Review of How to Photograph Everyone Master Class by Clay Blackmore

If you are thinking of paying $199 to take Clay Blackmore's so-called master class of How to Photograph Everyone, you might be interested in my experience. I took this class on May 21, 2012 in a room at Adorama in New York City.

Promised:LoopLighting and Posing Breakout Sessions

Let Clay show you the light. Learn how the masters light their portraits. Working in small intimate groups, you will learn how to create the lighting pattern used by masters throughout history, including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. After mastering the light, you’ll refine the body position to create the most elegant and artistic pose for any subject.

Delivered: Each person out of the eighteen present was given a card with various head and shoulder poses (masculine, feminine, full face, 3/4, etc.), told to choose one, and then given only two minutes to arrange both the light (steady fluorescent) and the reflector and pose the model. This was presented as a challenge to win as a prize a two day class with Blackmore, and we were told that no one had ever succeeded in meeting the challenge. Blackmore would say stuff like "thirty seconds left," which increased the pressure on everyone, but especially on those who had no prior experience in doing this. It was embarrassing to watch one such person struggling to get it right in such a limited time. Moreover, there was no attempt to make certain that every person went through this exercise (ordeal?); instead, one had to volunteer. I, for one, declined the opportunity to humiliate myself. After each person was unsuccessful in perfectly duplicating the pose illustrated on the card, Blackmore would rearrange the lights and the pose to show how it should have been done.

Unless we are talking about the boot camp for Navy Seals, is there anyone reading this with teaching experience who thinks this constitutes effective teaching? Aside from putting beginners under impossible pressure, just showing how the master would have done it is ineffectual without guiding the student to improve the shot by his own doing as in having the student himself change the pose and the lighting accompanied by helpful correction.

Promised: Speedlight Instruction

Today's Speedlights have the ability to create the exact qualities of light that are traditionally found in much bigger strobe units. Clay demonstrates how to createperfect lighting ratios using multiple Speedlights on location. Unique modifiers will be used to create soft, specular lighting that you can take with you anywhere.

Speedlight Breakout Sessions

Students will be given assignments using the Speedlight flashes to create their own masterpieces. Clay will set up a Speedlight studio and create portraits that rival anything created with big studio strobes. Clay will demonstrate combining strobe and daylight, wheather [sic] in bright sun, open shade, and even window light.

Delivered: Nothing. Blackmore said that one of his speedlights had been stolen and another damaged, so he was not going to do anything with speedlights. Since he had sent his assistant downstairs to the Adorama store to pick up some hardware, it would have been easy for him to purchase replacements for the missing speedlights so that this part of the promised "master class" would not have to be eliminated.

Promised: Posing Groups

See Clay’s tried-and-true methods for posing couples and groups. Students will have an opportunity participate in hands-on activities. The new teaching method will train each student to create a group on a magnetic board using circles. Once he or she is proficient with this method, real individuals will be used.

Delivered: Nothing. There was no magnetic board and none of us were trained to create a group. A few pictures that Blackmore had taken of groups were projected and he made a few comments on them.

Promised: Practice Sessions & Class Critiques

Students, using their own camera, will make portraits of models and of each other using the 1, 2, 3 method. Clay and Frank will be holding your reflector and making sure that new habits are being formed and reinforced.

Delivered: Blackmore had arranged an assignment for him to photograph a recently engaged couple. He started photographing them in the studio while some students crowded around to photograph them as best they could, but it was only Blackmore arranging the lighting and giving the couple posing instructions. Then we went outside toUnion Square. On the way, we were accompanied by the two models and the engaged couple and Blackmore would stop every now and then to photograph the couple and the models. He would spontaneously? choose various backgrounds against which to make the photographs. Again, the students had no role to play except to try to make photographs of the couple and of the models without interfering with Blackmore. When we got to the park we were divided into two groups facing one another as partners. Blackmore would announce the pose, masculine or feminine, and the partners would alternate posing their counterpart. Then Blackmore would go down the line either approving or criticizing. After that, each of the two groups was given one model to work with, and it was up to us to pose them without any guidance or critique. In the meantime, Blackmore was photographing the engaged couple.

Promised: $99 value for free

Each Master Class Student will receive a free copy of OnOne's Perfect Portrait. OnOnes sets the bar for the industry standard when you need to retouch your images quickly and professionaly. Perfect Portrait provides just the right tools for...

Delivered: One month later I have not received the promised software.

Conclusion: If you think it is worth a day of your time and $199 to listen to someone tell you how good a photographer he is and to watch examples of his work being projected on a screen and to see him choose various outdoor venues against which to photograph a couple or a model, then this is the workshop for you. However, if you want someone to personally guide you, critique you, help you master a technique, you will not get that here.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by or any affiliated companies.


Total comments: 6
Jack A. Zucker
By Jack A. Zucker (Jul 31, 2012)

I have taken this course and it's amazing. Clay has a wealth of information on posing and lighting. $199 is ridiculously cheap to spend a day with someone of Clay's experience. I would be willing to take this course several times.

1 upvote
James Copper
By James Copper (Jul 13, 2012)

As such the identified photographer, must be willing to go the extra mile to get to know you better in terms of the precise things which you expect out of the occasion. Also it is essential to know that the final outcome is exactly what you expected.

By CP3Photographer (Jun 27, 2012)

What a rave review. You must have signed up for a class that was way below your talent level to feel so let down about the Master Class. I can't speak about the New York Master Class but I can speak about the Master Class in Atlanta, Ga.

As for the outline goes Mr. Clay went over all the outlined topics and asked if anyone had questions. We all had a chance to get up in front the class and perform his teachings first hand. We had two students win half off his one on one class. One of the students had the pose and lighting correct but failed to raise the camera above the head to shoot the photograph and won half off his one on one class. We spent most of the day outside on location around Atlanta shooting with five models and shooting one another in different poses while Mr. Clay and Mr. Calvin walked around from small group to small group checking on how we were progressing.

Thanks to Mr. Clay for what he does for our industry!! CP3


By berchman (Jun 27, 2012)

As you acknowledged, you can't speak about the New York Master Class. But I can, having attended it.

The only thing I would add is that two days ago, after emailing a complaint, I finally received the promised software.

By berchman (Jul 1, 2012)

I accepted Mr. Medford's (producer of the tour) invitation to call him and discuss my experience of the workshop. I called and he explained that an assistant's error of forgetting to put a wedding job on the calendar had as one of its repercussions the scheduling of the engaged couple's photo shoot which encroached on the class time. Also, that Blackmore's car had been broken into that day and his speedlights stolen. Since the workshop I had purchased did not conform to its description, indeed, fell quite short of its promised components, I was offered a refund. Although that does not compensate me for the travel expense to and from NYC from South Central PA, it is fair enough. According to Mr. Medford, the workshop, when not bedeviled by overlooked wedding shoots and stolen speedlights, is better.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
By jezsik (Jul 10, 2012)

A very bad experience, indeed. I'm glad they offered you the refund, but it's a shame that they could not have adjusted the class accordingly and offered participants refunds up front. I'd quite liked to have participated in that couple shoot, but only knowing what was happening, not being fooled into thinking it was part of the class.

Total comments: 6