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Simply Bloom workshop {Review}

*It took me a while to get up the nerve to write this post.  {Side note: I wrote it in early April and just now got the nerve to hit ‘publish’.} I should have written it immediately after, but I was afraid that there may be some sort of backlash, as they are well known and highly published photographers.  I’ve been afraid that, perhaps by speaking out, I may offend someone and hurt myself / my chances of being published in certain blogs that are tight with them.

I know I was not the only one sorely disappointed by this workshop, but these are my opinions, and I encourage anyone else to share their experiences in kind to help ‘buyer beware’. I recently found another review (of a different workshop) that made me realize, indeed, we do have the right to voice our opinions on the things we spend our hard earned money on, even within the photography world of workshops.

I did, after the workshop, send a rather long, polite and detailed email of all the issues I found with the workshop.  I just wanted to give them some insight so their future attendees wouldn’t walk away as disappointed as I did.  The response I received to this was two lines, with nothing said about any of the points I sent.  {My personal feeling was, they had deposited the money, so they were now finished-as they demonstrated when many of us repeatedly asked the same questions and for clarification on things that were only vaguely answered…  They told us it was ‘simply too time consuming’ to send an email clarifying or explaining anything.}

On Saturday, we were to have a dinner together that Simply Bloom promoted on their website as “a great opportunity to get to know each other and start chatting about your questions”.   Instead of a private room somewhere we could hear each other speak, we (27 attendees) were spread throughout 4 booths and a long table.  The restaurant was so loud, it was difficult to hear the person across from you talk, much less have a conversation/ask questions with our hosts.  I left a bit early (I was exhausted, as we had just flown in that day after changing our tickets to attend a funeral Saturday afternoon), so I can’t say whether there was any wrap up to the dinner with questions answered.

Sunday, our workshop was to begin at 11 am.  At 11, Amanda, the Simply Bloom associate photographer walked us up to SB’s suite, where we were instructed to find a seat.  The problem was, they had 27 attendees and didn’t hire a room at the hotel to fit us in; they just squeezed us into their suite.  I was one of the first ones in and luckily got a seat, but there were plenty of girls there not so lucky who paid $980 to sit in the floor for hours.

After a bit of scrambling around for seats, we finally got started.  They had each of us introduce ourselves and our primary focus in photography, and then they started to talk.  Personally, I didn’t feel there was much substance to the talk.  A lot of it had to do with being in the right place at the right time when some popular wedding blogs were in their infancy, and the importance of their graphic design and marketing backgrounds.

Once they started the slideshow portion of the talk, there were technical difficulties that took up a chunk of time, and attendees attempted to help correct the problems (which they said were caused by using their associate photographer’s laptop that they were unfamiliar with.  *at 27 attendeesx$980, they made $26,460 off this workshop minus expenses, so why they didn’t have a laptop they were familiar with baffles me.)  All of the writing on the slideshow was so tiny, no one except the first few people closest to the tv could read any of it.  Several people asked if we could close the blinds in order to cut the glare on the television…. instead, they tilted the tv away from the window about an inch–they didn’t want to cover their banner in the window, as they were having a DVD made (which, I’ve now heard, one of the attendees was paying her employee to do at no cost to SB, simply because she thought it would be a good portfolio addition).  After repeated requests, they did finally close the blinds.

All of this was between time outs for sweater retrieval, retrieval of a different sweater because the first one wasn’t the correct one, and lipstick checks.

The main question I had (I hate to admit this was my whole reason for attending) was how they created the beautiful sunflare circle of light you see in a lot of their work…several people asked this question during the ‘teaching’ session, but the only answer we ever got was that it just depended on being in the right place at the right time and catching it.  Seriously.    This was the pattern for most, if not all the questions we asked-a vague answer or none at all.  It was very disheartening.

