Planning for a Workshop

San Diego — I guess I’ve been a producer too long but I am driven half crazy by presenters of seminars and workshops who can barely spell “project management” much less demonstrate it.  Relying on their subject matter expertise, which is often extensive, they seem to think that events will simply fall into place based on… well it is hard to tell what they base that assumption on.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but…  THEY WON’T!

At City College we have had to rescue several such events and simply step in and make them work because the planning was so poor or, in some cases, seemed to be non-existent.  So I try, when creating my own events to put my producer’s hat on and plan the event as tightly as I can.  When there are areas that I know are beyond my skills I call in resources and support troops and allow them to do their jobs because, in the end, it makes me look better than it would if I tried to oversee it all and fell flat.

I’m a good project manager but am not an event planner.  I was privileged to know the best event planner in the Rocky Mountain area, Julie Abels, original founder and owner  of “The Event Company” in Denver.   After watching her put together some incredibly complex events, I came to realize that event planning is a very specialized and difficult job that requires a person to be several, sometimes conflicting functionaries at the same time. I also came to realize that there is really no such thing as a “simple” event to plan.

A case in point is a studio lighting workshop I am putting together.  On the surface it seems simple and straightforward.  Targeted primarily at area photo educators, it will also be open to students and members of the community though space will be limited by the facilities and time to 30 participants.  This will be a two day workshop (Saturday and Sunday) to be offered early in February, 2013.  How hard can it be to throw this together?

After all it will consist of lectures and demonstrations that I will create, and culminate in a half-day of hands-on shooting by the participants rotating between 5 different types of studio shoots.  Topically we will be covering the fundamentals of light itself, lighting instruments and modifiers, light placement, and using lighting styles for products,  still life, portraiture, and food.  We’ll also be talking about the photographers’ “toolkits” and “grip kits” and offer suggestions for setting up a home studio.  After 40 years experience in the field I do know this stuff.  But there is far more to it than just my knowledge and ability to stand up in front of a classroom of people.

For example, in addition to creating the materials and lesson plans to be presented, I have to accommodate issues and logistics herding participants around the facilites, of specific classroom needs, studio needs, equipment and materials to show and demonstrate, props and items for the hands-on sessions, handout materials, assistants to help set up and strike the sets (since Monday it has to be ready for classes), registration procedures, and even catering for lunches.  It must be coordinated with campus security, campus facilities, and of course with our own lab manager who normal oversees the labs and studios.  Some of these issues entail remuneration for their services or costs of creation.  So proper budgeting and break-even analyses are called for to make sure everyone gets paid.

And, of course, noting that the movie “Field of Dreams” lied, i.e. we can build it but nobody is coming unless we get out there and let them know about it, we must also have a marketing plan.  Yesterday I went down to the studio to create the background shot to be used both as a poster and as the cover for the packet of hand-out materials.  I first thumbnailed some designs and layouts on my iPad.  I needed to accommodate two different types of text (the poster and the cover) but decided to use the same shot to keep it simple.

Following as the first draft of the poster design.  Note the dates are put in temporarily until I can verify that they are OK with the campus and facilities needs.  I also have not put in the registration instructions since I am awaiting some input before I settle on a plan for that.  But it needs to be settled in the next few working days.

Draft Poster for my Studio Lighting Workshop to be presented in February at City College.  You can click on the image to enlarge it.

Draft Poster for my Studio Lighting Workshop to be presented in February at City College. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

Since the workshop is on studio lighting, I thought it proper to include a description and light plot of how the shot was lit.  I was able to use the same light (#1 on the plot) both as a key light and as an element in the final shot.  It is a small (2’x3’) softbox.  The fill (#2) is also a small softbox.  There are also accent, background light (seen in the photo), back/rim lights and one that is shooting through the plexi on the shooting table.  All of them are using the standard 7” shiny “bowl” or “scoop” reflectors

In addition I brought in one iconic Mole-Richardson tungsten light to be used as a prop and to motivate the back/rim light actually coming from another monolight.  It is a working light and actually is turned on in the shot but the studio monolights are so much more powerful it might be hard to tell.  The Super Boom™ in the background was purely a prop for design as it is not actually being used for the shot.

Light plot for the Workshop Poster above.

Light plot for the Workshop Poster above.  The shooting camera isabout where the “F” in “Fill” is on the plot.

From walking into the studio to putting things away and walking out took about an hour and a half.  Most of that time was spend tweaking placement of working lights and picture elements.  A little complexity was created because the main light was functional but also a prop and getting the placement right took a little tweaking.  But it was as fast as it was because I already had my design and plan ready when I walked into the studio.  I did not have to arrive, stare at the blank stage and try to figure out what on earth I was going to do.

As dates and registration details become available I’ll post them on this blog, probably in the workshops section which you can access from the link above.  Hopefully some of you will be able to attend.

Meantime I hope all of you are having a great Thanksgiving.  Sunny, my cat, is in the kitchen molding some Turkey Delight cat food into a large turkey shaped dish.  Oh yumm, I can hardly wait…


About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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