Where The One-Eyed Man Is King: Tips On Finding The Right Photography Training
Heard the one about the lady who goes to see the doctor to get treatment for a wart on her finger and the doctor tells her to go behind the screen and take all her clothes off. She says to him, “You’re not a real doctor, are you?” and he replies, “Well, I have a doctor’s outfit, and I read medical books, and I’ve painted this room up to look like a doctor’s surgery, and got a First Aid badge when I was in the Cubs. Isn’t that the same thing?”
Okay, it’s not much of a joke. It really isn’t. But this is my point. Should the lady have checked this man’s credentials or just dumbly done as she was asked. Sadly, the world of photographic training is a bit like the Wild West – unregulated and open to any charlatan who decides to put up a sign over the door that says “Photography Courses Here“. Yes, cowboy trainers. Or Rogue Trainers.
Anyone can set up a website and a studio, and invent an untraceable “professional” history, and unfortunately this seems to be happening all over the place. In these days when times are increasingly tough for those plying their trade in the socia/wedding fields, many photographers are, quite understandably, seeking new income streams to broaden their chances of sustainability. And in many cases these are just the type of people that those new to photography can learn the most from. Sadly, another breed of chancer is entering this market – the aforementioned “cowboy trainers”.
There is a huge appetite for photographic training – something that we at Fotofilia are very grateful for, of course. But I am increasingly concerned that photographic training is being offered by people who are unqualified, uninsured, part-time amateurs with no track record of significant or successful professional or artistic background.
I came to photographic training as a way to help fund my photography degree. To my surprise I very much enjoyed it and as time has gone by I have found it to be a rewarding and increasingly large part of my post-university career. It has meant that I have met (and continue to meet) some lovely people and have needed to do less of the kinds of photographic work that I previously had to do(but didn’t particularly enjoy) in order to fund my personal photographic practice. I feel that my own work benefits from each term that I teach and I am constantly looking for new ways to stimulate the people who attend Fotofilia’s courses, workshops and clubs. When I feel there is someone better placed to deliver training in a specific field, I am only too happy to bring those people in. After all, no photographer can truly profess to know everything about photography to a very high standard.
So back to those cowboys. Undoubtedly, people will hand over cash and trot along to be “taught” by people who have little more knowledge than they do, and even walk away with slightly more knowledge than they arrived with. But, as the old saying goes: In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Here’s my tips for ensuring your photographic training is being provided by real experts…
- Ask to see examples of their professional work (images on a website mean little).
- Ask to see proof of: qualifications, professional status, and insurance. Admittedly some real pros never had formal training but instead will have traceable work history or exhibitions.
- Ask about weekday daytime availability. If they only seem to be available for courses in the evening and at weekends, this might be a clue that they have a “day job” and I don’t know about you but I’d rather learn from someone involved full time in the subject they’re trying to teach rather than someone who works at a call centre (no offence to call centre workers but maybe you’re not the ideal photographic trainers).
- If they say they are wedding or social/people photographers, find out how many weddings or portrait shoots they’ve had in the previous week.
- If they say they are art photographers, ask what they have exhibited and where.
- And most importantly, ask where else they have provided photographic training.
By asking any or all of these questions, you should be able to sniff out the cowboys.