Prague, Czech Republic, 9-14 March 2015 (best suited to urban, architecture and street)
Duration: 6 days, four practical and two classroom
Tuition cost: US$2,300; $2,600 special bundle including Outstanding Images Ep. 1-5 and Intro to PS Workflow (required, but most participants usually have some or all of these already)
Want to be challenged? Inspired? Push yourself to take your images to the next level? The Masterclasses are aimed squarely at you. They are for the photographer who already understands the fundamentals and is looking at developing their own style, evolving creatively and spending some time with like-minded individuals. The aim is no longer about building core fundamentals by exercises, but to work on vision, the ability to assess and curate one’s work, application of style, postprocessing, and being able to put together a coherent set of images to an objective.
Prior to the course, participants watch the video set (Outstanding Images Ep. 1-5, Intro to PS workflow) to bring them all to a common level; they determine their objectives and prepare a portfolio of 10 images to be reviewed on the first day. I’ve had everything from ‘find style’, to ‘improve landscape work’, to ‘make painterly images’, to ‘learning to see in poor light’ or simply ‘make better images’. We spend the first day in a group reviewing each photographer’s objectives and portfolio, and setting specific things for them to focus on. Throughout the next four days, I’ll spend half a day with each participant and meet everybody at least once (and usually twice) a day for a round of feedback and discussion on the day’s captures. The feedback loop is intense, focused and helps fill in the gaps in one’s toolkit. The final day is then spent back in the classroom with a new portfolio of 10 images: again, we assess and this time, post-process to complete the workflow between vision, capture and output.
This will be the fourth and fifth masterclasses respectively following Venice, Havana and San Francisco; and every time it gets even better; clicking on those links will take you to the previous reports and participant thoughts. I’m continuing to refine the masterclass format to even further improve the balance between focusing on the individual development needs of the participants, whilst allowing space for creative experimentation. What I like about this structure is that it allows for students to be inspired by each other – photography is after all highly subjective – as well as operate at the level that works best for them. And you can do it multiple times because the syllabus is tailored to your needs.
There is an excellent and detailed report from one of my Havana participants, Michael Letchford, here, and a report from the 2013 Prague Making Outstanding Images workshop here. There’s also a German report by Michael Schaake from the Venice Masterclass, here.
To book a place for one of the Masterclasses, or for more information, please send me an email. Places are of course limited. Happy new year, and what better way to start it photographically than by upping your game?MT
Selected testimonials from previous workshops are below – as you can see, I get plenty of returning attendees…
Gerner C (Masterclass Venice): Dear friends, back from the WS in Venice. In short it was by far the summit of my photographic experience ever. Beside enjoying endlessly the beautiful and romantic city of Venice, the whole WS, the come together in the spirit of learning and sharing, was an almost spiritual experience for me. Almost, wrong word?.. why do I doubt .. better to say it certainly was a spiritual experince in the sence of trancending oneself and becoming filled with joy and solid trust in my ability to become a better photographer. The weather was like it was. Not too much sunshine and strong shadows actually, some rain too. But I certainly learned that any weather and any light during the day and night 24 is good weather and light. What held me back shooting only in sunlight? Belive me the light during first meeting day and end of the last was of indiscribable quality. The sea around Venice breaks the light into such wonderful colors that I hardly knew existed. It was overwhelming and a pity we were’nt blessed with that quality light during the week. just shooting the light would be able to stand alone. The food was of course excellent… and pretty expensive = Sea Food! Anytime I have a chance to eat fresh seafood, I’ll take it. Probably because I am basically built up from seafood molecules the 48 years I lived in Denmark 😉 I miss it here on the continental Balkans. The group was certainly a fantastic group as I am convinced all Mings WS groups are. The devotion to photography was very very intense and strong from the biginning and much stronger at the end. I think all participants would agree on that. All of us went through a dramatical conversion from start to end. An impressive personal transformation and output showed at the end of the WS for all of us. From tense anxiety in the beginning to fun and vivid fluency at the end. Being together around photography in Mings atmosphere and the following growing awareness of being a member of a team left us all in an immence state of dedication and love for photography. Ming has to be hold a great deal reasponsible for making that happen 🙂 I came to Venice with the wish of basically improving balance in my images. Simultaniously make them more interesting to look at. Ming told me to concentrate on visual balance around the subject and keep out non essential stuff. Yeah man .. precicely what I needed being able to do! The shootout with Ming was an unforgettable experince. How can I express it? It was like having borrowed Ming’s eyes for light and composition for some hours and being left with a permanent footprint, some seeds in the photographic soil in ones head. It is about furtilizing those seeds now and let them grow. We did not ahve much of any shadows, so we decided to do painterly photography. For sure Ming was painting super realistic with his camera and he simply sees what is the obvious where I do not even sense there is an inherent immage to bring back home. Amazing! Thanks Ming showing me how you work and interprete Mother Earth and the human creations. Thank you for being such a share willing soul. Thank you being the way you are, an outstanding person of which there are far too few of on this planet. I was told to slow down and dwell more with what I see and for God’s sake taking