August 21, 2018
Photography workshops are proving to be a booming industry as people get their hands on cameras and want to produce their own images instead of purchasing prints. With the combination of adventures and experiences and learning from the pros, workshops are a great opportunity to provide such a service and can lead you to some incredible destinations.
We got in touch with David Rosenthal, a landscape and adventure photographer who started his career as an award-winning trailer editor, cutting movie previews and TV spots for campaigns such as Inception, The Last Samurai, Dunkirk, Interstellar, Arrival. With a knack for visual storytelling, David now focuses his energy exclusively on the Muench Workshops.
If you don’t mind, could you give a quick pitch on Muench workshops? What is offered, where do you go? Are the trips for pros, amateurs, or beginners?
We take photographers all over the world and strive to provide a premium experience for all of them, regardless of their skill level and technical knowledge. Our workshops are all-inclusive, so you can concentrate on photography and learning. Some of our workshops are very remote and adventurous. For instance, you might be staying in a Mongolian family’s yurt, or sleeping in a tent with guides setting up camp and preparing your food. But at all times we look for the best possible experience in a given location. We’re always searching for a new lodge, or small way to improve on our past workshops. It’s an ever-evolving experience for us, and for our clients. We have many clients who have been on 10, 20, or more workshops with us. They come back because we make sure it stays fresh, and never rest on our laurels.
How did the business begin? What was the drive behind it?
Marc, Andy, and I started Muench Workshops in 2007, as a natural outgrowth of some “shootouts” we were leading for an online photo community. We led those informal, no-charge workshops because of our love of nature photography and of sharing our excitement with others. Once we got this first taste, we knew we had to keep growing and sharing that excitement, and the logical way to do that was to turn it into our business, rather than a hobby.
How do you differentiate from others providing workshops?
We make a point of not speaking ill of our competitors, and having never been on any of their workshops, I’m hesitant to pass judgment on their offerings. What I can tell you is that we take our ongoing, personal relationship with our clients very seriously. We really strive to connect with every client we have, and we are always on the lookout for the next experience for them. We also do not offer photo “tours”; we don’t just lead you someplace and set you loose to shoot, rather we put the “work” in workshop, and emphasize teaching both in the field and in our “crits”.
Lastly, we really believe that the variety of workshops under one roof, and with a common philosophy is unusual. We look around at our competitors, and you can find a large tour operator that goes to more places, or a smaller, more personal workshop leader going to fewer, but our mix of both personal attention and a wide variety of locations is hard to match. This is why we have so many loyal clients going on 10-20 of our workshops; there’s always something new for them to explore, but they’re also confident of our level of service.
What is the most common feedback you get from your guests after they have been on a trip?
Well, we consider all feedback to be like gold to us, it’s so valuable for us to learn and grow as a company. Far and away the most common feedback we get is that the cost of the workshop was well worth it. We know we’re not the cheapest option, and we’re proud of that because it means we’re not cutting corners on the experience. And to have the feedback that our workshops hold their value is one of the most important measures of success for us.
I suppose everyone is always looking to improve but for those that really want to take their photography to the next level, i.e from beginner to intermediate, would you say that a workshop is a shortcut to getting better images and increasing their skill level, or do you have other advice hacking the learning curve?
Undoubtedly. The exposure to others in a structured environment is invaluable on all levels. You see new gear, and better ways to carry, mount and use your gear. Our crit sessions, where not only your images but the images of others in the group are critiqued is so powerful. Where else do you get such in-depth comments on your work? Post it online and you’ll get a lot of likes and superficial comments, but really digging into the art and technique at a critical level is eye-opening. And the decades of experience our pros have, just standing next to them and shooting can open your eyes to new ways of seeing.
As a guide on the workshops, do you still get to shoot the images you would like to capture, or do you get the chance to location scout and have time for your own photography?
Both! We usually schedule in some time for scouting and we are often shooting alongside our clients. We always make sure we put the clients’ needs first and make sure they’re set up and shooting, but our own photography makes us better instructors both by connecting us to the scene, and also allows us to share our own photographic vision, which itself can be worth more than words.
There are many landscape photographers that would love to earn a living from behind the lens. Many of which are looking at starting up their own workshops in order to achieve this. What would be your advice to these photographers?
Stay connected to what you love about photography and why you love it. Your own enthusiasm for the subject is the most important thing you have to offer.
What is the one destination that you are most excited about?
Trick question! That’s truly a Solomon’s choice, right there, and honestly, the most exciting location is the next one on my schedule. There’s always something to shoot, and the opportunity to travel with others is so awesome. I will say this about myself and locations: I’m not a trophy hunter. I’m OK if I never photograph (fill in the blank with that iconic shot everyone already has).
We all know about Iceland and such destinations that are amazing, this may be your answer to the previous question, but what is one destination that is largely underappreciated?
The one that’s closest to you, wherever you live. The opportunity to explore and learn in your own backyard is greatly under appreciated.
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