Staying Afloat in a World of Many Cameras

(Teaching People What They Want to Know)
by Melissa Gallo

Have you noticed lately just how many people are receiving and buying amazing DSLR?s for their birthday, Christmas or Mothers Day? As a professional photographer this can be disheartening, and for good reason. In many cases those who get a good DSLR in their hands and know it (and they usually do), decide they are going to shoot all their family events themselves. Occasionally, though not usually, they decide to go pro. This has the dual effect of taking them out of the running as a possible client and creating low-priced competition as well.

What is the pro photographer to do? Answer: give them what they are all hungering for – your expertise on how to use that beautiful camera! Start in your own neighborhood and offer an entry level photography course. You will find that most of your students will know absolutely nothing about the logistics of their camera. Most will have taken it out of the box, used it for a bit, and for some strange reason, noticed that the photos they took did not turn out very well.

Divide your knowledge into several categories and offer different courses covering each area. For example, the courses you teach might include beginning digital photography, basic editing, advanced editing, beginning and advanced lighting techniques, on and off-camera flash, color and composition, etc.

Offer incentives such as discounts in course prices for enrolling in more than one class, and special yearly discounts on photo shoots with you. Remember to include at least one live photo shoot during class time and then post some of the photos taken that day. Create class notes for each course and offer enrollment in a private Flickr group that you create just for your students. This is where they will be able to receive “continuing education” by sharing their work with each other and you for further help and critiquing. Invite your students to leave a review of your course on your blog and/or Facebook page.

Enjoy teaching! Be generous with your knowledge – generosity will always reward you in the end. I remember years of struggling for any scrap of information I could get when I was starting out in the photography field, and vowed I would always give knowledge freely. I have a wonderful time with my students and delight in seeing them really learn how to use their camera.

Do not be afraid that you will be training your competition. Ninety-nine percent of all your students will not turn pro…nor will they want to. The mechanics of an art or craft can be easily taught, but true artistry comes from technical knowledge married to innate talent and total dedication to a craft. Otherwise, why would people ever teach math classes or give ballet, cello and golfing lessons? Most students do not become pro golfers or professional ballerinas, despite years of lessons! The majority of your students will be quite content with improving their own photography skills.

Ironically, by teaching others, you only raise the value of your own artistic skill and vision. Your students will gain a greater respect for your work and a better understanding of what it truly takes to become a pro photographer!

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There are 6 comments for this article
  1. Lucy Huffstetter at 2:15 pm

    This is so true. The other day I saw a man with a huge camera and I asked him the settings he was using to photograph the fireworks. Everything he told me was wrong. So let us not assume that people with cameras know it all. If we start teaching what we have learned through books, experience, and hard work, people will look at us with respect.

  2. Martin W. at 3:11 pm

    Make lemonade with lemons! You are right on the button. I think we photographers shouldn’t be intimidated by change (although we sometimes are). I would think that teaching would be rewarding and have the benefit of potentially recruiting new assistants, as well as potential clients. It’s like free advertising I suppose!

  3. Bruce & Josh Hudson at 6:54 pm

    We have had amazing results with this strategy and have sold over 1500 registrations with groupon, living social, ect. since last June! Many have become new clients for us!
    We are currently selling in 3 Costco’s in the Seattle area with plans to expand to many more. You are not teaching your competition, you are educating and giving photography lovers a new appreciation to the world of professional photography. We have even created a new brand & website
    (thanks to the talented people at Marathon Press)
    Check it out at:

  4. Melissa Gallo at 7:53 pm

    I agree with ALL of your comments! What Lucy said is so true: teaching what we have learned through hard work, experience and study will gain people’s respect. I think it will have another effect as well…It will help others realize that it is by no means easy to become a professional photographer and that you cannot go pro overnight! Many will fall away and not reach that dream because it requires so much work and diligence.

  5. Hillphotography at 12:19 pm

    Personally, I think this article is a very sad indication of the direction our industry is headed. It’s pretty bad when, in order to make money, you are forced to teach your own clients and potential clients how to do what you do at home.
    I loved this statement…”The mechanics of an art or craft can be easily taught, but true artistry comes from technical knowledge married to innate talent and total dedication to a craft.”…
    The problem is that today, “artistry” has little to do with technical knowledge, innate talent or dedication to a craft.
    The “photographer” of today just wants to know where the (p) button is and what actions to buy.
    Sadly, those “photographers” are the ones that are doing much of the teaching. Just look on Facebook or so many websites. The ones that know so little, yet call themselves Rockstars are the ones that are now teaching and mentoring as a way to make money.

  6. Luis Martinez at 9:32 am

    I feel you need to start from the bottom and work your way up working with a professional I carried, clean ect but learned so much from my mentors that now I”m able to charge a good fee and make good money you can’t take short cuts sooner or later it will bite you back.

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