my tripod with me forcing me to do so. It showed to be a very good suggestion and haven’t I been that lost in the process of making The Image of my life, I would probably not have left the tripod on that garbage bin I put it on doing the only handheld shot I made Wednesday afternoon. Back to early auto ISO kick in to leave out my handshake !!! Weuww.. noise and loss of tonal quality was a concequence. I have to admit I did have problems making the 750 working 100% for me during the week and Ming had to grab my camera to improve settings for me the way I want to use it. Oh… yeah, Ming also adjusted the AF fine tuning of my 3 lenses … in silly 20 seconds !!!! However, things peaked of course at the last day showing each other our curated 10’s. I have never ever seen that concentration of excellent photography in so short time. Period. The group had grown the level of quality at least a star and a half up compared to what I saw at the first day. Incredible but true. I can’t remember if there were any of the 70 image deliveries that was voted under 3 stars out of four. Or were there? I can’t remember.. there were so many four star images. Believe me, for the first time I really understood what the four things means. Need I to say following Ming curating his images and do his 10 live on stage is a previledge beyond the four dimensions!!! Needless to say that I (we) am/are certainly not the only one/s carrying the gear interest decease! Holy Moly…! I am not left alone with that syndrom I can asure you… 🙂 Now all these impressions and learnings of course have to sink in and hopefully it translates into my photography being less imballanced and boring. I think it will. I really do hope I would have another chance to participate in a Masterclass WS in the future. Excuse me if I bored you guys with this longer post. I couldn’t make it shorter and had my English been better it would have been much longer 😉
Holger F. (Masterclass Venice) : Home again and having done my backups to save our precious work I gratefully want to join the praises you all made in the foregoing mails. This fantastic mixture of hard work 😉 within a wonderful group of inspiring and hearty people will be kept in my mind forever. Thanks to all of you adding this outstanding days to my experiences of life.
A special thank to Ming for his never ending patience and discipline leading this workshop to a great success for all of us. Ming, I greatly admire your educational skills which enables you to transfer – at least a part of – your knowledge to us.
Rudolf F. (Masterclass Venice): Everything said already I could subscribe to as well. I enjoyed the learning experience and the inspiration gained from Ming and all participants. One sad note: It is getting more and more difficult to come home with a picture that is to my satisfaction, the expectations have been raised to a new level. But after all, that’s what we paid for – and it’s good so.
With best wishes to all of you and always good light. Watch the edges!
Michael S. (Masterclass Venice): I only can double what Phil said. I enjoyed every minute and it was great to meet you all. For me it was relaxing and demanding – i learned a lot and hopefully will be able to reproduce that in the future. Thanks again to Ming for his professional and always friendly manner! This and our evenings made it an outstanding week for me.
Phil L. (Masterclass Venice): Thank you all for a highly rewarding week bringing excellent insight and enjoyable company. I feel refreshed as a photographer with new ideas and new ways of seeing. And of course a special thank you to Ming for his expert guidance, workshop preparation and approachable, friendly manner. Spending 6 days purely on photography has been a wonderful indulgence that I will benefit from every time I lift a camera to my eye. Thank you Ming.
Joe Atkinson (San Francisco Masterclass) – Your breadth of experience and skill, combined with your personality, teaching style, and flexibility created an unforgettable week of photographic immersion. I was unprepared (“Know your equipment!”), but it didn’t matter. You created a flexible structure for each of us to define and then pursue our goals; I learned not only from you, but from each of the other participants. I especially appreciated how you taught to both our strengths and weaknesses, and how you let us (literally, in my case) drive our own agenda for our session with you. I can still hear the echo of your advice every time I look through the viewfinder: “Take your time!” Thanks for the many words of straight-forward advice and thank you for a great experience at the SF Masterclass!
Andre Yew (San Francisco Masterclass) – 5 Great Reasons To Attend A Ming Thein Masterclass
1. The pre-workshop portfolio selection. Picking ten images to show who you are as a photographer makes you think really hard about the kind of photographer you want to be, and that in turn will help you make a plan for what you want to learn and how you can improve. When do we really
get to think introspectively about what we’re doing? It’s also really tough!
2. Individual, extensive coaching from Ming. Ming wants to help you be the best photographer you can be, whatever your photographic vision or goal may be. He isn’t interested in making clones of himself. You may already have a distinctive photographic style, but that artistic vision could be held back by technical issues. He’s going to be blunt about telling you what you need to fix, but he’s also going to help you fix those problems. In my case, working on a couple of compositional issues is going to make my work and what I want to say stronger, clearer, and more consistent than ever before.
3. Your fellow students. The positive atmosphere, enthusiasm, and great energy of your fellow students are infectious! Each day, I looked forward to seeing what everyone else had done, and it was really great to see how everyone had improved and changed over the course of only 5
days at the ending portfolio review.
4. Seeing how Ming works. Lots of people have written about seeing Ming edit, and that is truly a wonder. But when you’re out in the field with the man, and see him bound down a hill with a large tripod in one hand, and a large roll-aboard camera case in the other chasing a fading sunset, or standing in the cold fog freezing various body parts off just to get one more shot, you can’t help but be inspired by his energy and enthusiasm. He truly loves photography, and that rubs off very easily.
