Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review: Mike Colon Workshop

This workshop was Mike’s last 4 day intensive, which has now transformed into the “7” workshop which is 7 hours for $700.

Website:, Maui Workshop

Presenters: Mike Colon

Dates: December 7, 2008 - December 12, 2008

Location: Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Price: $2700 (I did not stay in the house and got $100 off with the b school)

Included: Workshop classes, 3 live shoots, portfolio critique and all meals.

Bonuses: Mike's price list, prizes for the daily winning photos of the shoots from the day before.

What I Expected: A class that would expand upon the ‘teaser’ Plus Class at WPPI.

Expectation Met? No.

Summary: I had mixed feelings about my Plus Class experience with Mike Colon in Las Vegas at WPPI. I love his work and his approach to things but the class wasn’t as smooth as I was hoping and I thought that perhaps it was due to the environment so I’d been kicking around going to a workshop of his. Hawaii has always been on my list of places to go and the dates were right so I pulled the trigger when I got a discount for being in the b school.

I found a great deal at the Hyatt so I decided to stay there instead of the house because my husband was coming along and the cost to have him at the house and not take the classes was crazy high. I LOVED the Hyatt in Maui. I highly highly recommend it. In retrospect I’m still glad that I did this because I like having my downtime away from everything. The resort was a beautiful oasis away from the classroom for me. The view of the ocean from our room also was a nice perk!

The classes were for 4 days, the first three were morning classes with a late afternoon shoot and the last day was all day classes. The classes were pretty much repeating the topics from WPPI with a bit of expanded info but not enough for me to feel like I ended up learning that much more over the Plus Class workshop with him. The thing that he mostly expanded upon was Aperture, which I do not use (I prefer Lightroom). However, I realize that is my own mistake for essentially retaking a class and I don’t fault Mike for that. What I did take away from the classroom part of the workshop is a better grasp of shooting in manual, which after this class I was able to switch to shooting in all of the time.

The shoots were one engagement shoot and two bridal shoots. During the Plus Class, Mike was pretty hands on teaching the class what he was seeing and what he was looking for when shooting. I was disappointed during the Maui class that it was essentially a free for all and while he did lead us to locations that was it and there was no on location teaching. During the shoots, Mike asked us to use our telephoto lenses so that no one was 'in the faces' so to speak of the models, ruining the shot for the others. This wasn't followed at all, particularly by one person that informed us that they do not shoot with their telephoto and proceeded to use their shorter primes for most of the shoots. While I didn't mind the occasional "do you mind if I get in close for a shot I want" person, it got aggravating when one person tended to always be in the models faces, making it hard to get any shots without them in it. In the end, I have just as many shots of that person in the frame as the models. I ended up getting frustrated with the whole shootout in general and either tended to shoot the class or scenes around me. I can't really complain too much about this though as during one of my fed up episodes I ended up seeing a Hawaiian Monk Seal on the beach and taking some pictures of it. As I'm an animal lover, seeing this endangered species in the wild made all that frustration worth it since that's what it led to. I realize that it's not Mike's fault per se that the shootouts tended to revolve around one person shooting but I wish I'd spoken up at the time and asked them to step aside. By the last shootout, I would zig when the other person zagged so that I was far away from anyone when getting my shot and it worked out for me. I wish I'd done this earlier in the workshop.

The portfolio review was kind of a let down. We basically went over my website and he said “I like that” to a few pics and that was it. I had about 5-10 minutes with Mike for this as there was a PUG party taking place and we were rushed for time. I’ll admit that I don’t take well to criticism but I would have liked a few pointers. By this point (the last day) I was so frazzled and over everything I was just wanting it all to be over and to leave it all behind me.

To be completely honest, after the second day my husband had to pretty much FORCE me to go back to the class. I honestly can’t even pinpoint why I wanted to quit, but that’s how much that I wasn’t into the experience - I was willing to essentially give up $3000 to just be done with it and go on to enjoy my time on Maui. I did finish out the workshop but it wasn’t without a struggle.

I met some great people at the workshop. I will forever smile every.single.time I think of Natalie and Ritchie Norton as they are just flat out good people. She’s mad talented to boot. I adore her. I am glad that I went just for meeting her alone. Gee I sound like a stalker!! I swear though, you’ll understand if you ever meet Natalie. There were some really wonderful people at the workshop and I'm glad to have met them, even if they were only in my life for a few days.

Am I glad I went? Yes. Without this workshop, I highly doubt that I'd have Maui marked off my bucket list of places to see. I now shoot comfortably in manual. I nail exposures now and my post-processing time is minimal. I bought a Mac after being embarrassed of being the only PC in the group. I learned how to play poker (and didn't come in last!). I saw a Hawaiian Monk Seal and Humpback Whales in the wild. I had Hawaiian Shaved Ice IN Hawaii. I had numerous experiences in Hawaii that I wouldn't give back for anything, even if the workshop wasn't quite what I expected.

*Adding this in because I've been called out about the 'now I shoot in manual comfortably' thing. I shot about 60% aperture priority (with exposure compensation)/40% manual before the workshop. I know how to work a camera and I never have shot a pro gig on program. After this workshop I went to 100% manual. Mock if you will, but there are some great photographers out there that shoot Aperture Priority and seem to make a living at it. ;)

Recommend? n/a as this workshop isn't offered anymore.

Note: Feel free to add your own comments about the workshop!!

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista, travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.


  1. I love that you gave an honest review. There are SO many workshops/products out there these days. It's nice to hear honest feedback rather than hype. :) Thanks.

