So you’ve got the gear and know how to use it, you think you know how to use Photoshop properly and that’s all there is to know. Well actually . . . NO. In truth the learning never stops.
So you want to start a photography business?
Part VI: Good training never stops.
Professional photographers take a range of training paths, but there are three main ways they gain experience. Some acquire their skills through being an assistant to an experienced photographer, while others learn the trade through college courses or other classes, the last group is self taught.
Schools and colleges can be a good starting point for learning how to use your camera properly but lack the facilities to teach hands-on skills in the field.
With the advances in technology and the increased capabilities of camera equipment and affordable prices, more and more people are looking at photography as either a full-time business or one that will provide additional income. Sadly, this has lead to an increase in the number of “photographers”, and I use the term loosely, who think they can teach others when they have no qualifications and limited experience themselves.
Whether they are called training sessions, workshops, masterclasses, studio days, portfolio building days or one of the myriad of other descriptions used, this blog is a intended to be a general point in the right direction to finding the right trainer for you.
What to look for in a trainer?
I suppose the first thing to look at is their imagery. Does it inspire you? Does it make you want to grab your camera, run outside and try to produce something as stunning? If it doesn’t, then they are probably not the person for you.
If it does, then I would recommend you find out a little bit more about them. How much experience do they have in teaching? How long have they been teaching? Do they have any qualifications in either teaching or photography? Is it a Fellowship, the highest you can attain, an Associateship or a Licentiate from an Association or a degree or C&G from university/college? Or do they have none at all?
Where to start?
Where do you start looking for this quality training? How can you be sure you’ve chosen the right one and be sure of getting your pennies worth without feeling ripped off?
There a several routes you can follow but the results will very depending on your type of photography.
The first port of call for many people these days will be good old Google, long gone are the days of Yellow Pages. Google is a fantastic source when searching for something but like everything else you have to be specific in what you want to look for. If you type in “photography training” you will get the links to some of the top training companies that specialise in portraiture or weddings; this is good if that’s what you’re looking for but not if you want to learn to shoot wildlife. Be specific to your genre of photography.
Your results will also vary depending on your search terms; for example photography workshops will bring up different listings to photography training. Use different keywords to get a wider selection.
The only problem with using Google as your sole method of sourcing a trainer is that you are going to that persons website and they will all tell you how wonderful they are and unfortunately these days everyone is “An Award Winning Photographer”. Well actually so am I, in recent years I have been awarded for several Gold Awards with the SWPP and Merits with the MPA but in my eyes do not consider myself to be an Award winning Photographer, that would require winning a major title.
My advice would be that once you have selected a few who you think you would benefit having some training with and then make additional enquiries using other sources.
There are a number of Professional Associations and Societies in the UK with the main four being, in alphabetical order, the British Institute of Professional Photography, the Master Photographers Association, the Royal Photographic Society and The Society of Portrait & Wedding Photographers.
Joining a professional Association can provide helpful support and advice as well as gain credibility withe your clients.
They all offer training days and workshops for their members so are worth checking out. It might be worth attending one of these sessions to check out a potential mentor or future trainer so you can see how they work and approach them at a later date.
The SWPP plays host to a Convention that’s held in London every January. Here you have the opportunity to attend masterclasses and superclasses and learn from over 100 experts from all over the world. It’s also a great way to get increase your photographic knowledge, meet fellow photographers and be inspired at the beginning of a New Year.
Each Masterclass lasts for 1 1/2 hours giving you a brief look at what a trainer has to offer, again if you like their style and their personality then make enquiries about their training courses. The majority are very approachable and will chat to you either after their sessions or later in the bar 🙂
Talking to fellow photographers can give a good indication on the best training courses to go on and which to avoid based on their own experiences. They will also be brutally honest with you after all it was their hard earned cash they parted with!
Value for money:
This is a hard one as each persons expectations varies. However, I would say that its import to consider the price of the course. The location of the course, is it some distance from you in which case you may need to take overnight expenses into consideration. How many delegates in the class? A course costing £50 may look good on paper but if there are 20 on the course then you won’t get much out of it compared to a course that may be £100 but only 7 delegates in attendance – the trainer can spend more time talking with you 1-2-1 and you’ get more shooting time too.
Many of the training I have mentioned so far have been for single day sessions over a couple of hours. It is worth noting that there are a number of weekend courses available and one or two trainers hold ones with the duration of a week where everything, including food, is included in the price. John and I attend one such course every other year with the lovely Paul R. G. Haley, a full review can be viewed on my other blog. It’s refreshing, good fun and excellent value for money.
Personally, I would like my ideal trainer to be someone who has learnt their craft and knows how to execute it well. But they must also be a good communicator, preferably qualified, they must also be open to ideas and allow the student to develop their own style rather than be someone who wants to produce photographic clones of themselves.
I feel that training should be an on-going thing and feel that if I go for too long without learning or trying something new I start to feel stagnant. My latest venture is attempting to use studio lighting and working with models which is as far removed from shooting insects as you can get really!
And finally, a little good business practise.