The fifth Masterclass will also be the first specialised one, on a topic I’m frequently asked to teach: the cinematic style of photography. It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 21-26 of July 2015 inclusive. Better still, Zeiss has agreed to loan us with a suitcase of lenses*. As usual, the Masterclass is limited to just 8 participants, so please confirm early to avoid disappointment; read on to make a booking and for further information. For all of you who’ve been asking me for a Masterclass in Asia, here’s your opportunity 🙂
18/4 Updates: Taking standbys for the first session, second session (28/7-2/8) now open for booking. *More importantly, Zeiss have updated me on lenses – the really good news is we will get the 1.4/55 and 1.4/85 Otuses in Nikon and Canon mounts, along with the 2/135 APO and 2/28 Hollywood Distagon… 🙂 The Cinematic Photography Masterclass, in collaboration with Zeiss Hanoi, Vietnam Dates: 21-26 July 2015 inclusive (session 1) and 28 July – 2 August 2015 inclusive (session 2). Note: this is not focused on video, though similar fundamental principles apply. This article covers an explanation of cinematic photography in more detail.
Duration: 6 days, four practical and two classroom
Tuition cost: US$2,200 for workshop only, $2,500 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 – the bundle can be altered accordingly.) There is also a special price for previous workshop attendees – please send me an email if you’re interested.
Want to be challenged? Inspired? Push yourself to take your images to the next level? Want to make emotional images that look as though they could be stills from a movie? The Masterclasses are aimed squarely at you. The Cinematic Masterclass is for the photographer who already understands the basics and is looking to experiment with making distinctive and emotional images that carry a unique style, evolving creatively and spending some time with like-minded individuals. It is not limited just to street or controlled scenes; cinematic is a wide style that can be applied across a very broad range of subjects. 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, with a special focus on Ep. 4 and 5) to bring them all to a common level; they then prepare a portfolio of 10 cinematic images to be reviewed on the first day. Even within that general remit, there are a wide variety of possibilities – everything from film noir to natural to the modern trend for anamorphic lens flare and extreme lighting and color. All images in this post were shot in Hanoi; for more examples of the cinematic style, please see this set on Flickr. The first day is spent in the classroom as a group reviewing each photographer’s portfolios, and setting specific things for them to focus on. This is very important because creative pursuits have no right or wrong and it can be useful to have as many points of view as possible. Throughout the next four days, I’ll spend half a day with each participant individually 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. In summary, the program is as follows:
- Day 1: Introduction to cinematic photography and critical style elements; technical considerations including focus, previsualization and setup; portfolio review and individual goal setting along with ‘The Assignment’
- Days 2, 3, 4, 5: Individual participant intensive sessions and daily review. Most photography will be done earlier in the day or late afternoon/evening.
- Day 6: Closing portfolio review, postprocessing and workflow for cinematic with a particular focus on control and consistency of color grading
Participants will need to have a large sensor mirrorless or DSLR camera, fast prime lenses (even a 50/1.4 on a DX body is perfectly adequate) and a laptop to post process on. Nikon or Canon mounts are best since Zeiss has also generously agreed to loan us some suitable lenses for the Masterclass in those mounts, too. Manual focus fast primes are also excellent (even older glass via adaptors such as the Nikon AI 105/1.8) especially if paired with an EVF, waist level LCD or LCD magnifier*. A tripod is also useful so you can set up shots and work with a little motion blur, such as in the Venetian Cinematics. *The Zacuto Z-Finder Pro or Kinotehnik LCDVF are both good options. For travel planning purposes, it’s preferable to arrive a day earlier and leave the day after (or extend a bit to see the greater area) as we will have our usual opening/ closing dinners. It also makes sense to stay at the same hotel for easy meeting logistics and frequent feedback; this has worked very well in the past for participants at previous workshops. I am planning to stay at most probably the Movenpick or the Sofitel Metropole, which are both ideally located for easy access to many historical districts in Hanoi and will update participants in due course. This will be the fifth masterclass following Havana, San Francisco, Venice and Prague. Each masterclass has been fully subscribed and every time it gets even better; clicking on those links will take you to the previous reports, participant thoughts and more importantly, the work produced during the sessions. 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 individual needs. There is also an excellent and detailed report from one of my Havana participants, Michael Letchford, here. To book a place for one of the Masterclasses, or for more information, please send me an email. This session is limited to just 8 participants. I am looking forward to shooting with you!