A somewhat nitpicky concern was the brunch.  I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, as they said brunch would be provided.  It was very slim pickings-little sandwich wrap rollups, some slimy cut up cantaloupe and honeydew, sun chips and off brand bottled water.  They also had mimosas, but they stood out for a couple hours so they could photograph them before anyone touched them-warm mimosa..not so great.  Needless to say, by the time we got back from the photo session after 7 pm, we were all starved.

The one thing-after the lackluster ‘education’ portion of the workshop, the technical difficulties, the unreadable slideshow, and the unanswered questions-I thought could save this workshop was the styled session in the desert.   The light in the desert is otherworldly, and I was really excited to have this session.

To get to the session, however, was a 45 minute or so drive.  We were expected to find our own transportation.  Since I had only gotten the information email a couple of days before the workshop, I was panicked.  Luckily, one of the sweet photographers let me ride with her last minute!  I was pretty shocked, with such a group and the distance of the drive, that there wouldn’t have been a bus hired to take us out-that way, ‘instruction’ and tips could be given on the way to the site, and we could have had a wrap up on the way back.

Once we got there, I must admit, it looked gorgeous.  Our models, the scenery, the gorgeous styling by Lauren of Every Last Detail…the light.  It was beautiful.

Fast forward about 5 minutes into the actual shooting time.  Imagine, if you will, 30 girls (27 who paid $980 each to be there, 2 SB photographers, and their associate photographer–who actually didn’t get to shoot very much, as she was ordered around the majority of the time)..oh, and a videographer……..ALL trying to shoot TWO people.  As you can imagine, it was a bit of a mess.  I got stepped on, hit in the head with a camera, I hit other people with my camera.  It actually put us in a bit of a competitive spirit against each other, each of us trying to get our shot through the masses.

And then, the really bad happens.  They start YELLING at us, the ones who paid for their lavishly upgraded trip to WPPI (as they bragged on their facebook page -first class flights, limo service from the airport, suite upgrade, etc), to get out of ‘their‘ shot.  They even went so far as to tell other attendees to “go tell that girl to move out of my shot“.

There was no instruction during the session, no explanation of how they go about posing, no technical details, etc given.  Just the over and over reminder to get out of their way, get back, get behind them – while they got their shot.  During the session, the question was asked again (multiple times) about the ‘halo’ of light, with no answer.  Two photographers, standing side by side one of the SB photographers-with the same exact equipment, same exact settings-didn’t get the ring of light when she did, and asked how it could be they weren’t getting it.  They asked a specific question about something being different on her camera and she just shrugged and told them she wasn’t sure; she hadn’t thought of it!

At the end, we were all pulled back together…I assumed for some sort of wrap up, but instead of any parting words of advice, we were told 1. Not to post/blog these images until after they had done so (which, after 2 months, they have only done sneak peeks) and 2. Not to submit them for publication anywhere.  Oh, and to all stand together for a group photo and video.

I walked away with such a sour feeling in my stomach, that I had spent so much money on nothing other than some pretty photos for  my portfolio (and some bruises to show for getting them).  I was appalled that day at the lack of care, preparation, or intent to teach.  I was further sickened, when, days later, I finally got up the nerve to write a lengthy email about the experience, and received a two line response that didn’t actually respond to anything I said. (Basically, ‘sorry you didn’t like it, but we’re glad you came.’ )

********In short, I would not recommend this workshop**********

The planning was not great (technical difficulties, lack of seating, dinner location, lack of transportation).

Questions were asked, but not answered in detail (when they were answered at all).  According to what they said, most of their success was based on being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people, and good marketing.

Technical client care information (welcome packets, contracts, forms, etc) were discussed briefly as to their purpose, but we were not allowed to see theirs, although we asked multiple times.  {I believe even the non photographers know the purpose of these forms, right?}

The styled session was not for our benefit (the paying attendees).  It was purely a session for SB to get published, and we paid to get to come along.  There was no instruction.  The only interaction was being ordered out of the way-which was actually quite insulting.