Landscape photography workshops

I’m looking for some general feedback on photographers experiences as participants in landscape photography workshops.

I am in the process of offering workshops as an instructor and I would like to get as many inputs from all experience levels of photographers to help me design the ideal landscape photography workshop.

Since I don’t have experience with running workshops I figure it would be best to tag along in a workshop with an experienced instructor. I don’t know how I’d go about doing that so for now I’m just planning on offering short 3-4 hour workshops in areas I’m well versed in.

So if you have participated in a workshop before could you let me know what your personal takeaway was? Was it overall a good experience, if so why? Any regrets and what were they?

Also if you have ran workshops as an instructor what advise do you have for newcomer instructors looking to get started in this side of the business?

Aaron, I have participated in a couple of macro workshops. The result was very positive. We were a small group of 6 people and had complete guidance from the instructor. I think that small number made a difference. Not only did I feel like receiving individual attention (which at times it did happen), but the interaction with the other members was also very productive. No regrets here.

Hi Aaron,

As someone who has been leading photo workshops for 10+ years, I’m happy to pass on a few things for you to consider.

(1) Do you want/intend to offer photo Workshops or photo Tours? Workshops include instruction, whereas for Tours, the main consideration is your in-depth knowledge of the location - just get your clients to the best spots at the best time of day, in the best time of year.

(2) Even if you specify Tour, you will undoubtedly be asked for instruction - both composition and camera handling.

(3) If you are leading tours/workshops on public lands, you will likely need a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) permit from any federal, state, or local land management agency. Getting these can be time-consuming and costly; operating without one runs the risk of having your workshop shut down by a ranger or other authority at any time during your trip.

(4) Permit or not, you need to protect yourself with a liability insurance policy. Many state and federal agencies require a $1-2million policy, naming that agency.

(5) Some permits require the leader to have basic First Aid and CPR certificates, if not Wilderness First Air or Wilderness First Responder. Good idea to have that knowledge even if you don’t need it for a CUA.

(6) Clients on my workshops have repeatedly mentioned going on other workshops where the leader was more interested in making his own photos than helping their clients. Don’t be that guy. By all means, make photos yourself on the workshop/tour, but while doing so, make it an instructional opportunity, pointing out all your steps for composition, camera settings, pre-visualizing the final image, etc.

(7) Your clients will expect you to be an expert in advanced processing with Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and perhaps other apps. HDR, panoramas, Focus Stacking, sharpening, blending layers, etc.

(8) Very likely you will be asked to help with settings and controls on all the major camera brands and models. This has been a challenge for me, just trying to learn basic things like showing clients how to bring up a histogram on their many variations of DSLR and mirrorless cameras for Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Hasselblad, and Leica.

(9) Along with the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles, It’s really important to know, and be able to share, the natural and cultural history of your locations. Be knowledgeable about the ecology, geography, geology, ecosystems, wildlife, and indigenous peoples.

(10) Most importantly, a photo workshop/tour leader needs to be passionate about sharing their knowledge of both the location and how to create images that clients can be proud of and share.
I was very fortunate to discover in my first workshops how much I loved both helping people improve their photo skills and showing them the wonders of the locations we visited.

Good luck with your endeavors!

  • Greg

I definitely intend to offer workshops, teaching people how to make better images is the core of what I want to do.

I did not know this, I will look into it. This is the kind of thing that I’d expect but had no idea existed.

Another good one to know. I will look into this as well.

That makes sense too!

I agree, and I only want to offer workshops in areas that I’ve been to a bunch of times so that I’m comfortable to not take a bunch of photos.

This is quite what I hope and expect to be the case for myself. I can get really excited about teaching photography to interested students.

Greg, I really appreciate you taking the time to give me this advice. I visited your website and saw that you lived in Hawaii for 20 years. I have just returned from a trip to Maui a few weeks ago and I’m very saddened to hear about the wildfires that have caused so much death and destruction these past few days. Hopefully your family and friends are ok.

If you don’t mind my asking, how did you get involved with Muench workshops? Other than being a pro photog for 40 years lol!

Greg summed it up very well! I will add in this little guide I created for someone just like you starting out:

I will double down on the importance of having a permit. Even if you have insurance and something happens to a client on a workshop, the first thing your insurance company is going to ask is if you have a permit; if you do not, they will deny your claim, and just like that, you’re out of business and have potentially lost everything personally too. Also, I just heard a story where someone had a client tragically die on their workshop, it was not their fault, but because they didn’t have a permit, the workshop leader was convicted of manslaughter! The court specifically said he was negligent because of not having a permit. Don’t mess around with this!