5. Having a whole week just to shoot with no other concerns. When else will you have permission to have a whole week just for yourself, working on your photography? In my normal life, I get to shoot only on the weekends, but this concentrated week has helped me improve considerably.
Gary Getz (San Francisco Masterclass) – The Masterclass was a fantastic learning experience for me! My goal for the week was to inject mood and feeling into my images, which I viewed as an aesthetic aspiration; but what I quickly learned was that I needed to put several technical building blocks in place first. After two days of practice on technique, I received the all-clear (and some great guidance) to work on my initial goal — and the improvement in my results was clear. The half-day that I spent with Ming one-on-one, working on a very specific set of skills, was absolute gold — Ming watched me try things my way, and then rapidly diagnosed my opportunities for improvement and taught me some fantastic principles and tricks of the trade that I know will serve me well for years to come. And the interactions with my fellow students were fantastic, both during the formal portfolio reviews and the daily lunchtime get-togethers where we compared notes and received input from Ming. I’d certainly sign up again, with an eye toward other parts of the photographic universe — who knows, maybe next time it will be architecture or landscape!
Margaret Cheng (San Francisco Masterclass) – Aside from yearbook photography in high school, I consider myself a casual photographer who started photography back up about 5 years ago when my husband (David) and I went on safari in Kenya and Tanzania at which time David introduced me to digital photography and Lightroom. Since then, we have usually reserved our photographic efforts for vacations, resulting in mostly landscape photography.
Previously, we participated in a couple of workshops led by pro photographers. I was interested in learning more about composition (other than the rule of thirds!), what made a photograph good or bad, and how it could be improved in-camera and with post processing.
Those workshops were great for showing us where and when to go to a particular location at the right time of day for good light, but unfortunately, they always seemed short on meaningful instruction. I always went away feeling disappointed that I didn’t learn as much as I would have liked, especially considering the potential of how much the instructor could have taught us. I think that it’s just easier to comment on technical things like exposure, etc. rather than perform critiques or teach someone how to develop an eye for what will be a good photograph.
Judging from his website, we felt that if anyone would be a good teacher, it would be Ming. We felt that the Outstanding Images course would be the most appropriate level for us, however, Ming assured us that we would be up to speed after watching the videos, and we signed up for the Masterclass.
Being in San Francisco, we assumed that the class would be mostly urban photography, which we had never really done. So our pre-work came in the form of watching the videos, and going in to the city to practice taking photos of buildings and people. I found that having to develop objectives for the class and then culling down to 10 images for the pre-class critique really crystallized the learning process, and made the critiques more valuable.
The critique of the student images on the first and last days of the masterclass was incredibly interesting and eye opening. Not only for the breadth of images, but also for discovering what others liked and didn’t like about images and also more importantly, Ming’s opinions on why an image works or doesn’t work, and why.
Critiques on compositional elements in the context of your own (and other student) images that are more subtle than the “rule of thirds” were incredibly instructive. Ming’s teaching style helped to guide us on how to make a strong image once the photographer decides what the primary subject is.
It turns out that San Francisco has so much available, that we really could have concentrated on landscape (micro-landscape), night photography, urban architecture, and/or street photography.
David and I teamed up to do one session of street and one session of landscape photography with Ming, and it was incredibly instructive to see how he works, and what he sees as potential subjects. And also what potential subjects just wouldn’t work for a technically good photograph and why.
We also had the opportunity to get together with Ming everyday at noon to get feedback on some curated images, and then he would give us general themes to work on, such as subject isolation, trying more vertical images, etc. The daily feedback was incredibly valuable, in that we knew what we wanted to do, but it was valuable to get feedback on whether we were successful meeting the objectives. This provided significant value added over his blog essays about composition, etc.
When Ming talks about the 4 things, the first item is light. For him, if the light isn’t good for the subject, he doesn’t even bother with the shot. From spending the week with Ming, I am now much more critical of the available light, and if I am taking photos in poor light, I know that it is just for practice. I now also have subject isolation engraved into my brain, with a much better idea of what I want to do to create a better composition. This understanding of what makes a good image has also helped me to delete photos.
I encourage anyone who has a chance to enroll in a class with Ming to go ahead and do so. It will be a great experience, and Ming really likes to teach!
David Pope (San Francisco Masterclass) – With a background in wildlife and landscape photography, I was a little intimidated at the prospect of attending a “master class” in San Francisco that would presumably force me out of my comfort zone in order to learn how to do street and people photography. Furthermore, having watched (and been highly impressed) by Ming’s Outstanding Images video series, I was wondering how much further the instructional material could be developed, given the nature of the workshop format and having 8 students with highly divergent goals…
On the first count, it turns out that in as diverse a location as San Francisco, one can (and we did) do all kinds of photography — street, architectural, landscape (including water, trees, and SF fog!), in addition to abstract and night photography. And Ming, fabulous teacher that he is, made it easy to learn how to do things I had never done in my photography before.
