Photography Workshops

Chicago photography workshops

I didn’t get to where I am without help; that’s why I want to pass along my knowledge to others. This workshop series is for semi-professional and professional photographers who want to take their lighting to the next level. It’s priced so you can afford it! You don’t have to take out a second mortgage or run a pyramid scheme. You can just be a real life photographer who takes pictures—and is maybe even making a living doing just that. I love to explore lighting, and to experiment with new techniques and ideas to refine my craft and to create better images every time I pick up a camera. But I also love empowering photographers to build their self-confidence and their skills.

During our intensive two-day hands-on workshop, we’ll start with one light and work our way up to four or five, while recreating some of my best images and improving new set-ups. We’ll practice with a professional model(s), problem solve, talk about modifiers, ratios, and post production. But most importantly, I want everyone to leave understanding why they would use each light, what happens to your look when you adjust the power of each light, and what I do to achieve my look and style.

I have limited these workshops to only three attendees in Chicago, and 10 attendees elsewhere, because I want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to learn the concepts and put them to use.

John Gress Headshot Chicago Photographer Lighting Workshop ExpertPlease bring your camera and be ready to shoot, as we’ll be taking turns and creating new content for our portfolios and feeds.

In addition, we will have a little competition at the end and you might win something, hopefully, or get a consensual pat on the back from your colleagues.

When we’re all done, we can go to dinner, recap what you’ve learned, and talk about how to put these new skills to work!

IMAGE USAGE: All images taken can be used in your portfolio (online and social platforms), but please hashtag #johngressworkshops. The models have rights too, so you can’t use the images commercially, to advertise photo shoots, or promote anything that is a professional service or product. Basically, you would need a model release to do that and you won’t have one.

CANCELLATION: Free cancellation more than 7 days before the workshop. Otherwise all sales are final.

REQUIRED: You are required to have fun, ask questions, learn, and make new friends!


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PPA Magazine called Gress “one of the nation’s foremost experts on lighting.”


One Day Workshop Schedule

  • 9:00am – 9:30am Meet & Greet
  • 9:30am – 11:00am One & Two Lights Demonstration and Practice
  • 11:00 – 12:00pm Lunch
  • 12:00pm – 4:00pm Hands-on Lighting Setups with model
  • 4:00pm – 5:00pm Retouching / Post Processing Demonstration
  • 5:00pm – 6:00pm Hands on Retouching
  • 6:00pm – 8:00pm Dinner, an optional activity that isn’t included in the cost of tuition.

Details subject to change.

Two Day Workshop Schedule


  • 9:00am – 9:30am Meet & Greet
  • 9:30am – 10:00am Introduction: About John, casting, styling, hair and makeup, props, backgrounds and planning.
  • 10:00am – 12:00am Exploring modifiers and flags
  • 12:00pm – 1:00pm Lunch (provided)
  • 1:00pm – 6:00pm Hands-on Lighting Setups with model
  • 6:00pm – 8:00pm Dinner, an optional activity that isn’t included in the cost of tuition.


  • 9:00am – 1:00pm Hands-on Lighting Setups with model
  • 1:00pm – 2:00pm Lunch (provided)
  • 2:00pm – 3:30pm Post Processing Demonstration: Culling and Retouching
  • 3:30pm – 4:30pm Hands on Retouching
  • 4:30pm – 5:00pm Reviewing every ones work, floor open to questions and discussion.
  • 6:00pm – 8:00pm Dinner, an optional activity that isn’t included in the cost of tuition.

Details subject to change.


Chicago, Illinois

Saturday & Sunday, June 20-21, 2020

This fun and exciting hands-on two-day workshop is geared towards semi-pros and working professionals who are looking for in-depth knowledge and information. But, it is open to anyone who knows how to use their camera and has some experience with lighting.

Evanston, Illinois

This workshop is limited to only 3 participants and take place in my studio.



Non-Chicago Workshop Deposit and Balance Due

To leave a $399.50 deposit for any workshop, please click below. The total is due 30 days before the workshop.





Chicago Workshop Deposit and Balance Due

To leave a $599.50 deposit for a Chicago workshop, please click below. The total is due 30 days before the workshop.





Participants also receive my five favorite Lightroom presets!

*All sales are final and non-refundable. Dinner is an optional activity and is not included in the price of tuition.


Attending John’s workshop in Chicago was simply perfect.  Not only did John discuss different lighting and modifiers, he tested them on us to show us the difference in the light produced by each one, and discussed why they produced the different types of light.  John made sure we had the opportunity to watch him set up the different lighting diagrams with a live model, then had us help him, and afterward were asked to create several for ourselves we’d like to try.  The ‘watch, help, you do it hands on approach’ was not only effective and extremely beneficial in the learning process, but helpful in understanding why to set things up in a certain way.  While lighting can be intimidating for some photographers, John helped us feel comfortable if we made mistakes, correct them while showing why and how, and done in a positive fun environment.  This was all done while allowing room for creativity with the model and individual expression as a photographer.  The two day workshop was full of information but not so overwhelming as to not be able to decipher through it.  To top it all off at the end of day two, John showed us some valuable editing techniques that are easy and save lots of time.  Whether choosing the one day workshop or the two day event you will walk away with information and experience to raise your level of knowledge and creativity in portrait lighting.  Thank you John for investing time and energy in all of us to help us grow as photographers.

