2020 Kolkata Photo Workshop Experience

February 5 - 13, 2020

‘Calcutta is beautiful. Wherever you place a camera, you get a vision!’
— Pradeep Sarkar, Bollywood director

The 2020 Kolkata Photo Workshop Experience | Kolkata, India | February 5 - 13, 2020

Matt Brandon and yours truly are happy to announce the 2020 edition of our popular location portraiture and lighting workshop. This time, we've focused on one of India's most vibrant cities: Kolkata!

The Workshop

India in general and Kolkata in particular have always been looked upon as a photographer’s paradise. But even the best locations and most interesting subjects are not enough to create amazing portraits. There are other factors that come into play and the biggest of them all is lighting.

In this photo workshop , we will spend a large amount of time working with available light, sculpted light and the combination of both. This workshop will help you overcome any fears for artificial light you might have and will let you use it as another exciting tool in your photographic toolbox. There will also be room for classical street photography. In fact, it’s the blend between these two approaches to travel photography that makes this workshop unique.

Below are some examples of the types of images you can expect to be adding to your portfolio over the course of this seven-day workshop, which will be held from February 5 to February 13.


Your hosts: Matt Brandon and Piet Van den Eynde

This workshop is led by two instructors: Matt Brandon and Piet Van den Eynde. Both have a passion for travel in general and India in particular and their combined photographic strengths make this photo workshop a unique experience.

Matt Brandon (www.thedigitaltrekker.com) is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer, who collaborates with NGOs to tell their stories and to train their field staff to do the same. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by clients such as National Geographic Traveller, Asian Geographic, the BBC, Honda Motor Corporation, and Bombardier Transport Corporation, KLM Airlines and others. His photographic pursuits have taken him to the countries of Egypt, Tibet, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Philippines, Malaysia to name a few.

Matt is a Fujifilm X-Photographer for Malaysia. For more information on Matt, read his complete profile at PhotoShelter.

Piet Van den Eynde (pronounced “Pete”) is a Belgian freelance photographer specializing in travel portraiture. As an Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Certified Expert, he has written numerous books on Adobe Lightroom. He also wrote a comprehensive ebook on using flash on location: 'Light It Up! Techniques for Dramatic Off-Camera Flash' with loads of travel images. When he's not traveling or writing, he's recording video courses. Finally, he has created a number of Lightroom preset and profile packages such as his Creative Profiles Starter Pack. He contributes articles to photography magazines worldwide.

In 2009, Piet threw his camera, a flash and an umbrella in his bicycle panniers and cycled 5000 miles through Asia. Piet will be teaching off-camera lighting skills as well as Lightroom processing throughout this workshop. Piet’s also a Fujifilm X-Photographer.

What you will learn in this class...

1. Recognize great light

We will teach you to look at light and help you to understand its attributes such as direction, quality and color.  You will come to understand that there really is no bad light, it’s just that not all light is created equal and you have to choose the light to match the mood of the image.

2. How to use off-camera lighting

Not only will Matt and I help you to grasp the basics of off-camera flash, we will push you to try new and daring techniques. By the way, we even provide you with lighting toys to play with!

3. What makes a well-composed image?

Matt and I will spend time with you looking at your images and critiquing your shot. We will give you - optional - assignments to help you grow as a portrait and travel photographer.

4. Lightroom Tips & Tricks

Matt and I do all our post-processing of our images in Adobe Lightroom (with the occasional excursion into Photoshop). There will be times when we can sit with the whole class or with you individually and go through some of the ways we edit. From our favorite plugins to standard workflow techniques.

What others are saying...

This is going to be an amazing workshop, but you don't have to take our word for it: here's what alumni George, René, and Thomas have to say:

Having taken two workshops with these two wonderful educators and moved from a noob to shooting my first wedding this summer after only two years of shooting, I can attest to their skills in teaching photography. I can’t recommend more highly this opportunity. If anyone wants to talk about my experience, feel free to pm me.
— George Neill, Application Systems Analyst and Enthusiast Photographer
This is a workshop that will leave a lasting impression. Take the hectic street life and colourful people. Add Matt’s expertise to work with the local ‘talent’ and put the story into the picture. Spice up with Piet’s mastering of dramatic composition and off-camera lighting. Then top off with your own photographic ambition and inspiration. Whatever your visual and technical skill level may be, your imagery will never look the same again!
— René Delbar, Life-long Photographer and Gear Freak
The workshop was a great experience, I gained a lot of confidence in shooting both street and location flash portrait photography, adding fantastic photos to my portfolio. Many, many thanks to Matt and Piet!
— Thomas Lippok Vice President Sales, EMEA at HBM

Don't think the workshop is only about artificial (flash) light or posed portraits. We use available light and street photography techniques just as well. The above images were photographed throughout India with only available light. In fact, it's the mix of these two approaches to travel portraiture that makes this workshop unique. To us, the difference between available light and flash is an academic one: we simply use the light that is most suitable for the image we have in mind.