Remember that you also become a travel agent when running workshops. This is one of the most annoying aspects of finding hotels, meeting spaces, etc. You’ll need to decide if you pay for the rooms and include it in the price or hold a block of rooms and let the clients pay.

Also, I will tell you that it’s very hard to break into the landscape photography workshop business. There are endless workshops out there, and it’s going to be very hard to build a client base. If you don’t have a good following or a niche that sets you apart, it will be a long struggle. I broke in getting really well-known for my night photography and did that for many years until I got burnt out. I switched to landscape, and it was a struggle for a long time. Sometimes I would only get one or two people signing up and wouldn’t turn much of any profit. Now we have no trouble selling out workshops, but it took probably 8 years to really get to that point. The point is, don’t think you’re going to make a living off of this right away. Give it at least 5 years to turn a good profit that you might be able to live off of.

When you’re ready you can list your workshop here a client turned friend created this site and is just getting it off the ground.


I have attended a few workshops since 2019, two with one outfit and three with another. As I’ve been a serious photographer for decades I don’t need a teacher and so my biggest priority is location and getting me out at sunrise and set which I almost never do on my own time. That said, I sometimes dither over compositions and having folks with a lot more knowledge of the locations was beneficial when I just couldn’t find the shot.

Both companies’ leaders were only casually interested in shooting for themselves, if at all, so that was nice. One leader was so great that he paddled around visiting us as we had scattered in a pond and he held my kayak steady while I composed a shot - very helpful!! Both handled transportation and logistics well. One includes lodging and meals, the other doesn’t; both have their up sides for attendees.

Depending on the time of year, sunset and rise are going to be at the extreme ends of the day leaving little time for sleep and having down time in the middle is key. I also like getting together and seeing what others have shot so doing some processing sessions is good for me. If the morning and evening shoots have time on either end of the magic light I recommend asking if the participants want to stay to do different kinds of work such as macro or video. A couple times I felt rushed off my feet to leave a location when I was having fun. Golden hour light worship can go too far.

Keep bug spray, hand warmers, water, hiking poles, and other outdoor gear handy since people won’t have enough or any. Having spare camera accessories around is nice, too since attendees won’t have everything. Be prepared for disaster - we had one VERY clumsy person and an unlucky one on a couple workshops and the guides had to act as EMTs for the drowned camera and broken tripod.

Keep an open mind for spontaneous shooting - it’s always fun to have an unexpected bonus and when participants oooh and ahhh over something that isn’t on the agenda, make time for it if possible. Example is that on our way back to town in the Badlands, some bison were nearby with calves so we stopped to make time for them. I wish they had the same sensitivity when it came to a prairie dog town, but despite my saying how cool it was, we didn’t stop. Just because something is old hat for you doesn’t mean it is for your participants.

Sometimes I was so overawed or excited by a location that I forgot to do some basic things like panoramas and I’d have loved a roaming leader to have reminded me about that or doing an in-camera HDR or double exposure or whatever. One leader did that for me and I have a gorgeous long exposure that I might not have remembered to try for.

Ok…I think that’s enough of a brain dump for now! Good luck with your venture.

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Thanks David I appreciate your insights and the resources you provided. I am aware of the fact that the landscape photography workshop space is very crowded so I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon!

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Kristen, thanks for your insights. There’s definitely a lot of things to consider. Sounds like a good workshop leader is quite busy.

Yes, such tragic news about Lahaina.

I’ve been with Muench Workshops for 8 years now. I had a private workshop client who wanted to go to Iceland, and I recommended that he go with Muench Workshops. That client put in a good word for me with the MW team. About a year later, Marc Muench called and asked if I would him plan an Oregon Coast workshop (my guidebook “Photographing Oregon” may have had something to do with that). I must be doing something right because they have me scheduled for 10 workshops this year and again in 2024. :slight_smile:


I’ll also say that Greg is very generous with sharing your knowledge. You sent me a lot of ideas for my first Oregon Coast trip, and I did most of them. Also that day I met you in redwoods, you told me about some spots I hadn’t known about previously. I think all of these qualities make for a good teacher.

Thank you, Richard. I really enjoy sharing the wonders of nature and helping people make great photos.

