A Different Kind of Photography Workshop: Hoffshop Atlanta 2018

Posted on Apr 6, 2018 in Jennifer Smutek Photography | 4 Comments

HoffShop Atlanta

A Different Kind of Photography Workshop: Hoffshop Atlanta 2018

This post has been a long time coming and I honestly still don’t even know where to begin. I’ll start by saying that it will be long, and maybe a little too honest. This past January, I attended my first-ever photography workshop: Hoffshop Atlanta. A few years ago, a colleague and good friend of mine attended a Hoffshop and I watched her evolve from an incredibly talented photographer, into something truly amazing. She went from having a great eye for light & composition, to having the ability to see things, and capture moments, that seemed to just sneak past the rest of us.

Over the next year, she would share with me little tidbits of what she had learned, but nothing really stuck. At the time, my photography was in a comfortable, yet plateaued place. My work was consistent, but perhaps a little too consistent. I felt like I was stuck creatively and that I approached each wedding day the same.

My friend kept encouraging me to take Hoffshop, the next time it came around. But, filled with self-doubt, I kept brushing it off. After all, it was quite the investment; and, as silly as it sounds, I didn’t know if I were worth investing in. Luckily for me, there was a gap year, and no Hoffshop was offered in 2017. Had there been one, I can guarantee I would not have attended. However, as the next year passed, and the 2018 Hoffshop was announced, I started thinking that perhaps I could handle it- maybe.

After much encouragement, from Brea, my loving husband & my sister, I decided to sign up when registration for Hoffshop 2018 was announced; and, I’m glad I did- because this year’s Hoffshop sold out in 15 seconds! Only two groups of 10 people made it in time, and I was one of those lucky few.

HoffShop Atlanta

The Workshop Day 1

I won’t go into all of the details of those 3 days in Atlanta, but I’ll tell you this: Hoffshop is not your run-of-the-mill photography workshop. It is an intense 3 days; it is frustrating; and, it is incredibly humbling. The short of it is that Tony, Amy & their team of amazing photographers sit down, comb over all of your work, and find your weak spots. Then, they develop critiques and photographic assignments that cater to your specific weaknesses. Day 1 was critiques and days 2 & 3 were a mix of shooting and critiques.

Basically, I paid a lot of money to leave my family & fly to another state, so that a team of incredibly talented photographers could publicly point out all of the areas where I struggle.

Sounds like a blast, right?

Day 2

Day 2 was the first day of shooting  & it was painfully hard for me. We were each given our assignments, and it was incredibly challenging to not default into our ‘old’ way of shooting.

I hated it.

What I hated the most though, was how self-conscious I felt. Here I was, with all of these amazing photographers- all going off and tackling their assignments. They all looked so confident and excited to get to work- and there I was, like a deer in headlights.

I wasn’t afraid of failing, in and of itself…  I was afraid of people watching me fail… in real-time.

As we were scattered about downtown Atlanta, I felt like everyone was watching me struggle and it was paralyzing. Finally, I went to Amy and told her that I just needed her & Jim to go away, and allow me to struggle and fail in private. And while that may not have been the most productive thing to do, it was what I needed at the time. Thankfully everyone at Hoffshop was eager to be there for us, in the way that we needed, and Amy took Jim away and left me to creatively struggle alone on the streets of Atlanta.

Once I was alone, I felt a little better and was able to get to work. Here are some images from day 2 and day 3 of Hoffshop 2018… (stepping way out of my comfort zone!)

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Day 3

On day 3 I was feeling much more comfortable and confident in trying new things. Failing seemed less awful and I was much more open to the process.

Hands down, my favorite part of the workshop (other than the friends I made) was our final assignment on day 3: The crapshoot. For this assignment, we were given a series of “crappy” elements that we had to make interesting. Needless to say, it was a challenge. What I liked most about this assignment is I felt like it really tackled what I initially came to Hoffshop to achieve: I wanted to learn to see and think more creatively and this assignment really did that for me.

Initially, when I was assigned this orange construction mesh, well, I just didn’t know what on earth I was going to do with it. But, I did something that I don’t often do while working with clients:

I gave myself the time to think.

I examined it, from many angles. I got down on the ground and touched the fabric, pulled it and moved it around a bit. I stepped back and looked all around me- the people passing by, the skyline, the construction zone behind me. Basically, I just sort of took a few moments to sit with it, and really think about it. And then, with Tony, the most patient model ever, I took this orange mesh:

HoffShop AtlantaAnd made this pretty cool image:HoffShop Atlanta

To say that Hoffshop was a life-changing experience would be an understatement. I arrived in Atlanta an uninspired photographer, who was loaded with self-doubt, and left (incredibly tired) but eager & motivated to see just how far I can push myself in 2018. I’m excited to see what I can apply from Hoffshop, over the coming year, and I’ll be posting my first post-Hoffshop engagement session on Monday!

If you’d like to see more from our intense 3 days in Atlanta, you can check out the recap!

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  1. Brea
    April 6, 2018

    This gave me chills. I’m so happy you were able to have this experience and your kind words about me and my work blew me away. I know this was the right time for you to take it and I can’t wait to see the transformation as you push yourself this year. Love you, friend!

    • Jennifer
      April 6, 2018

      I never would’ve had the confidence to take something like this on, if it were not for you. You pushed me and I can’t thank you enough!

  2. Brooke
    April 6, 2018

    Thank you for sharing, Jennifer; this sounds like a challenging and incredibly rewarding workshop. I loved seeing your pictures, but I can also really relate to that fear of failing. The images are incredible!

  3. Emily
    April 6, 2018

    I love hearing about the workshop from your perspective, and I can’t wait to see how your work grows and develops this year. These are some truly fabulous images and it’s awesome to see you embracing the talent that is clearly inside of you. (And I’m excited to benefit from your experience and learn a few things from you!) :)


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