And on the second count (and quite obvious in hindsight), the Outstanding Images videos are just a foundational piece so one can benefit from the personalized syllabus of a Masterclass.
Beyond that, the workshop transforms Professorial Ming (on video) to Caffeinated Ming (in person), ablaze with so much enthusiasm for the craft of photography that you can’t help but be caught up in his energy. To be sure, this is a high intensity 6-day workshop, and you need to be willing to put in 10+ hour days in order to reap maximum benefit from Ming’s approach to photography.
Entering the workshop, my photographic goals were fuzzy — to “improve the rhythm and balance in my photos” — but we quickly zeroed in on improving my toolkit, so I worked on subject isolation, filling the entire frame so as to use the perspective of the lens properly (no cropping, groans Ming!), and using portrait orientation to create layers of depth within my photos.
Among the unanticipated benefits of the workshop: camaraderie with fellow students — seeing the images they created each day and learning from their honest critiques; the daily lunchtime review sessions with Ming to get instant feedback on scenes you just finished working; watching post-processing live, and realizing how little is necessary when an image is conceived of (and executed) properly; and shooting with Ming in the field — how he sizes up a scene that is either worth shooting (or not), what perspective and vantage point is chosen, how quickly he works, and the ruthlessness with which he discards an image that isn’t a 10 out of 10 in his mind’s eye. (The group even developed a new DxOMark standard — “mingsharp” — to denote an image reflecting enough Shot Discipline to be considered Ultraprint-worthy.)
Highly satisfied with the whole experience and looking forward to participating in another workshop in the future!
Scott Loftesness (San Francisco Masterclass) – Spending a week with Ming in my hometown of San Francisco was a unique learning experience. His focus on shooting precise, great images is intense – almost overbearing at times. But that’s what provides the stretch – the pull to do better, to get up to the next level. He’s a tough coach – pointing out flaws and compromises while urging a stronger commitment to shooting at a higher level. By the end of the week, I was exhausted – from the physical experience on the streets but also that feeling of good exhaustion that follows exploring the limits and pushing for better. My initial goal was to refine my personal style. Turns out Ming said I already had one. Instead he urged me to move beyond – to leave “stages” behind and to see more in three dimensions. This proved to be a big challenge – where I made some small progress but feel him looking over my shoulder urging me to see differently, to reduce my tendency to zoom, and, above all, to stop cropping in post!
Doug Kaye (San Francisco Masterclass) – I’ve been inspired by Ming Thein’s street photography for some time. I’ve learned quite a bit from his blog and videos, but I wanted to get a more personalized perspective on how I might integrate aspects of his approach to street photography with my own style. I got exactly what I wanted from the San Francisco Master Class.
Ming doesn’t hold back. He has strong opinions and let’s you know what you’re doing that works for him and what doesn’t. His criticism is always constructive, albeit within the scope of his own style. (Hey, that’s why you’re there, right?)
Having studied with a few other masters, I’ve learned important lessons from each of them. If you appreciate Ming’s images, if they inspire you as they do me, I highly recommend spending a week in this class.
Eric Hoppe (Making Outstanding Images Chicago) – A follow up to our MC follow up: There is no stronger photgraphic teaching tool than to see well executed images of subjects which one himself attempted to shoot but fell short.
I have really enjoyed several of your Chicago pics.
Alex Ohta (Making Outstanding Images Chicago) – It’s been a couple days since we wrapped up the Making Outstanding Images workshop, and I’ve been reflecting on my experiences. I’ve wanted to attend one of these workshops for a while. Scheduling didn’t work for 2013, so I resigned myself to wait until a 2014 US workshop opened up. In the interim I read everything. And then I started downloading videos. I recommend watching and even practicing the concepts (including post processing) prior to attending the workshop, doing so makes the in person experience hugely rewarding.
The syllabus is well thought out. Despite starting with the basics, things ramp up very quickly. Each lesson layers over the previous, and by the end of day one all the core concepts were covered. Day two was a stretch for me – not only were we trying to abide by the lessons from day one, but we were also trying to apply stylistic choices. I personally found the group critique and post processing sessions on the final day to be invaluable.
The most liberating part of the whole experience is that I no longer feel frustrated with my output. I find myself just wanting to shoot – subject doesn’t matter, the more diverse and challenging the better. I’ve also got a road map for growth for the next six to twelve months.
Thanks Ming & fellow classmates for a great couple days. I’m eagerly awaiting a 2015 masterclass schedule.
Dan Tamarkin (Making Outstanding Images Chicago) – An exceptional workshop in the qualities that make an image outstanding and the process of creating them. Personalized and immediate, this workshop is invaluable instruction, and Ming Thien’s direct instruction and constructive feedback are as useful as the atmosphere is positive and nurturing. Highly recommended – a joy to participate in.
Steve Child (Making Outstanding Images Chicago) – Ming’s teaching style is methodical and easy to understand. After the first day I began to see in an entirely new way and it was reflected in my photographs. An amazing experience!