  2. Thank you for letting me know you appreciated it!!! It wasn't easy to be honest instead of being fake but I feel that I'd be doing everyone a disservice if I raved about how awesome it was when that wasn't the experience that I had.

  3. This is brilliant. Given that the wedding photography seminar business is a business in itself, I would really like to see more reviews like this. Given the high cost of these workshops and their reliance on word-of-mouth, it is really important that honest reviews are available.

    We recently had a rather unpleasant experience when a workshop headlined by two prominent photographers ended up being by one photographer. No compensation has been offered.

  4. I had the completely opposite experience at one of Mike's workshops.

    I attended his workshops in mid-2007 and it instantly changed the way my business operated. The workshop I attended was in Newport Beach out of his home/studio. I can honestly say that had I not gone to his workshop it is unlikely I would be shooting weddings today. The marketing, sales and feedback/critique (portfolio, website and blog) that he provided were absolutely critical to the success I have had since then. During the workshop we ran out of time so he scheduled a private call to review my portfolio and provide feedback. Mike went above and beyond to give me feedback. While most in the workshop had a 15 min critique, Mike spent about an hour on the phone with me.

    I had not previously attended his WPPI classes so I had no prior experience. In fact I had never meet or spoken to him. Going in I was not looking for portfolio images or exposure lessons, I wanted to know the business and what made a studio into a successful business. Have I applied everything he taught? No, I took what I learned and made it my own. For me it has been one of the single best investments in my business.

    Just my opinion.



  5. Hi Alex!!!

    I've heard feedback from lots of other attendees since Maui and most of them have raved how fabulous it was and how he drew a line in the sand that people couldn't cross when shooting etc. to make the experience even better. Sadly, I didn't share the same experience but I am so glad that other people have had good experiences. I'm glad that you commented :)

  6. Reading this article I remember my experience with Mike's DVD workshop. My wife got me a couple of his DVD's as a gift and I was really excited and ready to watch them.

    However, I was having troubles watching them through and the only reason I did was because it was a gift. It took me a while to tell my wife my honest opinion on this "workshops". I did not have the heart to tell her since first it was a gift and secondly it was an EXPENSIVE gift (something like $500 all together).

    My first impression of the workshop was that he just was not ready for it. His speech was erratic and hard to follow. There was no structure to the course and because of that I can't remember anything of a value.

    For example, I am about to give a small workshop to some neighbours of mine. Basically, they are a group of mothers who want to take better photos of their families. I am still gathering information on what to teach them. I want them to really get something out of it. AND IT'S FOR FREE!

    When people pay so much money for a course on top of the other expenses and the time they give up, it should be really respected. They should come out of it with A LOT. Plan yourself. Have good material and really teach.

    I especially was amused by the mock wedding photo shoot. I know it is difficult to have a real wedding but hey, why not. There are many people that cannot afford a photographer and getting a bunch of photos for free would be great. Put a little effort and find a couple. A real couple.

    It might not seem realistic but I truly think it is doable (especially if Mike Colon advertises free wedding photography).

    The mock client session was also amateurish. If you want your students to really know how you speak to clients why not video a client session (with their permission) and show it. And while you show it pin point important pivotal moments of the conversation.

    All in all it seems that there was no effort put on the part of Mike. It is like OK, here is what I do, let’s take some photos and have a good life.

    It is all about putting the effort. I know that for Mike a potential of $30,000 for the week does not sound like much but for many of us many times it is what we pull in a year.

    You might not blame Mike for this but the way I see it, it is entirely his fault including not taking care of someone that ruins it for everyone else.

    After we moved to our new place I could not find these DVD's. My wife buys me many photography related birthday and Christmas gifts. I never lost anyone of them except Mike's two DVD boxes. I guess that's how I felt about them. Money lost.


  7. While I like and Respect Mike. I had a Similar experience at the 7 workshop. Glad I went, Learned a few things, but was a little let down. Maybe my expectations were too high.
    On the other hand I get SOOO Much out of a Bob Davis workshop that I actually have to write stuff down so I don't forget.
    If you get a chance I highly recommend One of Bob's workshops. He is truly one of the most giving people and a truly Talented photographer.

    all the Best,

  8. I really like your review and think it's great that you're not afraid to be honest! I must say one thing though, you shouldn't have been embarrassed for using a pc! Mac's are NOT inherently better. Yes, I'm a mac user. I've been using my mac laptop and LOVE it for four years. It's been good to me. However, I recently started using a pc desktop that is WAY better than what I could have gotten with Apple. I priced it out exactly and something comparable with Apple (yet not as good in some ways, like the processor and hard drive space) was $8000 more. No joke. I STILL use my mac as well as my pc and love both for different reasons. Windows 7 is really amazing (no way I'd use a windows machine without it). Anyway, just my two cents :).

  9. Just checked Bob and Dawn Davis web site and arrived at a workshop they give in which they photograph a real wedding:

    That is exactly how you teach a workshop (I mean when compering to a mock wedding many workshops do).


  10. Finally someone steps up and does a critique that a lot of us were just uncomfortable doing. I attended one Plus Class of Mike's at WPPI. I was so excited and wanted to break into the higher end market of Wedding Photography. The class was titled 'Shooting the High End Wedding'. After the class, I was left with such disappointment. I thought it was mostly a showing of his work and not how he actually broke into that market. Even though there was a power point presentation, the class was unorganized.

    On the other hand I attended a workshop of Clay Blackmore and learned so much that it changed the way I approach shooting altogether. I would definitely recommend seeing Clay!


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