For me, I see myself less of a photographer and more of a teacher. My passion has always to empower other people. Being an extrovert, it brings me the most joy to see others fulfill their potential.
Do you have what it takes to become a photography teacher? I will share some of my ideas on what it means to be a photography teacher, and how you can improve your own teaching skills (if your dream is to teach photography).
One of the things I have the most passion for is sharing information and knowledge. I’ve always been a huge proponent of “open source” information and knowledge (having grown up not knowing if my mom could pay the rent each month).
I was blessed enough to become the man I am today due to my teachers, my mentors, and my guides.
I think one of the biggest mistakes that photography teachers (and just photographers in general) make is that they try to hoard their knowledge and information. My philosophy is that to truly empower your students and others, you should keep your information open and free. Our success as a species is because we have shared information and knowledge with one another.
Share your “secret sauce”
When I first started this blog, I had a hard time finding information on the internet in terms of how to shoot street photography. I think a lot of photographers refused to share their “secret sauce.”
However nowadays even with restaurants, they share their recipes and secrets with the mass public with cookbooks. However their business is still booming. Why? People go to a restaurant for the experience and the individual attention (not just the food and secret recipe).
So also know that you as a photography teacher, the more you share, the more you will receive in return. By sharing all your secrets and information, you will build trust with your students and audience. And trust is the most valuable thing you can build.
Monetizing your teaching
Now a lot of photography teachers want to monetize their teaching. There are a lot of ways you can monetize:
- Teaching private workshops (what I do)
- Teaching for a photography school or program
- Selling E-Books / Videos / other educational material
- Offering consulting to companies, individual photographers, or any other commercial clients
I feel there are still so many ways that photography teaching and education still hasn’t been monetized. Be creative by leveraging your strengths and combining things you’re passionate about.
For example, I’m a big believer of “open source” information and knowledge. Therefore, I give away all my teaching and educational material on the internet for free. However I charge money for teaching photography workshops, consulting, and other commercial gigs I get along the way.
You don’t need to make money from your teaching
If you already have a day job, know that you don’t need to make a living from your teaching of photography.
If you teach for the pure love of it— I recommend teaching photography to a close friend, to your child, or your partner. You can volunteer an hour a week to teach at an inner-city school. Or you can start a YouTube channel and teach photography to the netizens of the internet (what Salman Khan did to start Khan Academy).
What I also discover is that as I teach, I learn. To truly teach something, you need to master a concept or an idea. This is why tutoring while you’re in school helps so much. I tutored a lot when I was in Middle/High School, and it forced me to truly understand the material before sharing the ideas with others.
Facilitate, not “teach”
Furthermore, know that as a teacher, you’re not really “teaching” your student anything. Treat yourself more of a guide or a “facilitator.” My philosophy of teaching is that you are simply unlocking the hidden-genius of your student, and unlocking their potential. They already know everything they need to know, but they simply need some inspiration, and encouragement.
Like a seed— it needs sunshine, water, and love to grow. But many of the nutrients for the seed to blossom already exist within the seed.
As a good gardener knows, you need to be patient with your plants. You can’t yell at your plants when they’re not growing quickly enough. You can’t get upset at your plants if they get attacked by pests or bugs. You can’t get angry at the weather for not providing enough water or sunshine.
Know that even if you’re the best gardener or teacher in the world, a lot of the success of the plants/students is to chance.
Many teachers know that they can give a student 100% of their love and attention, but if the student doesn’t reciprocate, they won’t learn or grow.
Patience is hard, trust me. But the more patient and compassionate you are with your student, the more trust you will build, and the more time you will give them to grow.
You can’t expect a seed to turn into a redwood in a day, a week, a month, or even a year. So don’t expect your photography student to become a master in a similar timeline. Greatness and growth takes time.
Love your students
The last thing I will share is at the end of the day, just show love towards your student. I genuinely believe that many students in the world just need love, attention, and encouragement. They need role models. They need someone to help guide them and believe in them.
I could have grown up and become a gang-banger, did drugs, or went down a wrong path if my adult teachers and guides didn’t believe in me. I had fantastic role models, and people I looked up to. They encouraged me to become the best version of myself possible, and they helped me believe in myself.
So treat your students with love, compassion, and empower them to become the best version of themselves possible. Don’t compare your students with anyone else. Your photography student should never compete with anyone else (except themselves).
Anyone can become a photography teacher. You don’t need fancy degrees or need to go to art school. All you need is compassion, patience, and a willingness to share your experience with others. You don’t need to make money from your teaching either.
What is the most important part of teaching photography is being curious, learning things you want to learn about photography, and sharing that information and knowledge with others.
The more I teach photography, the more that I learn, and stay humble as a beginner. A lot of my students will ask me “beginner” questions— and instead of being bored or impatient with them, I try to take things back to basics and always keep an open mind. This keeps me flexible and nimble, and helps me never stagnate creatively.
I am so grateful for all of my students over all the years. I love you all. You have helped me stay humble and not make my head (too big). You’ve helped me continue to push myself and learn more about the beautiful art of photography, while building my patience and compassion. And of course, you’ve helped me make a living to continue to share knowledge and information with the rest of the world. Thank you so much.
Unleash your creative potential:
- April 10-11th, 2021: BOSTON / Discover Your Unique Voice in Photography Workshop [Register Intent Here]
- May 1-2nd, 2021: CHICAGO / Street Photography Composition Masterclass [Register Intent Here]
- May 22-22nd, 2021: NEW YORK CITY / STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS by ERIC KIM [Register Intent Here]
Be notified of when new workshops are live here.