David Kimmel (Making Outstanding Images Chicago) – The recent ‘Making Outstanding Images’ class in Chicago was a truly amazing experience made so entirely by Ming’s outstanding skills as an instructor. The course quickly identifies the elements lacking from your images but it also raises your awareness of the things that you are doing on pure intuititon. Only when we are fully conscious of the elements that make strong images, can our photography improve. This is accomplished primarily through Ming’s ability to quantify the many elements found in strong images and describe them in an approachable way that only a truly experienced photographer with the gift of exposition could. The course is extremely challenging forcing you to face your shortcomings while enhancing your strengths. Ming shares openly from his vast experience in virtually all areas of photography without a sense that anything is held back. His energy seems boundless and his enthusiam is infectious inspiring you to shake off the despair you might feel from seeing dozens of duds on your memory cards and forge ahead to create the images you have always wanted to make. The course does indeed teach you How To See, a skill that will last a lifetime of shooting.
Gerner Christensen (Making Outstanding Images Workshop London, July 2014): Big thank you in return. This WS was really a ride in a carousel I never tried before. I am consolidating as from this very moment and for sure time ahead. Such a concentrated injection ‘LIVE’ does a quite different job than the videos. By them you dwell in your own comfort zone and that’s for what it is extremely good as such. You may re-do as many times as wished or needed. The live photo concert is not editable. You deliver what you can at the instant moment. And that’s’ it. The WS is a different medicine and at a moment I felt lost in my own ignorance. The self confidence evaporated and assignments the blitz way were to me a solid proof that I do not perform by command. I thought I did a lot better before…. This is not quite right of course and just browsing my shots again makes me of course think differently. I made stronger images in these couple of day than I would make i.e. in a month’s daily shooting. My curation for today’s session were weird in a way since I have much stronger images from the days. I think it all comes from choosing images that worked for one in the past and deselected the new stronger touch from the intensive training. I had selected several shots that others told being interesting and not those I found best. Bweeeh… that was foolish, but I learned from that. Fuck the vanity and trust yourself. I am not disappointed .. no .. I am very happy from what I have learned. I have learned much more, I think, than I can comprehend by this very moment. I just know I did. I give the credit to you. You showed me the keystone to a turning point being a better photographer much more than you might think based on the thin feedback from the group. Guess you are just used to that in the beginners WS’s. Thank you Ming.Thinking again and again about our days in London. It is a big moment in my life. Even so much more coming back home and replay the whole thing. I was thinking today: This is going to be BIG for me. I am so glad having met you, having learned so much and just being in your photographic world is a joy and honor. I suddenly started understanding why your images are so impressive at the end of the day. This is surely not all about PP and plane technique, but timing and deliberate control from cradle to grave each image. If I may be personal, you create the scene rather than shooting it. That’s makes you stand out as a photographer. To be frank I started worrying about what photographic environment should feed me to practice in the little society I’m living in. It’s a little place and has nothing whatsoever in common with London i.e., but light is light and where’s light is shadows except on open sea at wind speed zero. Let me take the opportunity to thank you all for the inspirational and indeed cozy days we had together. We had many good chats about the incredible value the WS is too all of us. We also had some very fine gear-head talks 🙂 Seeing Ming’s Ultraprints gave me such an appetite for stepping up a notch and invest in a high-end printer. Thanks for bringing those prints Ming.
Todd Alexander Lawton (Making Outstanding Images Workshop London, July 2014): I’m a big fan of Ming’s blog and video tutorial series, but there comes a point where only practise and feedback will help you improve; that’s where the workshops come in. Spending time with the man himself (and 11 other like-minded photographers) was fun, challenging but above all inspiring; I left with a fresh outlook and a number of big questions answered. Can’t recommend the experience enough to anyone stuck in a photographic rut – those who’ve mastered the basics but aren’t sure where to go next. The difference between taking a nice picture and developing a creative vision that you can consistently execute (regardless of what gear you own) is tuition from the right person, and Ming has a remarkable ability to deconstruct what makes an outstanding image and explain how to get there in a disciplined, repeatable way. To anyone reading this and considering one of his workshops: for the price of a middle-of-the-road camera, you can start to learn how to use the stuff you’ve got effectively. Hugely rewarding and empowering.
It was also interesting to see the Ultraprints. Next time you are having a sale, I will be looking for one with subject matter that appeals (street scenes for example).
Birgit Rabanus (Making Outstanding Images Workshop London, July 2014): For me the three days in London were indeed very pleasing and inspirational and I came home with a lot of new ideas what to do different in future and how to improve further. Thanks Leon for sending the pictures – a very nice souvenir of the workshop!
I definitely will consider a future masterclass or perhaps email school.
Robert Bakker (Making Outstanding Images Workshop London, July 2014): Just chiming in here… I want to thank you all and Ming specifically for making the workshop such a wonderful experience! Thoroughly enjoyed being challenged like this, and feeling there’s so much more to learn in seeing the world around us! Hope to meet up in the future again, whether its in Amsterdam or some other inspiring place on this world and spend some more time with the personalities behind the pretty cameras. I wish I would have taken a bit more time for that!
