Ed Pingol’s “1-on-1 Mentoring Session) Review by: Marcel T. Cabrera Jr. www.studio64photography.com
I started out in photography about eighteen months ago with absolutely no experience and education in photography and lighting. In fact, my first gig was 3 days after buying my first DSLR camera on my 26th birthday. I was asked by a magazine company owner to fill in for a photographer who could not make a celebrity photoshoot last minute and “pretend” I was a photographer for over 10 years. I decided to do it, even if it meant that I was still reading the manual. I did a wonderful job of “pretending” and shot everything in P mode! From then on, I managed to do photoshoots on and off and was partially satisfied with my photos. However, I was then introduced to the wedding photography work of “Ed Pingol”. The second I saw his work; it changed my life around instantly and possibly forever!
I began digging into the world of “strobist” photography. I am in love with dramatic lighting! I love shots that make you say “WOW!” I pretty much spent countless hours on forums, watched YouTube videos, read books, and viewed DVDs to try to learn the lighting style/technique of Ed Pingol. No matter what I did to learn strobist photography, Ed’s work was still UNMATCHED! Ed’s work was the “WOW” photos that I wanted to learn to shoot and make your jaw drop to ground in complete awe! Ed Pingol soon became my photography idol and I was inspired to learn MORE!
One day, as I viewed Ed Pingol’s website, I came across a post titled “1-on-1 Mentoring Session with Ed Pingol.” It advertised a 6 hour private 1-on-1 mentoring session which basically is a “no secrets” approach to his complete workflow! I thought to myself… “Whoa! Are you kidding me?!?” He claimed to teach you from a “behind the scenes” approach to show you how to “shoot anywhere, anytime, no matter what challenging light conditions” he encounters!” Another “WHOA!” Additionally, it described how he shows photographers to save MAJOR bucks on their lighting gear and to raise your bar in photography! Furthermore, the session claimed to do a critique of your portfolio and to discuss the art/business of photography.
With an incredible advertisement like this, comes a price! I had a discussion over the session price with my girlfriend and 2 best friends. Basically, they said “Ed Pingol is your idol. Even if your idol gave you just 2 of his best secrets during the session, it will be ALL WORTH IT!” Immediately, I agreed to a contract with Monica, (Ed’s Studio Manager and wife) paid my retainer installment and scheduled a date to fly out to Emeryville, CA to Ed Pingol Photography Studio last April.
I arrived at Ed Pingol’s studio, which is located in an upscale business complex in Emeryville, California (right across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco) where I was happily greeted by Ed, who was wearing cargo shorts, a black T-shirt and Flip-Flops! Don’t let the attire fool you! It actually made me very comfortable to know that he didn’t dress to impress and gives you the impression that he is very laid back and “chill” person. (Coincidentally, it’s the same attire I wear on my engagement shoots minus the flip-flops!) Ed’s Studio is basically an office that was designed to make you feel at home. I was surprised that I did NOT find ANY studio lights, stands, or backdrop! Ed is a true “On-Location Strobist Wedding Photographer!”
Ed started off the 1-on-1 mentoring session by offering me an abundance of snacks and beverages! Off the bat, he showed his genuine hospitality and made me feel at home. He then readdressed the answers I had stated on the questionnaire that was attached to the session contract I submitted to his wife. It was a lengthy questionnaire that asked you anything and everything you know about photography, how you started your business and its structure, what do you want to learn, what workshops or classes have you taken already or plan to take in the future, and where do you expect to see yourself over the next 2-5 years, etc…
My main focus besides learning Ed’s lighting techniques was the “business” aspect in wedding photography. Ed went over the business side of wedding photography in complete detail! He role-played with me as if I was consulting with a potential client and basically imitated a buzzer sound, when I made an error. Ed told me my high points and my low points and say “This is what you should have said….” Ed explained the importance of “where” to schedule your initial client meetings and “how” it affects your value and sales as a wedding photographer. He talked about the crucial questions to ask your couple at the first meeting and what NOT to do and/or say. He went over post-shoot workflow, editing (which is hardly any at all because he gets it about 90% right in the camera before it hits the computer screen), album design, time management, marketing, networking, negotiation, etc… Ed stressed out that, “BUSINESS is 70-80% of photography, and the other 20-30% are just the photos and skill.” He continued to explain that as long as you take decent photos… if you understand the business side correctly, you “will” get business! And a lot of it! The photography business started to make sense! Ed really changed my aspect about how I viewed wedding photography in general. Before the photography itself, it’s a business! And with no business, it is just a hobby. (And a very expensive one I may add!)
After the “business” talk, Ed treated me out to a local restaurant to pick up a quick bite for lunch and was taken back to his studio to eat. Once finished with my meal, It was time to start the behind the scenes experience of how Ed shoots his WOW photos! I was introduced to a friendly couple that Ed hired to be modeling subjects for my session. Their names were Cynthia and Tim. Cynthia and Tim are past wedding clients of Ed and a really good looking couple! Ed then showed me his camera and lighting gear setup. I was surprised by his method of saving an “arm and a leg” of money on lighting equipment and displayed that the cost of your gear does NOT determine your skill or outcome of your photos.
