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An Insider’s Look at a Photo Workshop Disaster

I wrote an article in 2017 about bad photography workshops, and I made a promise to the community that I would never speak at, attend, or help promote a workshop again unless it was one I believed in wholeheartedly. I promised to do my due diligence when accepting speaking engagements and I promised that the events I did agree to speak at would be of the highest standards.

As an educator and coordinator of my own workshops, I have set a very high bar for educational events, and that is why I am devastated to admit publicly that I failed to keep my promise.

I was recently hired to be an instructor at the Wedventure Workshop in Oregon, and I accepted the position. Based on my communication with the Wedventure team, I believed that this event would be of the highest quality.

The offerings that were promised both educationally and communally were like nothing else I’d seen. A community-wide workshop for ALL wedding industry vendors. 200 photographers, videographers, planners, florists, and more, all taking classes, and working together to create beautiful styled shoots. The reputation of Wedventure Magazine is outstanding, and even though it was their first workshop, I truly believed that it would be incredible, and I was excited to be a part of it.

When I arrived on night one, I could instantly tell something was wrong. Once I started speaking with students and other instructors my heart began to sink, and as the week continued on, things only went from bad to worse.

The Wedventure team was almost nowhere to be seen all week. They didn’t welcome us or the hundreds of students that were arriving, and they rarely communicated with us. Classes were frequently canceled or rescheduled or had locations changed just hours before they were supposed to happen. Because of this, many students missed classes they paid for (and I’m guessing they’ll never be refunded).

I personally was scheduled to teach my Photography Workflow class and was told at 10pm the night before that there would be no photographers in my class and that I’d be teaching wedding planners instead. I was told by the head of Wedventure to just “wing it or whatever.” Instead, I stayed up until 1am creating new course content that might be relevant to an industry I know nothing about so that the students who paid for a class would get one, even if it was not the one they were expecting.

The only time all week that the Wedventure team was around was during the styled shoots. Many of us quickly concluded that this whole workshop might just be for Wedventure to rub elbows and get content for their upcoming magazine issues. They didn’t seem to care at all about the students or the educational experience, only the photos they’d get to help sell their magazine.

The other photography instructors and I were completely in the dark all week. No one from Wedventure was around to help with the classes or shoots, or to help answer the hundreds of questions we were getting. We were truly the blind leading the blind, and we had 100+ photography students looking to us for answers.

On night two, the other photography instructors and I met with the head of Wedventure, voiced our concerns, and shared the frustrations we were hearing from the students. We were told that we were the “experts” and that she expected us to just figure it out. Several students left early completely distraught, and many more ended their time at the workshop in tears.

Despite everything, we did our best to provide something of quality for the students, and we were thanked multiple times during the week by plenty of students who said they knew it wasn’t us who had failed them. The success of the entire workshop was dropped in our laps, and we took it all on ourselves because we didn’t want to see the students who paid good money to be there leave empty-handed.

To say this workshop was falsely advertised would be a gross understatement. Swag bags were promised to the attendees and never received. Dinner parties were raved about, yet our “dinners” were hummus and veggies one night and cheese and crackers the next. Several nights the instructors and I spent our own money to buy food for people who were absolutely starving. Lunches were soggy half sandwiches and there was often not enough to go around.

Adventure elopement shoots were advertised, yet 90% of the shoots were at golf courses, coffee shops, or in alleyways. Several of the shoot locations we were told to go to were locations we didn’t have permission to be at, and we found out by getting kicked out with a group of students, leaving it up to us once again to figure something out.

Students were promised that their work would be published in an upcoming issue of the Wedventure magazine, but they were later told after signing up that they just “had a chance to be published.” Florists and wedding planners who paid to take classes said they didn’t get any real education, and instead their “class-time” was spent running errands for the lead stylist for the photo shoots. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

I can honestly say that as an experienced educator, I have never felt more used or taken advantage of, and I have never been more humiliated to have my name associated with an event. I am choosing to share this information publicly because I believe it’s the right thing to do. Because after hundreds of conversations with hundreds of students, vendors, and other instructors, I feel that it is my responsibility to speak up for those who don’t believe they can. Many students voiced to me that they didn’t want to speak out because they were scared that Wedventure’s influence would harm them professionally.

I may receive backlash for this, but I don’t care. I have a voice, and I’m not afraid to use it when it’s the right thing to do. I have a community of friends, followers, and industry connections who deserve to know what went on behind the scenes because social media can easily make it look like this event was successful and that everyone left happy. I assure you that couldn’t be further from the truth, and it is especially important now as Wedventure is planning another workshop in the future.

I want to make it extremely clear that this is not a takedown piece, this is an industry accountability post. Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about education, and events like this are unacceptable. Workshops are completely unregulated, and anyone who feels like it can create one, but we must demand higher standards. If we’re taking someone’s hard earned money and promising something in return, we must deliver. Otherwise, we are part of the problem. So be better and do better or go away.

About the author: Grace Burt and her husband, Jaden, are a wife-and-husband team of wedding and travel photographers based in the Pacific Northwest. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of the duo’s work on their website. This article was also published here.

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