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I have participated so far in three landscape workshops and had very different experiences so I can share what worked for and what didn’t. It was important for me that the guide will be ready with a tentative plan where to shoot and alternatives if that doesn’t work. when a lot of time was wasted with the guide not being able to locate a good location it is very frustrating. In addition, I really appreciated it when I was brought to a location, offered initial ideas and guidance and then given time to find what I want to shoot - what pulls me in - and have the guide help me achieve my vision. when the guide was intent on me shooting what he found interested and struggled to see things my way - or what I was going for - it was very frustrating. I will also echo the issue of guides photographing themselves. In two of the workshops the guides spent a lot of the time shooting for themselves and not going around to see how we are doing and how they can advance us. a few times they used it to show a point but many times they just wanted to enjoy the photographic opportunity themselves. To pay a lot of money just to be beside a photographer is not the idea for me. I can only afford one workshop a year so an experience like this can be very disappointing. but in one of my workshops the guide got me so excited about being in nature and shooting and made me believe I can get any picture I want if I vision it. he went out of his way to help me achieve technically or physically what I wanted to do. That was the first workshop I did and it changed my life and my photography journey. Another important point is to have a room or a set place to conduct image review and post processing demonstrations. If these are done in a cafe or a restaurant it is very distracting. I believe that as long as you are there for your clients and focus on what they need and want to do and have knowledge to share with them - these are the most important elements. Good luck.

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I have probably been on 20+ workshops from various instructors. From the sounds of it you might want to take a few workshops before offering one of your own since it is quite involved and it seems to me you have a lot to learn about what is actually involved in being a workshop leader. Perhaps assist an instructor and then branch out on your own.

My one irk-I hate it when the “instructor” takes the optimal spot with his/her own gear and shoots away where I get the feeling I am paying for him/her to get to the location on my dime. I want compositional assistance, etc not the instructor shooting for him/herself.

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Hi Aaron, some great things to think about here already. I’m not a pro but have taken a few workshops, from private one-on-one’s, to multi-person, to the big conference workshops. Here are some thoughts.

I’ve done 2 very enjoyable one-on-one’s. Highly recommend getting to know the person a bit. Great opportunity for a Zoom call. Find out what they are interested in shooting (trees/woodlands, wildflowers, mountains, waterfalls, grand landscapes, intimate scenes, macros etc.), where they are comfortable going (thinking of the participants physical abilities (long distance or steep hikes) as well as their fears (steep cliffs - heights, swamp wading - wildlife etc.). Where people live, their ages, and activity levels can affect where you might take them. I know an older gentleman who loves workshops but can’t get around very well. I think having locations in mind for the more adventurous folks, as well as ones who may be relegated to shooting close to the vehicle, is a plus.

For multi-person, pre-determined workshops, I would also recommend getting to know your participants a little bit - and have them get to know one another a little too. Again, a group Zoom call beforehand would be great for this. And for folks who have “the ability and fear factors”, having a detailed description of the workshop advertised is a great idea. I know of one workshop leader who lists all of their “activity level” descriptions the same way. Be specific in your descriptions so potential attendees can make an informed choice before they drop all that money and time into your workshop.
One more thing that kind of irked me at a multi-person workshop. (It still bothers me 6 years later so it must have irked me enough.) We had some free time one afternoon. So rather than go all the way back to the hotel (an hour drive) and drive back again that evening, we stopped close by for a bite and went back into the park. I was with 3 other guys, and they voted for driving around wildlife scouting (I would have rather explored some woodlands, but…) I had to submit. If you’re in a similar situation, have locations where everyone will enjoy their time. Or split between the two. And beware of the quiet participants. Not everyone wants to rock the boat. Some will just accept everyone else’s decision so they aren’t tagged as “that guy/gal”. Here again is where getting to know your crew is key. People pay a lot of money for these workshops as well as tours, over and above your tuition fee, they have flights, car rentals, hotels, and incidentals. Very expensive indeed. Give them their money’s worth. Obviously you can’t please everyone all the time, but giving a good effort goes a long way.

One last thing. This didn’t happen to me, but a friend who used to lead workshops. He had a difficult person on the workshop. I wont go into details, but suffice to say, this person made the workshop miserable for him and all the other participants. Its hard to determine in advance who these folks will be, but maybe having a plan in place for times when you might have someone who just can’t get along with anyone, is super demanding, or downright nasty to others. Maybe something in writing on your website, a disclaimer maybe? Just a thought.

Good luck!