Different Ways to Teach Photography

It’s not easy to make money out of photography. Learning how to shoot great pictures is hard enough but you also have to be able to put them in front of buyers, persuade those buyers that they want them and beat off the competition. Traditional stock companies are choosy, galleries are selective, and microstock sites are bursting and cheap. But there are ways to make money out of your knowledge of photography without selling a picture — and even without standing in a regular classroom and following a curriculum.

Many of the world’s biggest photographers supplement their income by offering workshops that pass on their knowledge to other photographers. Scott Rouse of the The Lightroom Lab, for example, is one of the instructors teaching a five-day workshop in the Glacier National Park this summer. Wilderness photographer Carl Heilman is doing something similar in the Acadia National Park this June.

You don’t have to head out into the wilds to teach photography though. Denis Reggie, said to be the creator of wedding photojournalism, offers a three-day wedding photography workshop with partner Joe Buissink. With twelve participants each paying $1,495 (not including travel and accommodation) those workshops allow Denis and Joe to earn almost $18,000 from three days’ work. And they do it more than once a year. The February workshop was sold out; the May workshop appears to still have places.

Selling Your Name

Denis Reggie though can charge those sorts of fees because he has a name and a reputation. An investment of over $2,000 (by the time you’ve added accommodation and travel) looks like a safe bet if you gives you the kind of skill and knowledge that has allowed Denis to shoot the weddings of Kennedys and celebrities. But even relatively new photographers can put on workshops if they’re bold and confident enough. Corey McNabb, for example, says on his bio that he only started shooting weddings “a few years ago,” although he comes from a long line of photographers and his commercial clients have included Pepsi and Gucci among others. That relative lack of experience in wedding photography however hasn’t stopped him supplementing his income with his “McWorkshops,” designed to pass on his photography knowledge to other rising photographers.

Corey’s workshops are sold entirely on the teacher’s photography skills. When Scott Rouse and Carl Heilman teach though, the students aren’t just getting a lesson in how to take pictures in nature. They’re also getting a vacation of a lifetime, a trek though some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. That’s what Geraldine Westrupp and Martin Sammtleben offer through their company Wild Photography Holidays. Based in Iceland, Geraldine is a climber and mountain guide, who has traveled and led groups in South America, the Himalayas and the Alps among other locations. She has always taken pictures on those trips, and says that she has been an “adventure photographer” since before the term was popular. Wild Photography Holidays, which launched in September 2009, aims to produce special trips to suit photography enthusiasts like herself and her partner, a German designer and keen photographer who came to Iceland for a vacation fourteen years ago, and stayed.

The idea to offer unique trips aimed at photographers, she said, came while leading a tour in Bhutan. While some of her party, which included a couple of triathletes and a marathon runner, wanted to push on and cover as much ground as possible, the photographer in the group wanted time to stop and shoot the scenery.

“[He] was getting really frustrated and I really had great empathy with him as the landscape in Bhutan both culturally and geologically is quite remarkable,” recalled Geraldine. “Often he was not getting the time to get the shots that he really wanted.”

Photographers who take Geraldine and Martin’s tours, which currently take in the landscapes of Iceland and northern Spain’s Picos de Europa, are receiving workshops in shooting in those specific locations — Geraldine and Martin have photographed in both of them — but they’re also getting a well researched tour and someone to take care of the safety, logistics and planning, as well as knowledge of the best places to take pictures. It’s a tour that’s sold as much on the knowledge of the sites as on the ability to capture them on disc.

Go Where You Know

And that’s something that any photographer with knowledge of their local landscape can offer on a smaller scale. Without Geraldine and Martin’s tour-leading experience you might not want to start organizing hotels, flights and certainly not mountain hikes, but if you know of great shooting locations that few others know about — or know how to shoot — in your area, you can still take a leaf out of their book and take enthusiasts to the area and show them how to photograph the scenes. Even a simple day trip to a local lake to photograph birds or a walk through your neighborhood to point out exciting street photography scenes could bring in some useful extra income. While Wild Photography Holidays are planning an adventurous tour to a mountain hut close to an erupting volcano, they’re also organizing a more sedate eleven-day tour for flower photographers.

Teaching isn’t for everyone. Photographers who have turned to college classrooms as a way of generating a stable income and encouraging new photographers often find that they miss shooting too much. Preparing classes and checking assignments also takes time and however much they might enjoy teaching, photographers tend to get into photography because they love taking pictures not teaching others.

Workshops though provide one way that experienced photographers can supplement their income without committing themselves to months away from their business. The lessons can even take just a few days (plus organization and marketing). Guiding photography tours though can be even more enjoyable. If you’re going to be heading out into the wilds anyway, why not take some other photographers with you and earn as you shoot?

2 comments for this post.

  1. Workshoppers.org Said:

    Workshops are a great experience if they are well produced and the instructors actually care about sharing knowledge instead of making money. It's with this idea that we are developing a website to sort it all out...

    http://www.workshoppers.org will allow instructors to post information (for free!) about upcoming workshops and students interested in taking a workshop will have one place to look, read comments, and communicate with others about workshop experiences! It's a win-win for everybody!

  2. Milan Kolarovic / MilanMedia Said:

    Yes, agreed. Doing teaching is, besides fun and educational (to yourself as a teacher as well), also an important side-revenue in the age of shrinking income distribution among photo-professional. I do teaching also myself and enjoy it to the fullest.

    I still believe however that, as you well stated in your blog entry, that a long-span effort in making a name for yourself won't go unnoticed or unrewarded.

    But these are challenging times nevertheless.

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