Selected testimonials from previous Masterclass participants follow.
Emil Varadi (Prague March 2015 Masterclass): I’ve stumbled upon Ming’s website a few years ago coming from the DPReview lens forum. I was at that time interested in the Zeiss ZF 21∕2.8 lens and someone pointed at his review of this lens. His site was new to me, so being a gearhead myself , I also read his Camerapedia pages and skimmed through his whole site then concentrating mainly on his gear reviews. It did not take long to notice that he had plenty of perfectly composed images, pictures of real artistic merit, which was actually a welcome surprise. A lot of guys talk about gear and photography on the web, but their artistic output is well, even mildly spoken: dubious. I have been and I am still am subscriber to manuals∕gear review pages and have spent many many hours on the web beachcombing for worthwhile content on photography. Months and months passed, Ming started his Master Classes and I’ve seen from him a steady flow of perfectly composed photographs, which had a slightly unnatural, darkish, but very pleasing coloration. I immersed more and more into his writings and his photography already then
started have an impact on my shooting. In the meantime I saw Ming’s free Havana tuition video and also bought his three discounted tuition videos. When he announced his Prague Master Class, I knew the time
has come. True, I got some nudging from my wife, who is also an eager photographer. Prague had a special significance for us: our photographic fever started exactly there 12 years earlier.
Prague started and ended in a „classroom”, by Ming analyzing and commenting first the 10 best images we bought with us, and at the end, the 10 best images we made during the course. In the meantime, every morning and noon we had the opportunity to seek his opinion on the images we made that day or the previous afternoon. Also all of us had a half day with him personally, when we would go out shooting side by side.
It is also important to mention, that on the very first day, Ming also asked everyone, what was our aim with the course. I happened to mention that my photography usually has a human focus, humans are part of my compositions. This at the time seemed to me just a casual sentence I said then to explain what I was generally shooting, but by the end of the course I had to realize that this sentence does have a much deeper philosophical meaning. I have come back to this thought ever since.
Let me try to explain. Ming is photographing compositions: buildings, objects, street scenes, where – occasionally – humans are also included but mostly as requisites for a perfection seeking composition. I think that Ming is the best out here with his compositional skills and capabilities, I’ve seen practically numberless compositions from numberless authors, but he is tops in this genre, if not the best, then
certainly one of the very best. (And more importantly from your aspect, he is able to pass on to you much of this. It’s only up to you how much you utilize). So yes, composition is the alpha and omega of photography. So if you can develop good∕better∕perfect composition into your everyday language in photography, then you can get very very far. By the end of the course I have seen quite a few excellent images from other participants that I would happily hang on my wall or call my own. (Primarily Patrick’s
image of a statue of a man hanging outside a window.)
Regarding photography I have come from a different school. Having been a journalist for 35 years I knew many great photo journalists and have seen even more great news photographs. This genre is primarily about human drama, the word drama used in a very broad context here. (By drama I do not only mean strong human emotions, but a smile, a grin, a facial expression, a human gesture that communicates outside the image). To humans humans are the most important subjects. We would look with interest at
another human being rather than on a composition of objects. We resonate better to other humans. Having been practically immersed into such photographs more than half my life, no wonder they had great influence on me and no wonder I tend to put humans in the focus of my photography. Humans that are not just esthetic compositional elements in a picture but humans that do somehow communicate outside the plain of the image.
I have mentioned some of this to Ming, definitely not with such clarity as I myself have not put these things into their proper place at the time. Then I felt that human „drama” portrayed on an image easily overwrites compositional principles and it is the „drama” that talks to us, that really hooks us to the image. (Ming said something like we cannot expect much drama on the streets of Prague anyway and human drama – well composed – will have greater photographical value. In this he is definitely right. (Still, that very day the two of us have stumbled upon a drug addict, a woman, sitting in the staircase of the parking lot to Prague’s Wilson Railway Station. She was sitting silently on the filthy stairs stinking of urine, and held an injection needle that Ming later said she would use to inject heroin into her arm. The woman looked at me as we bypassed her on the way up. I still cannot forget her hopeless dark brown eyes. So there’s human drama for you even on the streets of Prague, something we did not photograph for ethical reasons.)
