If you're starting out in the photography industry, getting to grips with all the different aspects that make a good image can be quite challenging. For professionals, camera settings and lighting methods may seem obvious but if you're a beginner that may not be the case. Attending a workshop might just be the best thing to do when starting out.
Almost 8 years ago I started in the photography industry. My first camera was the Canon 1100D and I absolutely loved it. It was the first time I had ever experienced using a camera that could actually take decent pictures. At that point in my life, I really didn't care about things like ISO performance or dynamic range because those terms were completely alien to me. All I wanted to do was to learn how to take better pictures.
One of the best things I did at that time to give myself a massive kickstart was to attend a relatively small local workshop. If I remember correctly I paid approximately $190.00 to learn from a professional studio photographer for a few hours. We went through concepts like lighting, composition and very briefly discussed camera settings. At the time I found it a little odd that we didn't discuss camera settings very much and most of it was just visualizing the image and directing the subject. Looking back at it now I understand how valuable and important it was to stop thinking too much about the camera and think more about the subject. Aspects like composition are far more important when producing good quality images and this was the first time I had come across that idea.
My first set of "pro" lenses, one of them is a lens cup :)
I continued learning and developing my skills by working under another photographer (who became a good friend) for a few years. I then bought several tutorials from Fstoppers which were instrumental in developing my career; especially the ones from Mike Kelley. Even still that initial workshop I attended had the biggest impact on me when it come to building a foundation and more importantly developing that desire to learn more. For this reason, if you're just getting into photography I highly recommend that you attend a workshop as soon as you can.
Although there are plenty of YouTube videos and tutorials you can watch online, the best way to learn in my mind is by doing. Setting up a shot and actually taking pictures of a subject is probably the most effective way to learn. This is how you make mistakes and try and figure out what you're doing wrong so you can improve. One of the major benefits of attending a workshop is that you have someone who can guide you through some of the very early mistakes you may make or avoid. If there's a particular thing you don't completely understand then you can just ask. The amount you can learn when you have a seasoned professional guiding you on a proper shoot is incredible.
A little while ago I had the immense pleasure of attending a workshop run by Matt Granger. Granger covered many of the fundamental concepts of photography and I genuinely learned a lot. The way that he managed the whole day was brilliant and everyone seemed like they felt included. A studio was hired for a number of days and during those days each photographer had the ability to shoot and work with professional models. If you've ever tried photographing someone that isn't comfortable in front of a camera you'll know that it can be tricky trying to get the kind of results you're looking for. Working with professional and experienced models can help produce significantly better results. This is mostly because the facial expressions tend to be one of the most compelling aspect of a portrait and experienced models tend to understand how to use this. Having Granger on hand to oversee things had a clear impact on how many of the attendees worked and improved. It's one thing to watch a YouTube video but having someone at hand to help is a complete different kind of useful.
In my experience, I find that learning as part of a small group is extremely effective. This is because you have more perspectives on a specific matter and this opens up better discussions. When you're learning as a group people ask questions and can approach problems with different angles. Chances are you may not have even thought of that particular question or angle. Gaps in your knowledge may not be a gap for another person in the group, so you end up learning from more than one person. I've personally experienced this plenty of times where someone has asked a question or brought up a point that I hadn't even thought of. This is primarily why classroom-type environments when done correctly are excellent ways for people to learn.
Learning as part of a group is also extremely useful when you're doing photo shoots and setting up complex shots. You can go back and forth between assisting and shooting and this helps to give you an expanded perspective on how to do a shoot.
It was wonderful seeing how the photographers at Grangers workshop came up with a concept and executed it. Many of the concepts were quite ambitious as they attempted to produce works similar to images they had been inspired by. The most wonderful thing was seeing how as a group they solved any problems and developed their concept from start to finish.
If you're just starting out in photography I highly recommend that you attend a workshop. The workshop you pick doesn't need to be a super expensive one that's abroad with a famous photographer. A local one that you can afford is probably going to be more than sufficient. I'd of course make sure to check the reviews and ensure you're gonna get your moneys worth. If you are interested in going to a workshop with Granger then there are several ones planned for the new year. Check out his website to see all the dates; personally I think the one to Cuba sounds amazing.