel) - but I'd say to anyone thinking that they can't afford such a workshop, they almost can't afford not to! You'll develop a better understanding of light and get incredible tips for posing and directing. You'll leave a better photographer, a better business owner, heck I think most of us came out of it committing to be better people in general.

So if you're wondering what actually happens at a week long photography workshop...

Monday was critique day and although it was completely nervewracking, each of us survived and left at 7pm with pages and pages of notes. Tuesday, we watched Jerry in action and started putting various techniques into practice. I think there's a tendency to assume that once you're charging tens of thousands for wedding photography you only have beautiful locations and beautiful people to photography but Jerry showed us his mad MacGyver skills with example after example of how he made absolutely amazing photographs in very ordinary situations. In the pictures below you can see how we used just window light and a simple navy curtain in a somewhat cluttered location:

Side note, Jen is an incredibly talented photographer in California who was doing double duty as one of our models and I'm so happy to count her as a new friend now (along with 9 other new photography friends and 1 old one ;)

Each of us then had 10 minutes with our "model" who also happened to be Jerry's wonderful wife Melissa. Melissa is originally from Massachusetts and she's one of the most kind and funniest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Oh and she's amazing to photograph:

Jerry then demonstrated the fun you can have in a dark room with a video light:

Wednesday kicked off with shooting in the bright Colorado sun. Most of the time it's tempting to run for shade to avoid harsh shadows and whilst I still prefer shade for family pictures to avoid squinting I think most of us were astonished with how amazing pictures in the midday sun can be. Patrick was one of our models and Jerry set up this shot by having him lean against a dirty black SUV window...

I totally get that most of my couples don't want to remember their wedding day as one long posing experience but equally many of them will look to me for a little direction in how to stand, what to do with their hands etc. Ultimately, who doesn't appreciate a little help in standing a little taller, slimmer, more elegant...

Walking is more complex than you think - seriously! - you're trying to catch a split second where your couple has a great expression and their limbs aren't awkwardly waving in mid-air. Jerry gave us some excellent tips and tricks for beautiful walking shots:

So now you're probably thinking, well it all looks like a lot of hard work. I thought this Jerry guy is supposed to be fun?! I'm happy to report that there was much laughing during the week, and with this being Jerry's first time in the snow, Melissa made sure to share her tips for making top snow angels:

We also had another individual 10 minute session with a model so we could implement what we'd learnt and have our images critiqued again. I had 10 minutes with Tammy who was such a good sport in the freezing conditions. The challenge was to come up with a beautiful image in the parking lot surrounded by storage containers...

Thursday and Friday were spent on individual mentor sessions, reviews of our marketing materials and general business and my mind is still spinning with all of the ideas and information that Jerry shared with us.

Thursday evening was our group night out and as you can imagine after 4 incredibly long days in a room we'd all gotten to know each other pretty well. We ended up in a rather bizarre but surprisingly popular Czech bar in Denver and karaoke was mandatory. I will spare you the stories but let's just say there's a reason this was only the third time I have ever sang out loud in public. My new friend Jen saved my life by singing the "Are you calling me Darling?" chorus of "That's not my name" by the Ting Tings.

Everett brought his camera and caught this shot of the group. Unfortunately this means that Everett isn't in the shot and also Barb is missing (oh, the stories I could tell you about the amazingness that is The Barb):

For any photographers on the fence about attending a Jerry Ghionis workshop I really can't recommend it enough. Frankly, by the end of Wednesday I felt like I'd had my money's worth and we still had two days of business and marketing to go. Jerry is not only incredibly passionate about what he does but he's an excellent teacher. It's a very specific talent to be able to break down what you do and how you do it and Jerry is so so generous with his knowledge, experience and time. Here's his schedule of workshops (plus he's doing a North America tour with Sandy Puc' that would probably be pretty awesome too if you can't make it for a whole week) **here**

And in the spirit of continued education I head out to Las Vegas tomorrow for WPPI - Wedding & Portrait Photographers International - not only do I get to learn EVEN more and check out the latest new photography products available but I get to meet up with many of the Denver crew again!


  1. Wow, the redhead is gorgeous. I love the photo of her looking back at him. :) Excellent.

  2. Dark Room + Video Light = GORGEOUS..

    Jerry is the master of light.. wow.. Can't wait to see what you produce after this workshop!

    See you soon


  3. your work was gorgeous & breathtaking before but you certainly have reached another level of incredibleness! did I mention I want to get married again so you can shoot my wedding?! :)

  4. awesome Leah! I signed up to this workshop too! talk about a pretty penny, glad it was all worth the investment~

  5. Great review and so glad you had a wonderful time! Thank you for sharing.