Some photographers love teaching; they take to their wedding photography blogs to share tips and tricks, they host a variety of wedding photography workshops and some even end up on huge platforms like Creative Live. Then there are other photographers… those who refuse to share camera settings, refuse to give any advice and turn their nose up to those who are new in the industry. What’s up with that kind of behavior? Why do some photographers hate teaching others?
I love teaching. I love it so much, in fact, that at the time of writing this blog post, I’m only a few weeks away from obtaining my Adult Training Certificate. I love teaching so much that I chose to go back to school and take a series of classes so that I can learn how to do it better.
But I have to admit… there were some times when I felt like teaching and sharing knowledge was totally draining me. While I made sure I took a step back for a quick breather before becoming one of those who closes the door to knowledge on all others, I did have a moment that allowed me to reflect and understand why some photographer may choose not to teach or share.
I’m not condoning their actions as I firmly believe in teaching and sharing within our industry, but I wanted to share with you some of my epiphany’s (if that’s what you can call them) so maybe you can help to understand, too.
Not everyone has the ability to teach! Assuming that someone has the ability to teach just because they have knowledge is akin to assuming someone is a photographer simply because they own a dSLR camera. It’s crucial to respect those who have the ability to teach just as those of who who have the ability to take great photos want to be respected, too.
Being scared of competition. Wedding photography is a highly competitive industry and it’s more than possible that quite a few photographers don’t want to teach because they are scared of increased competition in an already overly competitive industry. By refusing to share their knowledge, they feel like they are protecting themselves and their business. (Whether you agree with it or not, it’s how many feel and everyone’s feelings are valid.)
There’s only so much of you to give. You can only spend so many hours a week responding to facebook questions, email questions and letting people shadow you throughout a session while asking questions. Even if you LOVE teaching, you have to know when to draw the line between contributing positively to your industry and making a bad business move by spending 25% of your week chatting and answering questions instead of earning money to support your family. There will always be more questions to answer than there is time to answer them; especially if you’re an active member of Facebook groups. Sometimes you just have to say “I don’t have time to any more” and turn off the computer.
Some learners won’t even consider looking for the answer themselves; this is incredibly frustrating for those willing to teach. As someone who does contribute quite a few hours a week into contributing on Facebook groups, mentoring new photographers and answering a slew of questions that pop up by email, I must candidly say that there truly is nothing more frustrating than being asked a question when you KNOW the learner didn’t even consider looking for the answer themselves. I am a teacher, a mentor and a colleague. I am not a search engine. A while back, someone posed “Can someone tell me if/when there are any wedding shows in Toronto soon?” in a Facebook group. This is something that is so easily researched online that there is no need to ever ask a question like that in a facebook group. There’s really only one piece of advice you need when starting a business and this person didn’t take that advice!
Some learners want their hands held until they achieve success. Helping those who are willing to help themselves and who understand what a great resource it can be to find a photographer who is willing to share, is truly an ideal situation. It’s an honour to be asked the occasional question and be provided with the background information that lead up to the question being asked. It really shows that the learner is motivated to finding the solution themselves, they just need some extra help. Being asked questions; however, about every single step in a process…. well, that’s a little different – especially if it’s happening over and over again. As a new photographer, you need to understand that those who are willing to help you are not there to hold your hand. If you need more help than you feel is reasonable to expect by having a few questions answered, approach your favorite photographer and ask to hire them for a one-on-one workshop so that all your needs can be addressed and everyone’s time is accounted for – this shows an immense amount of respect.
Some people refuse to consider workshops and only want for free. You simply cannot get the level of learning through a Facebook group of email questions that you can achieve by taking a workshop. I recommend that every photographer put aside a minimum of 5-7% of their profit annually for the purposes of continued education. You need to make this a priority if you want to achieve your goals at a reasonable pace. Expecting to receive the same info for free via an online community (or an individual) that is available in a workshop is unreasonable. If you aren’t investing into yourself, you cannot expect others to invest into you.
You’ve been burned in the past. Whether it’s having someone bail on you after being offered a chance to shadow you for a day or someone dropping off the face of the earth after being offered a mentorship, quite a few photographers have been burned in the past by not-so-awesome teaching experiences and this can often leave them feeling a little sour on the idea of teaching in the future.
There will always be some photographers who stand out in the community as leaders by their teaching abilities and willingness to share, just as there will always be those who will be seen as secretive and protective of their skills. This dichotomy; however, isn’t just seen in the established photographers, it currently is and will always be seen in those wanting to learn the craft too as there will always be some who genuinely want a helping hand on occasion while other want their hands held on the entire journey. Whether we like it or not, these four extremes will always exist in the photographic community – but hopefully this article will service to provide a better understanding of them.