Photography Education Guide (part 2)

Get Educated, Don’t Get Burned

Seminars, workshops, online schools, online courses, mentor groups, universities…….what’s it all about and where do you get the most for your money?

Missed part 1? Click here to read it first.

The most difficult part of getting the information and instruction you are looking for is wading through the myriad of options and presenters.  It’s very easy to spend a lot of money and walk away with nothing.  Some of that falls to the presenter but it can also fall to the student.  If you dismiss something you think won’t work for you, you will be proved right.  It won’t work for you.  It won’t work in your area if that’s what you believe.  And, very true, no will pay those prices if you don’t think they will.

Here are a few guidelines (some are opinions) that might help you:

1.  Decide exactly what you are looking for.  Do you want to learn shooting skills, marketing skills or business skills?  Three different areas, and probably three different ways of learning.  It’s important to think about what you really want to get from what you are about to sign-up for.  If you say “everything”, then think again.  You may need help with everything, but that won’t come from one program.  Too much across-the-board information, and not enough on any single area.  You could end up with a little knowledge in a lot of areas, but not the real knowledge you need to succeed.

You may need help with everything, but that won’t come from one program.

2.  New people are popping-up in the “education” business faster than a bag of Orville Redenbacher.  But new, or “gee, look at me, I’m so successful” teachers are not usually a good value.  Tried and true works best.  If someone can stay in photo education for years, you can bet they offer something people want.  Word of mouth promotion is important and there is nothing like years worth of very satisfied students to help with that.  Photography education is not about overnight success but about the giving you the tools you need to sustain success and build a career.  The “been there, done that” on an instructor’s part can be gold.  Problems: they have handled them.  Equipment breakdowns: they’ve been there.  Difficult situations/people: a good instructor has encountered every one of them.  Bad light: they know just what to do.  In some ways you really are paying for experience as well as expertise.

Photography education is not about overnight success but about the giving you the tools you need to sustain success and build a career.

3.  Learn before you leap.  Check out the instructor.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  This is your money were talking about here, and wasting it is not a good idea.  Google the name, look for reviews, ask fellow professionals, post a question on a forum, Facebook page or Twitter.  If your “friend” list is small, ask them to pass your question along to their friends.  A poor or so-so review, and maybe you should keep looking.  Too many sponsors and learning goes down, and commercials go up.

4.  Be wary of the sales pitch.  Many of these people have sponsors, including, on rare occassions, Finao.  Some offer help with needed information about a product or service that works well in their own business.  All good.  Most have take-home products for sale; again, no problem.  But what about the instructor that has everything you need and you can purchase it from him or her?  What about programs that lead in one direction: sign-up for more learning, or join my club?  Education first, please.

5.  Instructors own success.  You’ve heard the line, “Those who can, do; Those who can’t, teach“.  It’s certainly something that is true in most industries.  If an instructor calls him/herself a photographer than that person should actively practice the craft.  That means that most of their time and definitely most of their income should come from their photography businesses.  If someone is in the education, business development, or training business, then be up-front.  That person is not a photographer first;  he/she is a teacher first.  Many Photoshop instructors earn their entire livings teaching the use of this enormous tool.  In this case, the value of having an expert teacher will outweigh all else.  Jerry Ghionis calls himself a photo educator.  He has a great pedigree and he still photographs weddings, but he devotes most of his time to helping photographers become better shooters and better business people.  He’s a teacher.

6.  You get what you give.  Every opportunity requires action on your part.  No one will shovel it down your throat.  YOU need to do the learning.  YOU need to practice new shooting ideas.  YOU need to get your marketing materials together.  YOU need to make the changes in your business that will lead to your ultimate success.  There is no easy road, no magic answer, so be prepared to give more than you get.  It is, after all, YOUR business.

You get what you give.

Lastly, how about a little disclaimer. Finao can be a part of promoting, and even sponsoring, speakers and programs.  We rarely give direct support, but often have products the speaker can give out if it is a small group, or gift certificates for a few lucky people in larger groups. We will be “sponsoring” Mike Long at WPPI, have had a long standing relationship with Sandy Puc’, and work closely with Jerry Ghionis.  But that’s it.  The people I mention here have programs, workshops and groups that we think do a great job.  There are many others that we might not be as familiar with.  There are some I know of, but feel they do not meet the value portion of spending money on education.  Everyone who mentions Finao is a real product-user, and 95% of the time we don’t even know what’s being said.  We usually ask the presenter to simply say, “I use Finao as my album supplier.”  They can add what product they use, or use the product as part of a marketing or sales session.  That’s all.  I demand total honesty from anyone we sponsor.  If the products are an integral part of the business model, and the advice being given is taken from actual studio experience, I’m fine with it.  Doesn’t matter if it’s Finao or Cannon: real is real, and it can be a valuable part of a presentation.  Sponsorship, however, is commercial advertising.