We went outside to the front of his building complex, and Ed asked me to instruct the couple and photograph them as if I were conducting a live engagement shoot with the two. Nervously, I greeted Cynthia and Tim and directed them through a sample engagement shoot, while Ed viewed in the distance to evaluate my actions. After a couple minutes, Ed stopped me and pointed out my flaws during the shoot with an explanation for each. Though he pointed out my many flaws, I did not take anything he told me offensively. I flew to Northern California to learn from the best and didn’t mind getting all the negative feedback I could receive from Ed himself. I wanted to learn from my mistakes. I’m very serious about my photography.
Ed continued on to show me “play-by-play” how he conducts an engagement shoot as I watched behind the scenes. First, he explained how he greeted his clients word for word. He discussed the importance of making your client feel as comfortable as possible and how it affects your photos. Ed showed how to take control as the photographer and lead your subjects into a very successful and unforgettable shoot.
Second, Ed covered posing, posing and more posing! This was an area in photography that I had a lot of trouble with. From head tilt, to leg placement, to verbal instruction, to hand gestures, to “slimming” your client.
Finally, Ed explained anything and everything about lighting! Ed is a “Master of Light” and it definitely shows from his all his WOW photos! I have never seen more “how the F*** did you do that” type photos than anybody else in the industry! He explained light placement, light falloff, balancing ambient light with flash, shadows, white balance, flash power, flash zoom, equipment, hard light, soft light, light shaping, light modifiers, the “hand rule,” how to pack up “light”, how to “see” the light, light, light, light-light-light, and MORE LIGHT, etc!!!! It was soooooooo much about light that I could ever imagine!
I opted to watch Ed show me as many lighting techniques with the couple as possible rather than showing me how to dial in his settings per shot and shoot with my own gear. I am an extremely quick visual learner and felt this was the best way to retain all the valuable information he can teach me. Ed had no problem with my request and I followed him as he conducted the shoot and watched his lighting techniques.
I don’t know if Ed had some sort of direct communication or special arrangement with “Mother Nature” but the day played out totally in our favor regarding weather and lighting. The day was sunny, cloudy, and had intermittent showers all at once! No matter what the lighting/weather condition the day brought us, Ed kept his words and showed me how to “shoot anywhere, anytime, no matter what challenging light conditions” he encountered! Ed brought the shoot to the extremes by taking the shoot into his multi-level parking garage that had a mixture of daylight, ugly orange tungsten light, and darkness. It was a photographer’s nightmare! Before every shot, Ed would setup his lights, pose the couple, dial in his exposure settings, shoot the shot, and then explained WHY he did what he did. After 3-4 sample shots, Ed switched the roles around completely by having me tell him the correct exposure settings he should dial in to shoot the shot! I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t! At first, I would guess the exposure settings (which is what he expected me to do) and have him take the shot. He would then show me the result on his LCD Screen and explain my mistakes about the exposure settings I had chosen to give him. Shot after shot, Ed would correct my mistakes, explain why, and give me “memory joggers” about correct exposure/lighting. Because I am such a quick learner and was in a situation forced to learn, I was making little to no mistakes by mid session. It holds true that “you really know it, if you can teach it.”
At mid-session, the engagement couple was dismissed. Ed made a transition in the session by having two new female models accompany us and showing me how to really focus on the techniques of posing the bride by learning to pose a female model for a fashion/editorial type shoot. Again, Ed took the shoot into the extremes by taking the session in the rainy/cloudy weather on his building rooftop then quickly having us come back down several floors to shoot at in one of the semi-dark/tungsten lit hallways of the building. I was very impressed that no matter where we went and what lighting situation we were faced with; Ed was able to teach me how to take a “WOW” shot every single time!
After 3 hours of shooting/lighting instruction, the session ended back at his studio with a review on all the concepts he discussed over the 6-hour session, other various lighting techniques/situations for every transition of an actual wedding day, and a review of my portfolio.
My visit to “the Bay” to meet Ed Pingol and attend his 1-on-1 Mentoring Session was a complete success! Though it had a very hefty price tag, it was “WORTH EVERY SINGLE PENNY!” It was soooooo worth the expense that I wouldn’t mind going back to visit Ed to attend another session in the future! I really felt as if my photography knowledge (which was not much prior to the meeting) grew 2-3 years of experience immediately in the 6-hour session! NO JOKE! I have attended other photography seminars in the same month with a couple of the world’s top wedding photographers in the industry where I didn’t spend even close to half as much, but really didn’t learn much either. Most of the time, it was just general knowledge that could be easily found on a DVD or the Internet. I learned much more than I probably would have attending the seminars at WPPI in Las Vegas. You definitely get what you pay for by attending Ed’s 1-on-1 Mentoring Session. Additionally, Ed’s teaching style really made me UNDERSTAND what I was being taught, rather than just trying to memorize a list of exposure settings and values. Ed made me see photography in a “different light” (literally) and be fully prepared to take on ANY lighting situation and location. I’m soooo much more confident at my shoots, because I really know what I’m doing now.
Lastly, it doesn’t serve me any justice to really explain to you the value of Ed Pingol’s 1-on-1 Mentoring Session on paper. You would have to travel to Emeryville and find out the true value for yourself. Attending Ed Pingol’s 1-on-1 Mentoring Session was like hanging out with my “Michael Jordan” of photography! It was much more than just a class. It was my best investment in photography yet and was a complete life changing EXPERIENCE!
Review by: Marcel T. Cabrera Jr. www.studio64photography.com
if interested in a 1-on-1 mentoring session, kindly please inquire via email.