Workshop Review – Macro with Chameleon Photography

Review of macro photography workshop with Chameleon Photography, Surrey

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It’s taken me 3 weeks to get around to writing this review because I’m still processing all the lovely images from the day!

However, I want to share this now before all the details go out of my head – so here you go.

Barking gecko

Chameleon Photography is based near Frimley in Surrey and offers workshops at their studio (based at the owners house) as well as animal experiences for birthday parties, schools and groups.  I chose Chameleon partly because they are reasonably local to me but also because macro photography workshops are pretty few and far between and I was particularly interested in photographing insects and small animals rather than flowers.  Groups are limited to 3 photographers too and as I knew I’d have a lot of questions, it was reassuring to know that I wouldn’t be fighting for attention.

Prior to the event Roy (the owner) contacted me by email to see what species I was particularly interested in and to check dietary requirements (sandwich lunch with homemade bread was provided – yum!) and when I arrived I was met by Geoff (the other owner) and my two companions for the workshop.  The studio is cosy but comfy with strobes and backgrounds all set up and various habitats and props available for the creatures. I was a bit nervous as flash is not normally my friend and one of the major questions I wanted to ask was about how on earth to start with flash, but I needn’t have worried as the set up was all explained really well and Roy helped me get the camera setting sorted to start with.

The first thing I have to mention is the sheer number and variety of animals available. There were over 20 different animals including geckos, chameleons and other lizards, snakes, frogs, mantis, spiders, mice and millipedes.  There were so many gorgeous animals it was like running around in a zoological sweetshop and we ran well over the allotted time despite having cut our lunch break to the minimum to gulp down a sarnie and a cuppa.  Roy and Geoff have developed a superb working relationship with Global Geckos who loan them animals for use at these workshops in addition to their personal collections.  The animals we had were in excellent condition and were generally very cooperative in posing for photos – just beautiful.  As is normal for me, at one point I got distracted by a gecko and forgot to use my camera but despite this I still got a fantastic array of images and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Harvest Mouse

Geoff and Roy are both great photographers who had tons of great tips to share and really took the time to answer my questions and show me how to use the techniques in other situations, including in the field. I spent most of the day shooting with Geoff’s Canon 100mm IS macro lens (if any one has one they’re not using please let me know – I need it!!!) and my standard 50mm came in handy too.  Geoff and Roy both regularly checked my images through the day and provided feedback on composition, exposure and how to get the shots I wanted.  This was all done highly constructively and I also learnt a lot from talking to my workshop companions and looking at their images and approach as well. Both were keen camera clubbers and it was intriguing to learn about how that influenced the shots they made as they worked at getting good scores at the next meeting – I’m not sure I could stand the pressure of that!

What also came across really well is the passion that Roy and Geoff have for their animals, so as well as plaguing them with photography questions I also learnt a lot about the animals and that was well worth the cost of the workshop even without the photography.  I’ve always loved animals of all kinds but particularly snakes and reptiles so for me this was a fantastic opportunity to get up close with them in the company of experts whose passion was contagious.

Bearded DragonSince the workshop Roy has been in touch with some gear recommendations and we’ve looked at some of the images from the day. Once I get through them all I think I’ll send over a selection for comments and I’m pretty sure I’ll get some good feedback.

All in all this is a superb workshop which I’d particularly recommend in the winter when the weather outside is not reliable. I think it’s most suited to animal lovers looking to improve their macro work or who just want to get close the animals and learn about them while getting some great images.  It is a studio set up with flashes so if you’re looking for macro ‘in the wild’ this is not for you, although I certainly think there are things you can learn which will apply in the wild as well and Roy and Geoff will help you with that.  1:1s are available if you prefer but I did enjoy the small group and if you’ve got a couple of friends you can go with it’s ideal.  The location is pretty easy to get to with satnav and there’s plenty of parking.  You don’t need masses of kit, no tripods just a macro lens and a standard prime or zoom is fine.  The price for the full day, 10am to 4pm (ish) is £140 including lunch.

milk snake

I had a fantastic day and definitely plan to go again!

Workshop Recommendation

Macro workshop at Chameleon Photography – Highly recommended for animal lovers wanting to get up close

Aspect Star Rating (out of 5*)
Ease of booking **
Pre-event communications **
Personalisation and 1:1 attention *****
Information and Learning *****
Approachability *****
Location ***
Cost ***
Image review and feedback ***
Post-event feedback and follow-up ***

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