Who among us is not deluged with email inducements to attend every workshop, seminar, and class under the sun? Experts from all corners want to share their knowledge on every photography-related subject imaginable, from basics geared toward the greenest novice, to post-shoot workflow formulas "guaranteed to save time." Topping the list are workshops that often turn out to be more "sponsorship" than seminar, dedicated to selling us the sponsor's latest product. In the mad rush to understand the newest sensor chip or how to make breakfast with a light meter, most of these courses have no time left to teach photography, which is ironic to say the least. Technology or technique? That is the real question.
Even beyond the thinly disguised sponsor advertising, it seems that these seminars and workshops follow one of two very predictable routes: One, it's a long day jam-packed with rapid-fire information delivered at breakneck speed. Blow your nose, and you miss a ton. These events leave you with a hyped-up feeling that translates into real learning only if you go home and immediately practice what you learned; otherwise, you'll forget most of it.
Or it's the type of class that I call a "nodder." This is usually a smaller class, with an instructor who speaks in a hypnotic monotone guaranteed to have you nodding off in no time. Allowing too many questions from a too-green audience furthers the sedative effect.
So where, I wondered, was the happy medium in photo continuing education? There had to be something out there that could deliver digestible information that could be put into effect immediately-or in a month-without being forgotten. Was it possible to obtain a truly superior level of knowledge rather than just an almost hit-or-miss crash course in the subject at hand? I didn't want useful bits and pieces; I didn't want a live infomercial. I wanted a comprehensive day that was academically linear and productively interactive-hands-on, even.
Tall order, huh? I might as well have been rubbing a tarnished old lamp waiting for the Photo Genie to pop out.
There was no lamp, but the Genie arrived in the form of a stunning invitation in my mailbox to attend a Renovance.tv workshop in New York City on fashion photography-my photography love of loves. On the RTV site, I could view video clips of classes in progress, guest speakers, and the instructor, the fashion photog guru Claudio Basso. It was great to be able to experience the sights, sounds, and content of the workshops. These clips provided a hint of the appeal and out-of-the-box nature of what was in store.
What I have since discovered by attending a workshop is that RTV offers a truly unique "Reality Training" format. The listen-and-take-notes component is supplemented with shooting in the workshop studio, implementing the concept at hand. In the fashion workshop I attended in September, students took turns shooting a professional agency model with Basso at their side after solid yet digestible theory had been imparted. Concurrently, he shared tips and tricks from his 30 years of shooting around the world, including how to set up the perfect fashion white background and specific lighting that's seen in high-end fashion magazines. During the workshop, Basso shot a cover and fashion spread, while eagerly encouraging us to look, see, and try. How often does a workshop or seminar offer this level of hands-on training with a master at their side?
Besides the obvious benefit of reality training, RTV offers a superior level of professional and practical knowledge passed on in an easy-to-absorb-and-implement style. Basso was an excellent instructor with a style that was at once laid-back and casual, and yet stimulating without overkill. In jeans and soft loafers (sans socks), with short spiked hair and exuding an unmistakable Italian vitality, he entered the room with gusto. He looked us over and rubbed his hands together in a gesture that said he meant business. He spoke in a straight-up manner laced with humor, colorfully at times, and got to the heart of things without drone or redundancy. One of the first things he said to us was, "I am going to change the way you look at photography. You will never, ever look at it the same way again." He went on to spend two days proving his point. In the final hour of the last day, he asked us if we agreed with his opening statement, and we did, hands down. After only two days of soaking up this master of fashion photography, we were indeed illuminated. He knows his stuff, but even better, he knows how to pass it on.
Renovance's revolutionary Reality Training Workshops have an amazing appeal, drawing students that shoot all types of photography from every corner of the globe. Participants come from such locales as Mexico, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, Bulgaria, the U.K., Germany, and China-their interest not necessarily being fashion, but rather learning from a master. They include enthusiastic repeat customers, some of whom have taken their third workshop in a row, never mind the travel or the price. I for one have rarely been impressed enough by a class to race to the head of the line for future workshop sign-ups. Yet a long reservation list has formed for Fashion Photography, the True Story, brought back by sheer demand. I realize the reason for this success is RTV's distance from classic academic education, replaced by Reality Training. Along with this dynamic photography training course will be a new workshop, The Power of Light.
If the exceptional teaching style, the Reality Training format, and the ability to return home to your own studio and immediately implement what you learned are not enough, consider the amazing quality of work achieved by the participants. Students don't merely study the quality work of the instructor; they create their own stunning imagery in the studio. They walk away impressed with themselves, armed with proof positive that the workshop was a success. Spend a few moments in the site's Broadcast Lounge, and see a slideshow and video clips of the work produced (and hear a few tips from Basso himself).
A word about cost. Renovance.tv isn't the cheapest gig on the block. But it provides a fresh, out-of-the-box experience that changes the way you look at photography and your own work. This translates to a better business model, and in many cases, an almost immediate return, as I can say firsthand. My next three fashion shoots and portraits were so much better that I saved valuable time editing; even more telling, I obtained a new retail client who looked only at my post-RTV images.
Traditional workshops and seminars with their inherent value-which is not disputed-should be considered a cost of doing business, the cost of continuing education. RTV Reality Training, on the other hand, is an investment with a quick return and a lasting impression, not only on the photographer, but on their delighted clients as well.
And isn't that what it's all about?
For more visit www.Renovance.tv.
Claudio Basso has been published across four continents. His career started in Milan, mentored by Alberto Nodolini, art director of Italian Vogue. His work has appeared in American Vogue, New York Woman, French Elle, Italian Vogue, Amica, and Grazia. Clients include Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's, Bonwit Teller, the German Otto Versand, and Max Factor.