OPW Philosophy and Frequently Asked Questions

So, you love photography, getting outdoors with your camera, and capturing the natural world in all its amazing beauty. Thinking you might like to learn more, or spend your vacation time with fellow photographers, you’ve done a quick Google search and found there are a lot of tour companies out there. So now comes decision time. We know it’s a big commitment of time and money to sign up for a photo workshop, and that you are instilling a great deal of trust and faith in your workshop leaders to provide you with an informative, fun, and safe experience. On this page we have laid it all out in the open for you, sharing our core beliefs on what makes a good workshop, our approach to photography education, and what we feel makes our photography workshops and tours special. We hope that this provides you with an insight into our passion for our business and why we enjoy teaching others about nature photography .

Ultimately the most basic question you are going to ask is “So why should I take a workshop from you guys?”. We are full time photography professionals, we live and breathe this stuff every day , and have done so for years. We also come from a variety of teaching and training backgrounds in our lives before photography, bringing those teaching abilities to our workshops. Great photographers aren’t always great teachers, and when you look for a workshop it is important to gauge not just the instructors portfolio, but how well they are able to teach you new skills, and identify your needs as a student. We believe our instructors are able to do both; make great photos and teach you how to do so as well.

Why else? Well, we also have great senses of humor, minty fresh breath, and are snappy dressers!

Okay, maybe not so much on the snappy part…

So check out the Q and A below, and if we have missed anything, please feel free to call or email us. We are happy to talk with you about any of our trips, and look forward to seeing you on one of our future workshops!

Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)

“I don’t think I know enough to take a photo workshop… “

We are surprised at how often we hear this comment from folks. A lot of people worry that they will be embarrassed about asking questions that are too basic, or that they feel they will be holding up the group. Do not be embarrassed about your skill level, we are here to help you learn, regardless of how experienced a photographer you are. We tailor our workshops to the needs of each participant, and list in each workshop description the appropriate skill level we feel you should have to join the workshop. Yes, you may be paired with folks who have more experience than you, but that is okay. Not only can you learn from us, but your fellow participants as well.

And, if anyone starts picking on anyone else’s abilities, we promise we will take away their memory cards and give them a time-out…

“I have heard on some workshops instructors are more worried about getting their own pictures than teaching…”
We have heard the horror stories too, and unfortunately that is true in some cases. There are some “workshops” out there that are just a way to have a group pay for a trip which the tour leader has always wanted to take. We recommend that before you take a workshop with us or anyone else, that you do some research, ask for references, and ask the workshop leader questions to find out if this is the right photography experience for you.

Our commitment to you, the workshop student, is that we are here to help you grow as a photographer. On our workshops our picture taking is not the focus, yours is. While we will carry a camera and shoot some, it is never our first priority, your questions and instruction are. So if we happen to be looking through the viewfinder when you have a question, don’t wait for us to stop, ASK!

So what is the deal with your “All-Inclusive” workshops, just what is included? 

Many of our workshops are listed as “all-inclusive -you get there, we take care of the rest!”. Our idea behind these is to take the worries of planning and logistics off your shoulders, so you can just focus on your workshop experience. Exactly what is included is described in detail in the price section of each workshop. Generally, we include the following; all meals, all snacks, transportation during the workshop, and double occupancy lodging. This means you will share a room with someone, if that is not something you are up for, we offer a single supplement add-on for a private room, when possible.

Can I just pay for my own lodging/meals/etc. instead of paying the all-inclusive price? Will this save me money?

In most cases, no, occasionally we offer a workshop as either-or, and if so that will be an option at checkout when registering for a workshop. But in most cases, it will not save you money. We are often able to book rooms at a discount, transport people in large vans, and have the meals prearranged. By doing this as a group, we are able to get lower rates, which ultimately means less money out of your pocket during the workshop. It can also become a logistical headache for us, if we have to come pick you up at a different hotel, if we have to wait for you to get back from lunch at a different restaurant, etc.

What if I have to cancel my trip?

We understand life happens, from family emergencies to work commitments. To provide flexibility for the unexpected, we keep our deposit amounts as low as we can and provide clear details in our cancellation policies within each workshop description. Please realize that for many of our workshops we have to put down deposits to hold facilities, book rooms, buy permits, etc., so in our policy we try to balance being flexible enough to allow you to make changes, while still being able to hold a workshop in the event of a last minute cancellation. For details on our policies please check out our terms and conditions page, and the respective page for the workshop you are interested in. We also strongly recommend purchasing trip insurance for all trips/workshops.

Who will my instructor be for the workshop and could that change?

In most cases, the lead instructor is listed on the details page of each workshop.  That is the person who will be teaching your workshop… unless something crazy happens to them.  In that case, we do reserve the right to substitute one of our other highly qualified instructors to take their place.  But don’t worry, it won’t be like in school when a sub was in class and you just had to do worksheets (no offense to substitute teachers meant).  It will always be another OPW instructor that knows what they need to know to give you a fantastic workshop.  In this case,we will update the website with the new instructor’s name the moment it happens.

In some cases, there may be more than one instructor on a workshop which may or may not be listed on the website.  If the workshop has additional instructors who are listed, the situation would be the same as above.