Richard Ang (Making Outstanding Images Workshop London, July 2014): Just finished the second day of Ming’s Making outstanding images workshop and wanted to put down my thoughts whilst they are still fresh in mind. Having been a long time admirer of Ming’s work, I jumped at the chance to attend his workshop when he announced that he was coming to town. Many have previously written about his workshop and indeed it has been finely iterated to its current state. The basic theoretical knowledge and required skills are ‘pre-loaded’ upfront with the excellent videos. Ming has distilled the essence of what makes a good image down to its key components and this is repeatedly drummed into us through the first day of ‘drills’, which layers on these key components successively. The second day then builds on the core skills acquired by expanding on story-telling and different photographic styles. For me, the most valuable part during the first 2 days is the ability to get instant feedback from Ming, which then feeds on to the next exercise and the learning process is thus greatly accelerated. Also, being with like-minded individuals and seeing the images they make and learning from their feedback, a cross-germination of styles and ideas. Finally, being able to see first hand how Ming ‘sees’ and the way he shoots, there is just no substitute (although the how to see video does come very close). I have been lucky to have met like-minded individuals to have a drink and dinner with at the end of a hard day’s shooting, and to carry on the discussions from the day (and we had dinner with Ming as well on his birthday!).
I am looking forward (and also dreading it as the workshop is coming to an end) to the last day where we shall be reviewing and post-processing our 10 best images. I cannot wait to see what the other students will bring to the table and the erudite discussions we will no doubt have.
Anything I would change for the workshop? The current format works well for the targeted audience at the beginner to intermediate level. I would say that with the instructional videos and diligent self-application most of us should be able to acquire the skill sets required to produce great images. What sets the workshop apart is the intensity and the instant feedback loop. Personally, I feel that the basic drills could have perhaps been combined and reduced as a refresher for half a day and then we can begin to explore styles and story-telling earlier, perhaps with smaller groups and even more individualised tuition. Indeed, I believe Ming is moving towards this model with his Master classes with videos and on-line instructions taking over from the current Making Outstanding Images workshops. I think this is a good move.
Personal reflections? I have been following Ming through his blog for a while now and I think subconsciously must have been suffused with his principles of photography for I found the instructions from his videos and workshops very intuitive. It just fits with the way I see things too. The workshop has been a great catalyst for me to kickstart my further development as a photographer. The single most important thing I have taken away is the need for constant practice and experimentation and the best way to do this is to build a workflow into my daily life. This starts from being observant (seeing and not just looking) of my surroundings, being ready to capture it (the GR is going to be my constant companion now) and to review the images in a timely manner. Rinse and repeat.
In some ways, the third day is the crown jewel of the workshop. Each student uploads 5 to 10 of their best images and the group then objectively critique and score each image presented based on Ming’s 4 point criteria of what makes an outstanding image. The images are anonymised after being uploaded but the students can defend their images if they wish. Ming pulls no punches and appraises each image with his professional eye, giving the brutally honest comments that one needs to improve. The resulting discussion and debate was most educational. This process whittled the image pool from around 120 images down to around 18 of the best images and Ming then showed us how he would post process them, including black and white and cinematic treatments. It was striking how some judicious use of dodging, burning and curves can transform an image. Ming then curated his own images and post processed them in real time. This is perhaps the most eye-opening aspect for me. To see Ming working from end to end and thereby observe how he pre-visualised the end image right from the initial moment of capture.
To sum up, I feel completely invigorated to put all I have learnt into practice. If you need a shot in the arm for your photography, don’t hesitate and take the plunge with one of Ming’s workshops!
Now, to save up for the Master classes…
Dan Stenvall (Making Outstanding Images Workshop London, July 2014): I wanted to thank you once more for the London Outstanding Images workshop. It was my first paid workshop and going in I did not know exactly what to expect.
All in all it was a great experience to have an intense course together with you and so many passionate photographers. I think it worked really well having the video instructions as “pre-reads”, so that we could focus on taking pictures without to much theory. It has been said before, but now I really see that getting feedback from someone experienced is a great help to get on the right path. But in end it’s the learnings and tools that you have provided which we need to take home and apply. No one can expect the become a world class photographers in the short timespan of the course.
I really hope you are able to keep doing what you are passionate about – you are a great inspiration to me and many others. I particular admire the ultra prints which you showed us – it really is that has pushed printing to a new level and shown that when technique, technology and a perfectionist come together some unique can be produced. I would definitely like to have one or more hanging on my wall to remind me what I should be working towards. Personally I prefer pictures with more focus on nature, similar to the first print run.
I would also be very interested to join the email school when spots open as it allows to get feedback over a longer time period.
I hope we meet again at some point in the future. It’s been an enlightening and fun three days, and thats is something I value in my free time.
HC Mak (Melbourne Workshop, Mar 2014): I was one of the participants in Melbourne and I really did enjoy myself. Ming provided so much information in the 3 days that even after a week I’m still digesting and processing the info. Highly recommended, and the ultraprints needs to be seen to be believed, they are really that awesome.
