Photography Workshops

Chicago photography workshops

I didn’t get to where I am without help, so it’s the least I can do 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.

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 what I love equally, is empowering photographers as they build confidence in themselves and their skills.

During our two-day hands-on workshop, we’ll start with one light and work our way up to 4 or five, while recreating some of my best images and improving new set-ups. We’ll practice with a professional model, problem solve, talk about modifiers, ratios, and post production, but more importantly, I want everyone to leave understanding why they would use each one, what happens to your look when you adjust the power of each light and what I do to achieve my look & style. I have limited these workshops to only three students in Chicago, and 12 students elsewhere, because I want to make sure that everyone gets a chance to learn the concepts and put them to use.

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

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

  • 9:00am – 9:30am Meet & Greet
  • 9:30am – 10:00am Introduction
  • 10:00am – 12:00am Exploring modifiers and flags
  • 12:00pm – 1:00pm Lunch
  • 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
  • 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 portrait photographer John Gress Photography by James DeVries

Photo by James DeVries

New York, New York

Saturday & Sunday, August 3-4, 2019

This fun and exciting hands-on workshop is geared towards semi-pros and working professionals who are looking for in-depth knowledge and information.

456 Johnson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237


This workshop is limited to only 12 participants

$699 Before July 1

$899 After July 1st

Chicago, Illinois

Saturday & Sunday, August 31 – September 1st, 2019

Our Chicago workshops are limited to only three participants so attendees will have a nearly 1-on-1 experience. While semi-pros are welcome, this workshop is really geared to working professionals who are looking for in-depth knowledge and information.

This workshop is limited to only 3 participants




Chicago Workshops Deposit

Balance due 30 days out, non-refundable.


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


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!

John Kelly

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.

Scott David

Images created during workshops

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Chicago Headshot Photographer

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.

Chicago headshot photographer

Lighting Tutorial: It’s a Hardbox Light

Over time, I have seen many images where a pattern is projected onto someone’s face, and I’ve always struggled to simulate this type of lighting. My attempts usually resulted in poorly defined shapes and not the sort of razor-sharp edges I was expecting.

Hardware that you would use in studio by matthews and Kupo

Hardware Studio: equipment that will make your photo studio hum!

Everyone has a light stand, even make up artists. Some photographers have boom arms but when you really want to refine your work, or make your life easier in the studio easier you’ll need an arsenal of hardware. And for the most part I am not talking about the durable goods you can pick up at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Chicago fashion photographer tuxedo

Fashion Photography: DIY Light Saver

Adapting the look of LED or Fluorescent tube backgrounds for still photography with a DIY approach using softboxes, a v-flat, a knife and three Profoto lights.

Using passive and active fill to madimize shadow detail and dynamic range

Fill is not a person, but he is your friend

As photographers we might obsess about this modifier or that one, believe me I have, but often times we fall short when it comes to shadow detail. This is something I struggle with from time to time when shooting in a new room and every shoot poses its own set of problems, so the purpose of this post is to share some basic concepts that I hope will help you maximize dynamic range and develop more details in your depictions.

My garbage can full of photo modifiers

A garbage can full of modifiers, that’s perfectly normal right?

Let’s pretend for a moment I am sitting inside a reality show confession booth. Instead of disparaging the other characters on the show, I’m going to disparage myself (not really, actually. In my garage I have a garbage can full of modifiers. It looks like an episode of Hoarders in miniature, only instead of holding on to teddy bears and half-full beer cans, I collect things that make hard light look soft and in turn, make me look good.

Chicago Portrait Photographer Vintage Lights and Painted Backdrop

What ARE those lights I keep putting in my photos…

One of the most popular questions I am asked is: what are those lights in the background of my portraits? Aside from the one time that I used a Profoto Monolight unsuccessfully, every other occurrence I can recall featured a vintage light designed by Mole-Richardson.