PSA: Please Don’t Use Images from Workshops in Your Portfolio

You probably didn’t do much work for that shot, and it’s tacky.

The longer I’ve worked in the photo industry, the more I’ve been able to see photos within a photographer’s portfolio and put together a scene. Lots of photographers use images from workshops and tradeshows in their portfolio. The intent is to make them seem better than they really are. But it’s wrong and a smoke and mirrors game. I feel the same way at press junkets. You know, the ones where we, other journalists, and YouTubers photograph the same models. It’s why we at The Phoblographer try very hard to get exclusive images. We wouldn’t encourage you to use a cookie-cutter shot that someone else has. Your portfolio should be specifically about showcasing who you are as a photographer and not your ability to copycat or rip off of someone else’s work.

How are you ripping off of someone else’s work?

  • You didn’t set up the scene.
  • You probably did nothing about the wardrobe.
  • You didn’t do a thing about the lighting.
  • It probably wasn’t your concept.

Merely snapping a photo is the photography world’s equivalent of eating all the skin on fried chicken and leaving whats left for other people. But the more significant point here is that you’re not creating. It’s not a crutch that you can lean on in the long term. Even if you’re doing photography just for fun, you’re not helping your own cause very much.

A workshop, first and foremost, is a place where you learn how to do something. Organizers probably do say you can use the images for your portfolio, but you really shouldn’t. It’s not a real shoot. It’s a simulation that someone set up so that you can train. The practical application is far different. If someone asked you to set up the same type of shoot, you’d probably have no idea what you were doing, and you’d fail. The purpose of a portfolio is to showcase what you’re capable of doing and to not fake it. Trust me when I say that the photography world is way too small and the internet is way too viral for you to underestimate how easily someone can catch your mistake.

Instead, you should use the opportunity at the workshop to do everything you can to be able to do it all on your own. That’s the point of it. You can learn how to light; why you’re using color in a specific way; why you’re posing in a certain way; how to talk to models; how to run a set; how to shoot; and all the other skills that come with paying for a workshop. It’s a bigger problem within the media. You come to our site and many other channels but often see the same images that were done with the same lighting. So everyone’s shots are more or less all the same. It’s not cool. This is yet another reason why we do our own, separate testing that’s, or we work on a set/with models to create our own images. In the instance of journalism, a manufacturer ends up controlling the message way too much, and all the journalists wind up saying the exact same thing. The voices aren’t unique; they’re merely just ripping off of one another.

Imagine if everyone else who went to the same workshop put the same image in their portfolio?