Pete Sullivan (Melbourne workshop, Mar 2014): I’m so glad I attended your workshop. I think I was close to giving up on photography but I can tell already that I’m feeling in a very different and positive place toward my photography and the journey ahead. It starts today – I’ll put time aside each day to practice all that I’ve learned over the three days. Best of all – I’m looking forward to it. I did have trouble keeping up with you yesterday as I’ve only just taken out a Photoshop subscription. That said, you’ve inspired me to learn to use Photoshop. The minimal changes you worked through with us made for stunning images. Looking ahead, I’ll be buying your advanced Photoshop tutorial and I’ll be sure to check out what else will help me to improve. Thanks again, Ming.
Malcolm Trebilco (Melbourne workshop, Mar 2014): It was inspiring course, a lot of fun and I have felt as though I have learned alot (my head is still swimming a bit). I can already see my photographs changing alot this year not only in composition but in the change of mindset ( I am not longer viewing scenes in terms of doing hours of Photoshop work but in terms of framing, story, light, balance etc). The Ultraprints were a great treat to see as well. I could have spent many hours looking at them from both a technical sense and a pure enjoyment sense. The textures and colour depth were stunning. On a more personal note – you are one of the most genuine and inspirational people I have had the pleasure of meeting.
Roger Wojahn (Oct 2013 Prague Workshop): When the discussion started up earlier this year about a workshop in Europe, I knew this would include me. It represented just the sort of life disruptor that could bounce me out of my well-worn path and into a new season of growth, exploration and creativity. I knew there would be a diverse group and I was fearful that I would become so consumed with my own negative internal dialogue that it would effect my ability to just let go and truly learn. In one way, I was grateful for those fears because they got me into practicing on a daily basis so I could at least bring my best self to the table.
But those fears were much ado about nothing. The workshop, the learning, the process and the experience of each of you transformed what could have been a series of technical lectures over several days into something that was valuable beyond measure. I was able to show up as I am, not trying to be any better or worse, and just surrender to the process of being with all of you under Ming’s tutelage. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate every one of you and your ability to live out of your own uniqueness. What an incredible group and experience.
Ming started out the initial session talking about how he was going to help us see differently and teach us about awareness. “Start by finding interesting light”, he said. I was so excited in those first few moments when Ming, marching out in front of us, began showing us the extensive reflections in the cars and on the buildings. This was something that I’d somehow missed in my life and I was truly amazed. But, the more I think about it, the more I understand that there is a reflection of life and of us too, in every shot we make. Photography is multi-dimensional.
Life is a co-creation between each of us and the unfolding moment. As we engage that present moment, consciously see it, accept it, and engage it in creative participation, we are learning something about ourselves too. The same holds true for our personal interactions and relationships with each other. We see in one another, some aspect of ourselves. And if these reflections we see are a mirror of us too, then we are all becoming more aware of our oneness and being elevated to our highest and best selves.
The practice of photography is not so different than the practice of yoga. Each practice uses consciousness of the present moment to bring us to a relationship with life and with ourselves. As our awareness increases, so does our consciousness. If our focus is on the camera and simply a scene in front of us, perhaps our awareness is mostly limited and we live out of our unconscious. But if we zoom out a few clicks, and actually start to become conscious observers of ourselves as we are choosing, shaping and making our photos, then we are increasing our consciousness and making what is unconscious, conscious. Being not only the photographer but also the observer of ourselves in the very act of our creative process, seems to be very much in keeping with the “context” that Ming keeps explaining to us. We start out isolating subjects within a narrow field of view because are beginners and it make the learning easier. But I suppose as we develop our ability to see, we go ever wider and there is an ever greater context for our world view and ourselves in it. This may be more difficult but must ultimately makes life richer. And so it seems to be less about the photos and more about the practice itself!
I’ve been trying to absorb the whole experience but it’s going to take awhile. After those last several nights in Prague with little sleep, I slept like a rock here in Nerja, Spain last night. All night I dreamt of framing things I’d never seen before. But there wasn’t really much a “me” there at all. I was just floating and seeing things and most of the principles we learned were just there and obvious and it was as if I had the unlimited ability to simply play with light, seeing reflections in reflections and balance wherever I looked. It was as though my view-finder could look through portals into other worlds. Everything just made sense, was known and was accessible to me at any time. That dream makes me trust that some seeds have been planted deeply within me. My intention is to water them so they can become real and I can become lucid in my waking dream!
I can’t wait to see you all in Havana. I guess in the meantime, we’ll see you on FB and / or on Flickr as part of Ming’s reader’s portfolio. Thank you for the incredible experience! I hope this finds you safely home, happy and in the flow of life. May your practice be everything you hope it to be.
Eric Hoppe (Oct 2013 Prague Workshop): I strain to add anything substantive to that which has already been said [by Roger, above] about our brief but impact-laden Prague trip. Nonetheless, the trip had everything a photographer needs, light (Ming), subject (we, the participants), composition (the creation of the individual and group experiences) which led to the story, the memory we created and have taken with home with us. I must say however, I do feel a bit over-exposed from Saturday night’s nocturnal activities … nothing that a bit of post-processing can’t fix! I can not recall an experience with a group of people whom I’ve never met which has had such an immediate, positive and profound influence upon me. Back in the real world today, as I took a break from the world’s casino which is the stock market, I enjoyed yet another wonderful autumn day but immediately sensed something was missing, my camera! Not only was I missing my camera but the same street I’ve walked down countless times the past 15 years struck me differently today; I saw things for the first time, things which I’ve never noticed before but were most certainly always there. So Ming, job well done. One of the most difficult tasks in life is to influence how one perceives his surroundings but in a matter of just a few days, you accomplished just that. Now, to bring that on to a photographic moment … And once again, a big thanks to everyone for sharing your photographic experiences with me and simply enhancing and enriching the entire experience!!
