I was going through my images to do some archiving today and stumbled across this set of images that I hadn’t really taken the time to look at yet so I thought that being #ThrowbackThursday that I would give it some attention.

I shot it over about 10 minutes during a workshop that I was teaching as I like to show people how I style the shoot, come up with the location / concept and then how I direct the model. Once I have shot a decent amount of images I hand my camera over to my students so they can see the results and get a feel for why I am doing what I am doing.

The first time that I did this the students were quite shocked as they had never had an instructor share the back of their camera before. This made me realise that perhaps there was something unique about my approach to teaching photography.

I am not interested in developing a long term customer, I genuinely want to help develop a person’s ability to solve their own problems and how to develop their own unique style and understanding of expression using photography. I am happy to help someone again and again if they feel that I have more to offer them (which in most cases I do) and I am also very happy when they start to stand on their own two feet.

I love nothing more than sending a photographer on their way and even if I never see them again seeing my influence in their work. I am not talking about imitation, I am referring to the fact that I can see their new experimental nature, their trust in their own eye.

I would say that the most important elements of teaching for me are as follows:

1. Transparency

There seems to be a lot of people going around trying to pretend that there is something that they do which is so special that they would never share it, they act similar to a magician that will never reveal their tricks in order to maintain the illusion of magic… That is all fine and I have no problem with it, but these people have no right to be teaching anything.

Holding back knowledge goes against everything that it means to be a teacher and says to me that you are either selfish, scared that someone will discover that they are no different than everyone else (spoiler alert, we all take bad shots you just see the good ones), scared that someone will be surpass them (which should actually be the ultimate dream of any teacher) or the worst (if you are claiming the mantle of educator) you actually don’t even know how you do what you are doing.

During my workshops if I shoot something I will share it with you and if you have a question about something that I did I will tell you how I did it (assuming I can remember lol).

2. Simplicity 

Oxidane, H2O… You mean water right? Does calling something by a super smart term make you understand it better? Of course not. If you are explaining something to someone use language that is understandable and logical rather than over complicating something simple.

There is time to learn the photography version of the periodic table later, you should focus more heavily on the person’s practical understanding of the concepts and worry about sounding smart later.

3. Problem Solving Skills

Teach a photographer to fish and they will be able to catch fish while they photograph nature… Wait… What? LoL… I always focus on teaching people the ability to solve a problem for themselves (teach them to fish rather than giving them the fish).

I could teach you a lighting set up which you can implement to fit one lighting situation or I could teach you what modifiers do, teach you methods to figure out where to put them and why and develop your ability to create your own lighting setup for any situation.

This is true across all aspects of photography, I can show you small pieces of information at a time, or I can teach you the skills to develop your own understanding and rely less on me to answer your questions.

4. Understanding Why

There are A LOT of “rules” in photography, but sadly many people just follow them blindly without realising that they are actually just designed to remind us of something.

I have heard many people throwing the words of Picasso around, “learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist,” however I feel that few people have actually grasped the meaning of this. They seem to think it means something like follow the rules until a certain time when the photography gods descend form the heavens and give you permission to break the rules and probably let you know that you are now an amazing photographer (reality check guys this is not going to happen).

So what does this mean then? To me it means that you need to ask why was a rule put into place. Take the rule of thirds it is not enough to know that if you put things in certain areas of the photo that it WILL look good. It is actually telling you that if you put something in certain areas the eye will be drawn to it so IF you want the eye drawn to something perhaps you could consider putting it along those lines.

5. Adapting to individual needs & level

I never enter into a workshop with a lesson plan. I have a vague idea of what we need to cover based on what people have asked for, but I change it on the fly depending on what they need on the day.

6. Identifying what you do well, then challenging you to do something different
One of my strongest skills is seeing what you do well, I can usually ascertain this fairly quickly but you can do this for yourself too. Think what lens do you normally go to, what angle to you normally shoot, what lighting setups do you favour.

The things that you naturally want to do is the stuff that you are great at already because you know that you can do it well which makes you feel good which is exactly what you should be doing during paid jobs, but in a development sense it is the opposite. You need to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in order to force yourself to develop new skills and understanding.

The wrap up:

I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people make when they come for a workshop with me is that they aren’t open minded enough. I am a very patient and knowledgable teacher that can help you regardless of your level, however I can only teach you if you let me.