The 2020 Kolkata Photo Workshop Experience: planned itinerary*

Please note that this is a very rough draft of the itinerary. Places we visit and the order we visit them in can be changed to better suit the circumstances. However, given the nature of Kolkata and the experience of our fixer Shivam, we will always have something interesting to photograph. The Kolkata images you see in the itinerary below are a mix of Matt’s, Shivam’s and my own. Each of us has his own style and strengths and that’s what will make this workshop a unique experience.

Wednesday, February 5: Arrival in Kolkata

As this is an international group, participants will be arriving from everywhere in the world at different times throughout the day. Regardless of your arrival time, you'll be picked up at the airport and be taken to our hotel. You’ll get a chance to freshen up and settle in, after which we’ll meet up for drinks and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant at 7 P.M. You’ll also be introduced to our fixer and guide Shivam. Born and bred in Kolkata, he knows the city like no other and he’s also an accomplished photographer himself (in fact, many of the images on this page are his). Unlike a regular guide, he knows what photographers want and he sees the world through a photographic eye. After dinner, we will wrap up the day and get some rest because the coming days will be full of travel and shooting.

Thursday, February 6: Workshop day 1

We will wake up early and travel to the flower market near Mullick Ghat to make photos of people going about their daily activities, such as carrying flowers on their heads and selling beautiful them. There is an incredible bridge down there and we will have some amazing natural light which we will supplement with flash when necessary, to photograph the fascinating things happening all around us.

After a refreshing lunch, we’ll continue to photograph life as it unfolds before us, by exploring some of the ghats (bathing places) on the Hooghly river. We’re bound to find some sadhus (Holy Men), kids jumping into the water and people bathing and washing in the river.

Friday, February 7: Workshop day 2

Early wake up call for the sunrise shoot! We will take you to the least photographed side of the river but– as is often the case – this is one of the most photogenic spots in Kolkata, off the beaten tourist track. This place is very rich with culture and priests and other men are ceremoniously having their heads shaved here. In the afternoon, it’s time for some classic fly-on-the-wall street photography in and around Kolkata’s largest railway station, Howrah. Here, you can find people frantically running for their trains but of course, knowing us, there might be a more formal flash-lit portrait or two of a taxi driver or a rickshaw puller…

Saturday, February 8: Workshop day 3

This morning, we’ll head out to photograph the Mud Wrestlers. These men have their Akhara down besides the Howrah bridge, which provides an amazing backdrop to the activities of these Pehalwans. We might also have a chance to do a couple more formal, lit portraits, as the ones from Varanasi that we’ve included below just to give you an idea. Either way, these guys love being photographed and are super photogenic to boot!

After lunch, we will be visit another off-the-beaten track area: the people living near the railway tracks. These families live very close to the train lines and we can get access to their homes which are very unique in style. We may also have a chance to photograph inside a local train.

Sunday, February 9: Workshop day 4

Another early start and we will visit another fascinating place called China Bazaar. This place is filled with amazing people and buildings. We can see people carrying huge bundles of goods over their heads and we will have the opportunity to photograph them while they are cooking and washing clothes. The light inside of these buildings is so pleasing, that you might not want to leave!

Yet, you’ll have to, because no visit to Kolkata would be complete without taking in the beautiful colonial buildings in the Kalighat area. So after lunch, we’ll head out there and you’ll be able to photograph another one of Kolkata’s must-sees: the hand-pulled rickshaws.

Monday, February 10: Workshop day 5

Today, we will explore the streets of Lebutalla, which are filled with amazing Bengali culture and warm, friendly people. We will sum up this walk near Sealdah railway station. This place has a couple of markets, which have a really unique kind of natural light pouring in, but of course our flashes will be ready in case we want to take it just a notch further… In the afternoon, we’ll take a boat on the river to go and photograph the local fishermen.

Tuesday, February 11: Workshop day 6

Topsia is on the outskirts of Kolkata and it is known for its plastic recycling factories. This area collects the plastic waste from the entire city and sorts them into different categories in order for it to be recycled. The whole process is carried out in an old school manner and the people working here are incredibly humble. This is a place has not been explored by many photographers yet, but it’s a gem for people photography.

Wednesday, February 12: Workshop day 7

This is our last workshop day but rest assured that it will be a good one. We will start our day at Kumartuli, the idol making area. This place is filled with the idol-artists and the hand made figures they create are a joy to photograph. After that, we will head to a leather tannery. There are many workers there and the space has got an industrial vibe and it is very photogenic. There isn’t a lot of natural light here, so it’s the perfect place for putting the flash skills you’ve gathered throughout this week to practice.