Erling Martmann-Moe (Oct 2013 Prague Workshop, in reply to Eric and Roger above): I am unable to add anything meaningful to these poetic summaries of a great experience, both as a learning event (thank you both Ming and each and everyone in the group), and a social event. Hope to se you all soon again!
Ian Carroll (Oct 2013 Prague Workshop) – …really appreciated your approach to wrangling a group of grown men in a foreign city and force feeding us education! Very impressive (not that I am surprised…as in everything you show to the world, you are a well-oiled machine – and I don’t mean that to infer “soulless” – such precision requires an appreciation of the whole in all of its potential chaos to extract the core essence). It was a fantastic experience, and I am thankful for the catalytic nidus it will hopefully provide.
Great place, great group, great teacher, great weather. Cannot wait for Cuba – my bank manager can go to hell (along with my bank manager!). First day out post workshop, and without the conscious intrusion of shooting for assignment, it already feels as though my photography has kicked up a gear. Cannot wait to go through the images at home (although that means I won’t be in Prague anymore…what a dilemma! :S). Thanks Ming and all for a fantastic experience, I look forward to seeing your cameras’-eyes’-views in the Flickr pool!
Update: Well, its nearly 3 weeks since we got back from Prague. I have 64 images in my Flickr Prague set, and another 25 ready to upload. I have had 5 of these explored, including a run of 4 days in a row, 1 commented on favorably, and favourited by, Ming Thein, 3 selected by Getty and one approach to use 1 commercially. All, in all, so far, so good, I would say! I still have…errr…another 375 earmarked for working up and possible use! Oh, and that doesn’t even include the dozens of detail/texture shots! If I were to value the trip based on image hours per £ alone, I would have to say it was excellent value!!! To be fair, it was excellent value any way I might evaluate it! Can’t wait to go again! Thanks again to all the gang for the first 3 days, bring on Havana (I don’t even want to think about what that is going to do to my mouse hand and eyesight)!
Jeffrey Egee (Oct 2013 Prague Workshop) – I wanted to reply earlier, but came back to an extremely busy week at work. It was not easy to ease back into my corporate life after last week’s experience – but I think that is a good thing. I just wanted to say thanks to all of you, and especially to Ming. Ming – you were a great teacher and I took away a lot of tools that are helping me to think differently about my photography. I’ve been looking at some of my older photos, and besides now liking them less, I actually understand now what I need to do to make them better. To everyone else, I have never had such an interesting and dynamic experience with such a diverse group of individuals. The entire experience was really the most interesting thing I’ve ever done on my own. It gave me new perspective, not only on photography, and I can only thank everyone here for being a part of it. I really hope we can do something like this next year again.
Valerij Tomarenko (Oct 2013 Prague Workshop): I had a very busy week after coming back from Prague, so it took me a while to join the others and say a HUGE THANKS to Ming and everyone in Ming’s Prague “classroom”. For me, it was a terrific experience and I am so happy that I made up my mind to take part in the workshop. I have read quite a few books on photography (probably as everyone else) and lurked a lot on various forums and websites, but for me, nothing compares to this hands-on experience in learning (and enjoying) things about photography and beyond. Ming is such a talented, sharp-minded and – what I am especially thankful about – articulate and methodical person (and artist, of course). I for one, learned such a lot about seeing things, framing/visualizing shots, composing and de-composing (light, subject, inclusion/exclusion)… Let alone acquiring more confidence and getting more insights/inspiration from Ming and everyone in our group.
Matthias Gaiser (Oct 2013 Prague Workshop): I can only thank you in return for making this the most intense and at the same time in all probability most inspiring learning experience I’ve ever had. Indeed, if the weather wasn’t overcast, I’d be out shooting already; as it is, it’ll have to wait. And I’ll delve into post-processing very soon in order to make some headway there as well. It *is* worth it. And of course, I have to concur with everything you said about the group – I’d never expected such a diverse bunch of personalities to turn out to be such a worthwhile company. Apart from lots of enjoyable moments, I was able to revise some narrow-minded thinking on my part, making this whole trip personally enriching to an extend I’d never have expected. Furthermore, I’m really happy to report that if the scheduled time frame for Cuba really holds, I should be able to make it. Of course, I’ll have to consider other factors as well, but time-wise, it’d be ideal. Great! Thank you, Ming, and thanks everybody for everything.
Diego Defilippi (Oct 2013 Prague Workshop): I’m really honoured to have met you and all the other cool guys. Can’t wait for the masterclass together with all you. Thanks Ming for being so special in your way of teaching Thank you guys for the pleasant time!
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