Jerry Ghionis is a genius.
I mean that in every sense of the word. Not only is Ghionis one of the world’s best wedding photographers (as evidenced by his voluminous list of accolades and awards), he’s an amazing salesman and a phenomenal educator as well.
Readers of this blog will know that I’ve been investing heavily (both in time and resources) in my photography recently. When I learned that Ghionis would be in Boston for a five-day seminar, I was enticed until I saw the price: $2,200. I debated for quite awhile whether or not the seminar would be the best way for me to spend my money at this stage in my photography career. In fact, I agonized over this expenditure. But two separate people I spoke with (Evgenia and Tim Cook) described the seminar as “life-changing.” Plus, I heard that people frequently traveled here from out of the country to attend Ghionis’ seminars. Could I really turn down an opportunity to learn from the master in my own backyard? The answer was no.
In early June, I pulled the trigger. I was the last person to get a spot in the 20-person seminar. What follows is a description of the structure of the seminar, some reflections on what I learned, and my general impression as to whether Ghionis’ seminars are worth the cost.
Ghionis’ seminar lasted five days and four nights. On Day 1, all of the photographers arrived at the Boston Radisson, fresh and eager to have their minds filled. Many had traveled across state lines to be here, and one had flew here from Puerto Rico to take the seminar. It is not a stretch to say that I was the least experienced photographer in the entire room; many of the students had wedding photography businesses that were decades old (more on this later).
Day 1 consisted almost completely of critiques of images that people brought in (each photographer was instructed to bring in 15 images that were representative of their work). Many photographers, including myself, found these critiques to be fairly brutal. Ghionis’ is incredibly gracious, but it doesn’t change the fact that one’s work is being laid bare and objectively evaluated for all to see. It was during this critique that we learned many of Ghionis’ principles and “rules” governing his photography, rules such as:
- Always shoot on the shadow side of the face
- The leg closest to the camera should be the one that is bent
- Females hands should always be relaxed and softened
And countless others. All in all, it was an educational experience that helped to set the stage for the rest of the workshop. It also gave each of us the tools to critique our own work in the future.
It was Day 2 that my mind really started to get blown. After completing the previous day’s critiques, Ghionis went more in depth into his posing and lighting techniques using real-life models. Then, everyone slung their cameras around their shoulders and we left the room to go out and shoot. First, though, Ghionis used some areas in the hotel to demonstrate some of his lighting principles. For instance, here’s an area just outside of the hotel bathroom that Ghionis thought had some cool light:
Here’s a resulting shot that I was able to get from this set-up:
It is pretty remarkable how Ghionis was able to take ordinary objects and situations and render them into extraordinary photographs.
As we departed the hotel and wandered around Boston, Ghionis only used one camera and one lens (a Nikon D3s with a 70-200mm, although prior to the workshop, Ghionis frequently sported the Canon 5D Mark II), but the images that he was able to obtain were amazing. Here are a few images of the class wandering around the streets of Boston, with Ghionis explaining his techniques:
As you can see, Ghionis will position himself in any way to get just the right shot, which was inspiring to witness. Here are some of the shots I was able to obtain from the day. [Please note that all of the following shots were not set up/posed by me, and thus, do not represent my work nor belong to my portfolio.]