This post is very much overdue! Back in March, I attended Caroline Tran’s very first Propel photography workshop in Pasadena, California. I have long admired Caroline’s sweet, elegant style and had been her blogstalker for quite some time, so I jumped at the chance to connect with her face to face and learn from her. Overall I enjoyed my experience and most of all, the ongoing community with fellow workshop attendees has been lovely. Scroll through for some of my images from the day and also a full writeup of the Pros, the Cons, and my overall assessment of the workshop.
Organization. This was by far the most well-organized workshop I have ever attended. Everything was impeccably styled, including our camera-shaped name tags and seating placards. The whole day was coordinated by Ngoc of Skybox Events, and she is incredibly good at her job. Caroline set a clear agenda and executed it all very well.
Community. Caroline is very friendly and enthusiastic, and she has done a great job encouraging all of us as workshop attendees to stay in touch via our facebook group. We also got connected with the other Propel attendees from the second workshop. The facebook group is a great forum for us to throw out questions and problems we encounter throughout the year. Plus, Caroline has been very responsive and open to feedback and has implemented things that we ask for immediately.
Gorgeous Styled Shoots. There were two whole styled sets for our workshop, plus three different sets of models we photographed with props and in different areas. And everything was gorgeous and full of details. We had an afternoon tea tablescape, a dinner reception tablescape with a guestbook area, and we did a bride, bride & groom, and maternity boudoir shoot. All of these were simply beautiful things to photograph, and the maternity boudoir in particular was a shoot I wouldn’t have thought to do otherwise. I’ve since launched my own boudoir photography! Also, shooting with other photographers always challenges me to do better or think differently. In particular, the thing I learned most from watching Caroline work was just to think about my approach to detail shots a bit differently– it’s something she does really, really well and yet seems very simple.
Style Activity. I enjoyed an activity that Caroline devised in which we tried to categorize fellow photographers’ images which were all shuffled together and then write what we thought were words that described each of their styles. To me, style is one of the things that Caroline does best, so it was nice to turn and focus on this often vague and difficult-to-define concept.
Getting Published. For those who weren’t familiar with getting published, there was a talk from Jen of Green Wedding Shoes in the beginning of the day, and our Propel shoots were also actually published by blogs after the workshop.
Lecture Content. The first part of the day was mostly about business strategies. Besides the activity about photography style which I really enjoyed, I felt like most of the information was fairly general and basic, which wasn’t that useful to me. It would probably be more useful for those just starting out in their businesses. Plus, personally, I love Caroline’s work because of her style, and I wanted specifics on how she has built her photography and her business to get where she is today. Instead, I felt like a lot of advice was more conceptual about how one should go about building a photography business in general.
Shooting Format. The format of the shooting portion of the day was that Caroline would demonstrate how she shot and we would just watch and ask questions, and then we were split into groups to rotate between the three sets without Caroline. This was problematic first because Caroline shoots film and we couldn’t see what she was shooting– and she didn’t share any of her images until after we had turned in ours and published everything too. And also, because she wasn’t with us while we were shooting, we were supposed to just give guidance and critiques to each other as participants. I know that she changed the format of the shoots by the second Propel workshop, so this was probably a product of ours being the first.
Focus and Transparency. Regarding focus, overall, I think the workshop was a bit too ambitious in breadth and suffered for it in lack of depth. Again, take this with a grain of salt because the format has already significantly changed by the second Propel workshop (including being two days instead of our one day workshop). We simply did not have time to cover a lot of the questions and the specifics that we wanted to know about. This also relates back to the lecture content. In terms of transparency, Caroline definitely teaches with a certain approach, using the Socratic method and having us use each other as resources and figure things out as we go, but I personally still wanted to know specifically what she does and what her business looks like behind the scenes. It’s just a matter of two different approaches, but one that left me feeling like I still didn’t have all the information in the end. To be fair, I had an entire email conversation with Caroline about this after the fact, and she has been very open and understanding about my concerns. She even helped to revive our facebook group community I mentioned earlier. But we basically agree to disagree on this one.
As with any business investment, I think it’s really important to define what you want to get out of your purchase and make sure you’re getting a return out of your investment. Overall, I am really glad I took the Propel Workshop. I honestly didn’t expect to get that much out of the business portion of the day, and I didn’t. But I did gain a lot of other things. I really love Caroline’s work and am happy to now connect with her on a more personal level as well. I am also very happy to be a part of this group of photographers who share this common experience and are extremely willing to share and help each other out. I am also sure that the Propel Workshops will only continue to get better and better, as Caroline is really very dedicated to her work and goes to great lengths to make sure her students have a great learning experience.
Thank you to Caroline Tran for a beautiful day and your continued support! Thank you to all of my fellow Propellers for your friendship and our great online community! And thank you to all the vendors who helped our shoots and our workshop day come to life.
More information on Caroline Tran’s Propel Workshops here: propelworkshops.com
Event Designer: Lovely Jubilee
Cookie seating cards: Ticings
Floral Designer: Krista Jon Floral
Venue: The Langham Hotel
Invitation Designer: Jen Simpson Design
Dress Store: Blush Bridal Couture
Linens: La Tavola Linen
Beautiful China & Dinnerware: Casa de Perrin
Prop rentals: Disregarden
Furniture: Archive Vintage Rentals
Makeup Artist: Chiali Meng
Belt & hairpiece: twigs & honey
Jewelry: Haute Bride