So what did Prague bring for me? The most important part is something seemingly very simple: the understanding that one needs to compose carefully. Very carefully. An amateur beginner would say sure, what’s the big deal? One needs to be at a high level to grasp the real difficulty of this simple sentence. Because in Ming’s terms this means practically pixel level perfection. Coming home from Prague I skimmed through several years of my images only to realize how sloppy I was before, how many good
chances have I missed, by not taking better care. I just did not know before. The other lesson was how to balance a composition, what to watch for in an image.
I think I have gone home from Prague with a highly useful set of tools, but I will need much more practice to become fluent in their use. I know I will never achieve Ming’s levels of perfection, as neither I have the patience nor his abilities, but for my purposes I will be very satisfied. Also it is important that we know, what we do and what we do not want. No, I will not be chasing the ideal of perfect compositions of objects, but I will definitely use the skills learned for the human aspects of my photography.
Ian Carroll (Prague March 2015 Masterclass): Prague was fantastic, and I will be back again. Great MC, with a great bunch of guys, and some stunning images on display in everyone’s final 10. It has taken me 2 whole days to curate down to about 400 images, which considering half the time the weather was very familiar feeling (grey, flat, boring, damp and unpleasant) is something. Most of the guys only had 1 good shooting day, weather-wise, and despite this produced great images…I think if the weather had held out we would have had all 3.5>4+ s. And I know, there is no such thing as “bad light” but still, it is alot easier to find inspiration and worthy subjects when the sun is shining! Thanks again for your time and mentorship, and for going the extra mile in trying to make it a more personal experience….I know this doesn’t come easy for you, nor for me, but I think it adds a lot to the mentor/mentee relationship. it was very rewarding shooting (or at least seeing) alongside you as a fellow photographer rather than as just a paying student. Although I am not overly enthused by my own output, I know why I am not (different gear, weather, being too distracted with Gerner and Junaid…in a good way!), and I came away with a feeling of validation, which was important to me.
Michael Letchford (Prague March 2015 Masterclass): All good things must come to an end as they say, so it is with much regret that Ming’s Prague Masterclass came to a close yesterday with a very positive final review day. It was my last chance this morning to steal an hour in the rain, trying out new kit with the sole challenge of subject isolation. Not so easy when it’s pouring down! Never mind, got some good shots of wet pavements and people under brollies taking their Sunday morning strolls in empty streets. Very evocative! The Masterclass was once again very challenging, but great work and much progress came out of it. Final Day Review was very inspiring ……. Thanks go to Ming for his unending patience and encouragement and skillfull criticisms – always focussed on pushing you forward. It was a great group, comprised of many talented people. You couldn’t help but be inspired. Must try harder!
Junaid Rahim (Prague March 2015 Masterclass): Curating and processing finally completed and time to share my thoughts on the Prague Masterclass! This was my second Ming workshop, the first being in Amsterdam some 18 odd months ago. That set the foundations and ‘principles’ for what makes an image and the Masterclass took this to another level. I actually came into the workshop in a bit of a ‘photographic rut’ and needing some inspiration and motivation to pick up the camera and shoot. The workshop started with us all sharing out 10 images and it was a sobering experience getting the feedback on what worked and what didn’t. Armed with this feedback we began shooting with some incredible light on the first day. The workshop challenged us to be more critical and more importantly the participants challenged each other to be better. We each also had a session with Ming to work on a certain aspect. Needing some help with experimenting my session involved us working with a tripod in the evening experimenting with the ‘Dancing House’. We spent 3 hours freezing to the bone on a bridge (with Ming you don’t get very far as he points out various things that could work…) experimenting with different angles and that was invaluable for what I wanted to achieve. Though the weather sadly didn’t hold up for the rest of the week, we were getting stronger images as we started to ‘see’ more effectively. At the final review session, the progress in the final 10 images the participants showed was outstanding – as a group we even worried Ming slightly before he started his curation 😉. But in the end Ming showed his experience and presented an incredible selection – we didn’t expect anything less from our teacher 🙂 . On top of that the group we had was fantastic and we had some good nights together. Thanks again Ming, it was great fun and onto the next workshop when and wherever that may be! And if anyone wants a look, my photographs from the workshop: https://www.flickr.com/…/125049303@…/sets/72157649274730284/
Kevin Foisy (Prague March 2015 Masterclass): The Prague Masterclass was my first workshop with Ming and won’t be my last. Ming has a direct and very intentional style of instruction that is straight to the point. His workshop is demanding and free of fluff that one might find in other venues. On our first day, during image review, Ming identified areas that we could work on to achieve our workshop objectives; mine was compositional balance and aspect ratios. Shooting with Ming in beautiful Prague helped me to see what I was missing and in the end achieve better, more balanced compositions. My fellow photographers were both an inspiration to me and a joy to socialize with. I’ve learned, improved and made new friends; exactly what I had hoped for! A great week with Ming in Prague and highly recommended.
