Influencers vs. Experts: Who’s Teaching that Workshop?
Life has changed for me in the last year. I’m a mom now which means I spend many nights awake at 2am feeding an adorable baby who hates sleep. To help me not go (totally) crazy during this time, I like to reflect on things that interest me, things that I feel drawn to and things I find intriguing. I’m a firm believer in reflective practice no matter what your profession; I think it’s a great part of growing as an individual and focusing yourself.
I’ve been thinking a lot about wedding photography workshops and the over-saturation of them in the industry. Everyone and their dog has their own workshop now. Influencers do. Experts do. But influencers vs experts – what’s the damn difference and why does it matter?
Influencers are promoting their workshops; their workshops are selling.
But are those workshops selling because of the content? Or because of who the teacher is?
And what about the teacher; are they actually helping you understand skills and apply them in your own business? Are you being thought how to evaluate individual situations and analyze them when you encounter them on your own? Are they learning how to actually create? Or are you going to be taught how to do one specific thing under a very specific set of circumstances?
Is that teacher going to be able to answer the variety of questions you bring to the table or will they only be able to speak in regards to a certain set of circumstances? Do they have an even broader knowledge base than to which they are teaching?
Is the teacher committed to teaching? Do they frequently offer educational opportunities as part of their business plan or do they just run the occasional “workshop” to pull in some extra cash (*cough cough* just like all the people who are selling presets now *cough cough*)
Just as so many photogs gripes and groan about “brides and grooms should hire professional photographers – just because you have a good camera doesn’t mean you’re a good photographer!” on the same line of thought one can also argue that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you can teach it to others. Being a good photographer takes practice and so does being a good teacher.
If you’re not as committed to learning how to be as great of a teacher as you are a photographer, should you really be teaching workshops? Just a little food for thought.
Let’s keep it real here for a moment. Teaching is a privilege, as is wedding photography. Just as your brides and grooms trust you to take the most beautiful photos or such an important day, your students are trusting in you to provide them exceptionally useful information that they can use as foundation building blocks for their own businesses. Your students are relying on the skills they gain from you to help further their businesses; to help them pay their bills and feed their families. And it’s not just the students – it’s the industry as a whole. The industry is relying on to uphold our artform; to promote practical and smart business practices, to teach robust skills and have your students doing better for our industry as a whole. Your fellow photographers and community are not a cash pool for you to leach from by selling poorly put together workshops where you teach mimicry and pimp out presets and other products. To be a teacher is a privilege, it should not be abused for profit.
So who is teaching a lot of the wedding photography workshops that are out there right now?
Are they actual experts in the field?
Or are they simply influencers?
Honestly, there’s a mix of both – but the important take-home message here is:
Influencers aren’t necessarily experts as well.
I’ve seen a lot of AMAZING workshops with kick-ass content and fantastic teachers who have an incredibly broad knowledge base struggle to get their workshops noticed because they ARE NOT influencers. They aren’t part of the “cool crowd”. They aren’t part of the posse that sticks together at every conference or at all community social outings, they aren’t privy to the circle of people who constantly refer only among themselves for guest speaking spots or conference speakers. They don’t have tens of thousands of Instagram followers and they don’t highlight their quirky yet endearing behind the scenes life. They’re just hard working photogs who have happy clients, a great product but aren’t sitting at the popular kids table. Oh man… here comes to high school flashbacks.
So here’s the thing – there’s nothing wrong with taking a workshop that’s hosted by an influencer if they actually have great content and can teach you a valuable set of skills.
When you are choosing a wedding photography workshop, don’t let the fact that you might be a little star struck on the teacher be a determining factor as to whether or not you’ll be giving them your hard earned money. First, reflect on your business and your skills and think about what you need to learn. You get hungry first and THEN you go to a restaurant. You don’t just go to a restaurant and hope you’re hungry once you get there. After you’ve figure out what you want to learn, look for workshops that meet your learning needs. Research the workshop teacher; read their blog – do they offer tips and information on their blog already? If they really are passionate about teaching it’s quite possible that they already have content available on their blog. Do you feel a connection with them via their writing? Do you find them easy to understand? Find reviews or ask around for reviews and honestly, do it privately as well. Some people don’t feel comfortable posting a non-five-star review publicly on social media.
Please, don’t be blind to the fact that influencers may not actually have the best content out there, they may just be average people who have a seat at the cool kids table.