As a photographer, I’ve paid attention to light for years and learned, little by little, how to use it to take better pictures. But being able to recognize good light is a far cry from being able to create it, which is something I struggle with. Last weekend I got to spend a couple days learning from a photographer who has a true talent for making light do what he wants.
The experience was—sorry, I can’t help it—illuminating.
Instead of the sun, we worked with beauty dishes and octaboxes, hair lights and strip lights, v-flats and flags. It was a two-day workshop and we ran through at least a dozen lighting setups, working with different models on each day. On the second day the photographer, John Gress, asked each of us three students to envision and then execute a portrait of our own. This was mine.
My goal was to make a headshot of our model, using the light to accentuate his strong, angular jawline. With a little guidance, I created a four-light setup that produced—to my surprise—almost exactly the image I had in mind. For any lighting enthusiasts, we used three-foot strip lights behind the model on either side to create the edge light along his jaw and a third strip light directly above the camera as the main portrait light, which created a thin vertical band of light down the center of his face. We used a white card to lighten the shadows beneath his chin and a hairlight to create some separation from the dark background.
For anyone looking to improve their portrait lighting skills, I give a thumbs up to John Gress’ workshop. Thanks!

I have taken several of John Gress’s workshops, each time with a new group of photographers and personality of its own.  I love John’s rich use of lighting, simple, yet effective studio set ups, and watching his brainstorming with how to create something new.
Working with professional models, John asked us if we had anything in particular we wanted to learn and then we helped in the set up, choosing wardrobe for the model and figuring out which lights to use and the settings.   I was curious about using colored gels, and we played around with them until we came up with incredible new pictures. Rather than listening and watching, the interaction with John and the other photographers brings a deeper learning experience.
Finishing up with honing in on Lightroom skills and tricks, we edited and voted on the best pictures.  The entire experience was enriching, and at the same time fun.
John’s friendly and easy-going personality is such a plus, there was never a moment when any of us felt awkward or out of place. Overall, the workshops have been a wonderful and exciting adventure!

If you have not taken a John Gress workshop, you should. The workshop surpassed my expectations. John was very open, and readily answered questions about equipment, lights, lens selection, make-up, you name it. Every component of the session was hands on with the model, from styling to lighting to posing. On the first day, John went over various lighting set-ups. The set-ups were varied, and had something for each type of photographer. What a pleasant surprise when he did lighting typically used in maternity images. Also, he engaged participants by requesting suggested improvements to lighting set-ups. Like I mentioned, it was impossible not to be involved in the workshop. On the second day, participants provided images to replicate. This exercise turned out to be a fantastic learning experience as we got to watch how John ‘problem solved’ the image.  I cannot say enough good things about John’s workshop. Well worth the experience.

Joy Brathwaite Photography, LLC
Joy Brathwaite

I took your class in Detroit earlier this year. Your workshop put my work on another level it me a couple of weeks to incorporate what I learned into a workflow that works for me. Thank so much for sharing your knowledge.

Martin Johnson

I have been looking for a more advance lighting workshop for a while which allowed a more hands on approach,  Johns workshop was exactly what I was looking for!  John makes sure everyone is up to speed about basic lighting, modifiers and camera setting, then the fun begins.  The first couple of setups John shows us the lighting diagram and we help set up the lights, he kept us engaged by requesting suggested improvements to lighting set-ups. Most importantly he listens to our suggestions/questions about making changes to the lighting and compare the results (good, bad, or great) it becomes an experiment for everyone.  The second day John asks us to bring our own ideas and each of us get to setup up two to three different lighting setups ourselves. John helps answer questions and works with us to get the best lighting.  Day two is very hands on, choosing wardrobe for the model and figuring out which lights to use and the settings.  The interaction with John, the other photographers, and being part of setting up the lights lets us, the Students, lead our own learning for a much deeper learning experience.  We finished up with helping to cull Johns photos for the two days. Picking out his best photos for each setup.  Learning what makes a picture better than the others, and discussing this with everyone is another great lesson and will make you a much stronger photographer.  John then teaches his editing technics and then we edited several of our own photos and voted on the best photo of the workshop.  The workshop improved my confidence in my skills with lighting and being able to put the new skills I learned into use easily.

I highly recommend his workshops! unfortunately, this also means it will be harder for me to attend his workshops in the future as they will most likely sell out faster.

Travis Patenaude

As a photographer I’m always trying to improve my lighting techniques. I’ve watched countless YouTube videos and I have tried many photography educational platforms, but none has been as comprehensive as John Gress’s Lighting Workshop .  

His workshops provides photographers with hands on and ongoing access to him as a mentor,  while he instructs and guides you with lighting techniques to take your lighting skills to the next level. 

He uses an instructional approach where he has the attendees deconstruct and recreate the scene using the techniques learned in the workshop,

I learned various different lighting techniques, that I have been putting into practice in my photography. I would encourage every photographer who is interested in a game changer with their photography skills to attend a John Gress Lighting Workshop. Simply put, this was one of the best investments I’ve made in my photography work, after John Gress Lighting Workshop, lighting can never be viewed the same again.

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