Gerner Christensen (Prague March 2015 Masterclass): Having participated in the Masterclass (MC) workshop in Venice end of November last year, I had my doubts should I be able to adapt and benefit from new endeavours already so soon after? I was still under impression and working on the outcome of the first MC while the chance occurred to participate in a new Masterclass in Prague. Feeling a bit odd to attend so soon again, I felt even more odd letting such a chance pass. After all it was astonishing beautiful and charming Prague that should host us and the city has been high on my priority list for quite some time. It was also a unique chance to work with Ming again and there were participants I so utterly wanted to see and to be together with. Now soon 3 weeks since the the Masterclass took place, I must say I do not regret at all. As we all did, I too bought my 10 images for a review and I must say it is quite rewarding having such qualified feedback from such outstanding photographers as I truly admit the whole group were. But just as rewarding it is to have a chance to give one’s opinion back to 70 outstanding images. It is on such rare occasions one’s fantasy starts boiling, our attention and senses are fully alerted, and we are getting new ideas and broadened and perspectives to one’s own work. I brought of course my objectives for the workshop, but they were already altered during the first days review session. There you go, the teaching starts immediately after the first imaged has been shown. OK, I brought my ideas about transcending the stocked way I have been shooting up to the MC by trying to add a twist to my work to make it more interesting to look at. Crossing the borders of my comfort zone and what have we, I learned my objectives changed a bit already during the course. I was encouraged by Ming to curate before I even took the shot and that makes a lot of sense in my case because how often haven’t I wasted data and time just to fire on some object and then hope for the best. I can’t say I fully succeeded, but I certainly went a big step in the right direction. By giving a possible shot a second thought you will also start distilling the idea about what it is you want to say with the shot. *Is it me to shoot this?* *Is the right light for the scene?* *Does it bring anything new to the table or is it just another cliche to the many already taken?* … These are questions I will ask myself in the future while running and gunning out there! Hah .. and then all my troubles bringing an inadequate tripod for my new D810 and its heavy glass was certainly a lesson I brought home too. Saying to myself and others *Oh .. I am not a tripod guy anyhow, so never mind* , well that isn’t actually the case to be honest, and Ming really was helpful to advise me what to buy while he saw me struggling and suffering with my dry spaghetti Gitzo I had brought. While I rushed to the local gear shop who advertised they had more adult stuff on stock, I was disappointed to learn that they had not! Well since not all our workshop days had strong light etc. I also faced many of my shots were shaken or robbed DR because of early auto ISO kick in. Nevertheless I got enough quality shots in order to curate for our last classroom day. I had my 10 images and I liked them. Even more did I like many of the 10’s my dear fellow participants brought! It was an amazing day with so many master shots I would have wished to have taken myself, and the good question could be *Why didn’t I*? The critique and feedback from Ming and the group were priceless and there were such a common energy present while we all took and gave, all while being taught and induced new ideas upon our efforts … it is hard to say otherwise than the harvest actually felt bigger than the seeds you sowed yourself. So also this time I am overwhelmed by the progressive process it is to pass a Masterclass. It is so rewarding and I would do it again and again so long there are Masterclasses to attend. I want to thank each one in the group for all we had together and in particular thank you Ming for being such an inspiration and source of photographic wisdom. It was unforgettable and enormously enriching. Thank you all!
Patrick Hautle (Prague March 2015 Masterclass) – Even though I read all the enthusiastic comments that previous masterclass participants left on your website, I came to Prague unbiased and open to any outcome. In retrospect I can say that they were not at all exaggerating. I experienced a very dense week which has left some strong marks in my approach to photography.
The early discussion we had on distraction and the minimum number of elements needed for a story helped me very much to review my previous practice of framing. Your straight, clear cut and always well thought critique brought me on the track to compose much denser images. Looking back it’s amazing to see how much progress is possible in a few days with proper and instructive guidance.
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.
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.
The Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass (21-26 July inclusive) is now open for registration – click here to book and for more information.
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