When getting a portfolio review from an incredibly talented photographer whose work you admire, you might not expect to be flattered by them squealing “This girl’s a weirdo. I love it!” but that is exactly what happened when I took Diana ‘Yan’ Palmer’s workshop last fall.
I’d been wanting to photograph more families and especially to photograph them on film, and Yan is pretty much the best ever in that field. So when her Yan Fam Way Workshop came to Los Angeles, I was already sold on it. Before the workshop, Yan reviewed each attendee’s portfolio and website and gave detailed, very insightful feedback. I was really impressed and moved by how quickly and decisively Yan was able to zero in on what my strengths and weaknesses were, what I was going for, and where I should focus my attention to keep improving. She also gave each of us an assignment to complete before the workshop, and they varied depending on what her feedback was for each photographer. On the day of the workshop, we all went around the table to introduce ourselves, Yan talked some about herself and her photography, and then we went through each person’s assignment and got to learn from each other.
Pretty much every workshop, conference, book, or mentorship for photographers trying to grow their business will tell you how important it is to find your voice. Because it is really important – being able to consistently photograph in a way that represents your own vision and style is what makes you stand out. However, knowing it’s important to find your voice and figuring out how exactly to do that are not the same thing. Yan’s genius and what makes her workshop different was she gave us very clear suggestions and assignments for how to identify your personal style and start implementing it in your work and filter everything you do through that voice. (Her ideas were really helpful and easy to follow, but I don’t want to lay them all out here since everyone should take her workshop for themselves!)
After a lovely lunch, Yan went into a lot of detail about how she conducts a family shoot – choosing light, the order of shots, her focus and priorities, and (my favorite) a whole bunch of games and tips for getting kids to be comfortable and natural in front of the camera. Then we got to watch her in action photographing 2 families in the living room and alley outside the house where the workshop was held. All of the other photographers – maybe 12 of us – were encouraged to jump in and direct the families while Yan was changing film or to shoot over each others shoulders. I was mainly interested in hanging back and watching Yan and trying to absorb as much as I could, so I only ended up shooting about 1 roll of 35mm myself. When the family sessions were over, we all gathered for a debriefing of the shoot and some final suggestions and thoughts on how to define our own styles, stand out, and get clients we connect with.
I really loved this workshop. Yan is very warm and sweet, but also very knowledgable and direct. Which is the perfect combination for how I like to learn and who I get the most inspiration from. She was open about her own photographic and business paths and very passionate about encouraging everyone else on theirs. I’m so happy I decided to spend a day with her and all the other talented photographers who signed up. I can already see changes and improvements in my photography as a result of taking this workshop, and I’ve been recommending it to anyone who will listen!