There are many ways to educate yourself as a photographer – online courses, books, workshops, seminars, conventions, one-on-one mentoring, practice, and so on. I have tried them all, and while I recommend a solid mix of the different forms of education, I cannot stress enough the importance and impact that a physical in-person learning experience can have. Robert Nowell and I were fortunate enough to have been invited to the Toronto stop-over as a part of the Jerry Ghionis tour.
I’ve interviewed Jerry and his wife Melissa before for our podcast, and they have been big supporters of what we’re doing here with Sprout Studio. The plan yesterday was for us to do an in-person podcast interview with Jerry during lunch. We did, and it was a great discussion. You can listen to the interview with Jerry on our podcast here, and also be sure to subscribe in iTunes.
Aside from the interview and the collaboration with Jerry and Melissa, we attended the seminar as well. I have a really hard time calling yesterday a “seminar” though, because it was so much more than that. Not only did I leave feeling creatively re-invigorated, but Jerry also inspired me through his discussions about who we are as photographers, what we do and how we can do it.
How to Wow Seminar
Here are 5 key takeaways that you’ll learn from Jerry’s “How to Wow” seminar:
- That lighting and posing is simply a form of communication. You’ll learn how to make decisions creatively to intentionally convey the appropriate message.
- How (and why) you should look at what most photographers would call a “weakness” in a scene, and treat it as an opportunity.
- The crucial role that you play in your own images. Not only do your photographs say something about your subject and the moment that they’re in, but it also says something about you and the moment that you’re in.
- Why it’s important to look at a subject through the eyes of a loved one, and how it can inspire you to see beauty, intimacy and style where you may not have seen it otherwise.
- An appreciation for the fundamentals of photography, and why you shouldn’t dismiss them as “old school” techniques. Why you must stop making excuses, commit to education and continually improve your skill set as a photographer.
Jerry, Melissa and their team are on a 33-city tour; that’s 9 weeks of nonstop 15+ hour days. Yesterday was the 17th stop-over, marking the halfway point for them. You know how you feel after a wedding day? Well, imagine doing 33 weddings back-to-back. Think you’re “busy” and tired? Imagine their state!
As exhausted as you might imagine they’d rightfully be, you would never know it. They show up with energy and a presence that is inspiring. Maybe they’re superhuman. Or maybe they’re just really passionate about spreading their message. I’d say it’s partially the former, but mostly the latter.
Jerry and Melissa both “turn it on” for their audience, they are warm, entertaining, enlightening, humorous, inspiring and educational all at the same time; the perfect package to keep an audience engaged and at the edge of their seats for a 12 hour seminar. As a speaker and educator myself, I can tell you that this is not easy to do, almost impossible even. And as a photographer who has been to a ton of seminars and workshops, I can tell you also that this is not the norm. Jerry is different; he’s the exception.
You know that point at the end of a long wedding day when you finally get in to your car, your gear packed up, you unbutton your shirt and take a deep breath? You know the exhaustion that all-of-a-sudden takes you over when you realize how tired you actually are?
Near the end of the seminar last night, Jerry showed a video to the crowd, and while it was playing he walked to the back of the room where Melissa was sitting. It was dark in the room, and all eyes were at the front watching the video. I just so happened to be standing at the back of the room, and the moment to the left here is what I witnessed between Jerry and Melissa. I couldn’t help but quickly capture it with my Fuji XE2 that I had in my hands.
This image says a lot to me: certainly you can see the exhaustion, but you can also feel the support, love, pride and admiration that Jerry and Melissa have for each other. This was that moment in the car at the end of the wedding day, only difference is that they just also photographed 16 weddings before today. They are there for each other, and they are strong for each other. With each other’s support, they kept going. The video finished, the crowd erupted in applause, and Jerry made his way back to the front of the room and continued to wow the audience for the remaining hour.
This is why Jerry and Melissa Ghionis are the best at what they do. It’s why they sell out city after city on their tour and why they are admired worldwide not only for their photography, but also for their education. This is why their passion is contagious. This is why they have had such an incredible impact on our industry and why they’ll continue to inspire.
Make a Commitment
Invest in education and invest in yourself, and even if you’ve seen Jerry before like I have, you will walk away from the “How to Wow” seminar feeling inspired and armed with the knowledge to go to your next wedding and shoot differently. Every photographer in that room last night will never be the same again and will never see the same way again.
There are no “rockstars” in our industry, there are only good people who care about our craft; solid photographers, great communicators and excellent educators. Jerry and Melissa Ghoinis are two of those people; the best in the industry as far as I’m concerned, and our industry is better today because of them.