While some people take a workshop because of the instructor who is leading it, please know that all of our instructors are fully qualified, know the OPW philosophy, and have the same strange sense of humor (no, really, they do…it’s kind of eerie).  So, while it is extremely rare for us to change instructors, it does occasionally happen, but don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed, they are all fantastic…if they do say so themselves Wink!

Do you absolutely guarantee that I will be able to photograph xyz animal or pqr landscape while on my workshop?

While we do guarantee to give you our best efforts and we schedule workshops to give you the best opportunities, we are still dealing with nature and nature can be very unpredictable.  We always do our best to get you the photo opportunities that you want, but sometimes Mother Nature is fickle and that is not possible.  We will however make the best of any situation and still find something else to photograph or teach you photography skills.  Many of our workshops have flexible schedules to be able to accommodate the uncertainties we encounter when dealing with nature.

What is the difference between a Photography Tour and a Photography Workshop? 

A tour is a group outing to a cool place, the focus being on exploring the place and photographing what you find there. A workshop is an educational experience, you are coming to this event to learn. Tours can be a great way to add a lot of image files to your portfolio, and learn about a place from an experienced guide. Workshops include more hands on instruction, with the focus being on improving techniques or learning new skills that you can use in other future photo opportunities.

There are many tours out there incorrectly labeled as workshops. Not that there is anything wrong with a photo tour, we have participated in them and offered them ourselves. But, when looking for the right photo experience for you, be sure you identify your goals for the experience, check out the event’s description and itinerary, and ask the leader what to expect in terms of photo opportunities and instruction. If your goal is to keep instruction to a minimum, and just have the tour leader get you to photographable subjects, then a tour is the right event for you. If you are more interested in being taught new techniques or how to improve on your photography skills, then you should look for a workshop.

Why do you send out a pre-questionnaire before the workshop and an evaluation after the workshop?

There are times when mindreading would be a very handy skill to have, but until there are a few more scientific breakthroughs, we will just have to go with good old fashioned communication.

The pre-questionnaire – we send out a pre-questionnaire for all of our regular small group photo workshops and one-on-one photo workshops.  We want your instructor to already know a little bit about you, your gear, your photography skill level, and what you want to work on during your workshop so they can meet and hopefully exceed your expectations during the workshop.

The evaluation – after every workshop we send out an evaluation.  We want honest feedback on what we are doing great on so we can continue and what we need to work on to make our workshops even better.  For that reason, if there is ANYTHING that is not meeting your expectations DURING your workshop, please talk with your instructor RIGHT THEN…don’t wait for the evaluation, it is too late for us to do anything about it then.  If you tell us during the workshop, we are going to do our darndest to make things right.  We want honest answers on the evaluation, but if we take care of everything during your workshop, the evaluation can be fantastic and still be honest.

See… no mindreading necessary!

Photographers traveling alone

We welcome individual photographers and we always do our best to pair you up with another photographer of the same gender if you would like to share a room under the double occupancy lodging, when it is included. Sometimes we are not able to pair someone up because of having an odd number of people of one gender. If that is the case, the lodge will charge us for an additional room, which we must in turn pass on to you, so you would be required to pay the single supplement. This generally happens with the later sign ups as we pair people in the order they register. If we are unable to pair you with another participant, the single supplement fee for that workshop will be due.

Do the instructors have First Aid/CPR training since we may not always be near medical care?

Yes, our instructors have had First Aid/CPR/AED training.  And some locations also require Wilderness and Remote First Aid training which they have also been trained in.

What about the alligators, bears, snakes, etc.  Will they eat me?

Our business is based on word of mouth advertising and participants coming back on future workshops.  We know the environments we are working in and do our best to keep everyone safe.  And besides, if you get eaten by one of the animals, you won’t be able to come back and see us again and tell your friends about us, so it really is bad for our business.

Tipping

This is always a tricky one, but we will do our best to answer it.

If you are attending a workshop at an animal rehabilitation center or with another non-profit organization, we highly recommend tipping as this is the main way that they feed their animals and provide for their care.

For any workshops where there are guides or “models,” they should be tipped.  Most of the time the amount is whatever you feel their services were worth.  Some locations do give a suggested tip amount, in which case we will pass that information on to you.

For your photography instructor, tipping is always appreciated, but never expected.

What is the minimum/maximum age to take a workshop?

Minimum: Teenagers are welcome to join us for a workshop if they have an interest in learning photography.  Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian for any field workshops.  If it is a one-on-one workshop and the parent is not photographing or bringing a camera, there is no additional charge for the parent.  For group workshops, the parent fee depends on the individual circumstances for the workshop and what our costs will be for the parent.  For classroom group workshops, parents may drop mature teenagers or tweens off and pick them up at the end of class.

Maximum: You are as young as you feel, come out and join us no matter what your age!

Can you accommodate people with disabilities?

Yes (in most situations).  We do our best to work with people of all abilities.  We have had people who have mobility problems, people who are deaf, and even people who are legally blind take workshops with us.  If you have a special situation, please email or call us and talk with us about the possibilities for each workshop.  We can let you know the demands of each workshop and discuss which workshop will work the best for you.  By letting us know ahead of time, it allows us to do everything we can to make the workshop work for you.