Thursday, February 13: Departure day

The official part of the workshop ends after breakfast. Depending on your flight schedule, you may have some more time to fill that last memory card or it will be time to go to the airport and head back home to start post-processing and finessing the body of work that you will have put together during your time in Kolkata.

* We don't want to give you a minute-by-minute schedule because first of all, that's simply not possible and it also wouldn't be much fun, would it? Throughout our trip, you might hear us say 'T.I.I.' on occasion. This is short for 'This Is India', which means things don't always go as planned. While we plan to see most of the sights on this itinerary (and probably some more), sometimes things might not go according to schedule, both in terms of places or people visited and the days we do so. The beauty is that the alternative provided might sometimes be even better than the original plan! Also know that some of the best shots just happen in between scheduled shoots. Such is the nature of travel photography! The images above hopefully show that there will be no lack of photo opportunities, interesting subjects, backgrounds, and teaching. After all, this is a workshop and not just a photo tour.

Practicalities and Pricing

While many travel photography workshops have an 8:1 or even a 10:1 guest:instructor ratio, we have purposely limited the number of photographing participants on this trip to only six. With two instructors, this makes for an incredible 3:1 guest:instructor ratio. And that is without counting the photographic eye of our fixer Shivam. Many of the images you saw in the galleries above are his! Therefore, we expect this workshop to sell out quickly. In fact, some of our previous workshops sold out within a day! We regret that we cannot hold spaces: all six photography spots will be allotted on a first come, first served basis.

This workshop is open to all levels of photographers using mirrorless or DSLR-style cameras who know the basics about operating their cameras. We sometimes refer to this workshop as a 'Masterclass' because that's what we want you to be by the time you return back home: a master of lighting, both available light and flash, and any mix in between.

Pricing for this portfolio altering workshop is 4.495 US$ based on 6 participants. In the unlikely event this workshop does not sell out and there are 4 or 5 participants, there will be a 10% (450 US$) surcharge. When you reserve a spot by paying the deposit, you agree to this possible surcharge.

What’s included: Just about everything.

  • Your stay in a shared double room. You can opt for a single room on the registration page (subject to availability). The single room supplement price is 495 US$.

  • All meals and water during the tour

  • Airport transfer to and from Kolkata Airport;

  • Transportation in and around Kolkata;

  • Tuition by Matt and Piet;

  • Model and fixer fees;

  • Use of lighting gear during the workshop: although you can bring your own lighting equipment, you're welcome to use ours.

What’s NOT included:

  • Flash trigger. Although we generally bring extra units, we highly recommend you purchase your own Godox X-Pro flash trigger for your particular camera brand. This trigger retails for about $80 and is available in a Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus and Fujifilm version. Having your own trigger, instead of waiting for one of ours to become available, will undoubtedly improve your workshop experience!

  • Any expenses of personal nature like tips, souvenirs, laundry, all beverages (except water), telephone calls, etc...

  • Any expenses caused by factors beyond our control like flight cancellation, roadblocks, vehicle malfunction etc...

  • Any travel, medical or evacuation insurance. We'll require you to have travel and cancellation insurance and provide proof of that before the start of the workshop.

  • Your international flight to and from Kolkata.

  • 10% possible surcharge in case there are less than 6 participants (see above)

If there are less than 4 participants, we reserve the right to cancel the workshop (and you will of course receive a refund). Please do not book your international airfare until we have confirmed the workshop.

Want to join us?

Secure your spot now by paying a $1000 dollar deposit. The balance ($3.495 plus single room supplement if chosen and available) will be due by the end of October. When applicable, the 10% surcharge will be due when registration closes end of December. Click the link below which will take you to the registration form on Matt Brandon’s website.

Our Sponsors

We kindly thank Fujifilm Belgium for providing us with Instax printers and paper to use throughout the workshop. You'll experience first hand the joy that photography can bring when you offer a print to someone you've just photographed.


The Fujifilm Instax Printer is like the photographic equivalent of Good Karma. Step 1. Make a portrait. Step 2. Give a print. Step 3. Someone else will invariably ask you to have their portrait taken. Step 4: Repeat Step 1. [Occasional extra step: change paper in Instax printer - even more occasional extra step: recharge Instax printer's battery]

The Fujifilm Instax Printer is like the photographic equivalent of Good Karma. Step 1. Make a portrait. Step 2. Give a print. Step 3. Someone else will invariably ask you to have their portrait taken. Step 4: Repeat Step 1. [Occasional extra step: change paper in Instax printer - even more occasional extra step: recharge Instax printer's battery]


Some behind-the-scenes images © René Delbar and George Neill.

‘Calcutta is not for everyone. If you want your cities clean and green, stick to Delhi. You want your cities rich and impersonal, go to Bombay. You want them high-tech and full of draught beer: Bangalore’s your place. But if you want a city with a sould, come to Calcutta.’
— Vir Sanghvi, Indian journalist



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