Hi Zack, Do you think that all this abundance of free education is actually hurting new photographers that are easily influenced?
Abundance of education is never a problem. It’s the quality of education is what I sometimes question.
There are a lot of horrible teachers out there teaching new people. I read blogs, watch classes online, sit in the back of talks and workshops and hang my head in shame at some of the crap I hear. I’ve also had a lot of people ask me questions starting with, “I took a workshop and they said….”
There’s two things happening with bad education right now. One is someone has found a level of success and popularity based on who they are more than how good of a photographer they are. When you are new to the craft you don’t yet know how to judge if a photographer is a good photographer. Their pictures are at least some measure better than yours and they have thousands of people following them and they are platform speakers at all the big trade shows so they MUST be a good photographer. Right? If you don’t know… you don’t know.
So the mediocre photographers who are really popular start teaching. Well… they kind of don’t know what they are doing with a camera but they know maybe a bit more than you do so it seems like you’re learning good information. Or you’ll be told that “such and such” isn’t really of technical importance to them so it shouldn’t be of importance to you. So a new army of poorly trained photographers rises up and can’t shoot their way out of a wet paper bag.
It’s horrible. I sometimes feel like a chef watching the most popular cooking show on TV and the host keeps microwaving the food because they don’t really need to be bothered using an oven. It’s the blind leading the blind out there sometimes. Then you have really good photographers… who can’t teach. They can’t formulate into words how they do what they do or why they do what they do. If something isn’t important to them for one reason or another they also can’t articulate WHY it isn’t important.
I was recently listening to a good photographer teach. A question was raised about composition and what they are thinking about when composing a photo. The photographer basically said that since they are self-taught technical things like that don’t matter to them. They don’t use the rule or thirds because it isn’t important to their photography. They just imagine what their picture is going to look like on a page and shoot for that.
First… composition isn’t a “technical” thing. It’s a real thing. It isn’t lighting. Or camera settings. Or noise reduction. It’s freaking composition. AND it isn’t just about “rule of thirds”. There’s far more to composing a photograph than using the rule of thirds. OMG. I went back to this photographer’s site and guess what is all over their photos? Rule of thirds. It’s everywhere through their work. They do use composition. They do think through the framing of their shots. The problem is this photographer had no clue how to talk about it. Didn’t know how to translate their gut instinct into a teachable moment. They passed it off as being a “technical” thing that isn’t important to them. HUH???? WTF does that even mean? So off go some new photographers not worrying about composition because so and so over there is really popular and successful and they don’t worry about it either.
This popular person doesn’t like flash. They think it is harsh and ugly and too bright. They only use available light because the world is in available light. So new photographers go off thinking flash is harsh, ugly, and too bright. Available light can be gorgeous and is the right light for the job. It can also be horrible. Flash can be gorgeous. And it can be horrible. Jeebus. The problem is the person teaching doesn’t know how to use flash. Instead of just saying “I don’t know how to use flash” they come up with some bullshit answer and move on.
I’ve seen photographer’s talk about changing their ISO due to the color of someone’s hair. Wha?
I’ve heard photographers teaching others to never use 1/3 stops on their aperture or shutter speed. You have 2.8, 4, 5.6 etc. Then there are 1/3 stop increments like 3.2, 4.5, 5.0, etc. They said you shouldn’t use those. Just use full stops. I wanna slap a fool when I hear that stuff. So if a recipe calls for 1 and 1/3 cups of sugar you should only use one cup because that third of a cup is bad? FOOLS!
Blind. Leading. Blind.
That’s the problem in our industry right now as far as education goes. There’s a lot of really bad education. I’d go so far as to say there’s more bad education right now than good education. If you are just starting out how are you to know? Then you have workshops that make you feel good but then leave you hanging when you run out of light, your subject is a pain in the ass, and you have all of 1 minute to get the shot. All that feel good motivation doesn’t mean shit if you can’t get the job done when it’s crunch time.
I’d like to say the free market takes care of it. Bad workshops die and good ones thrive. I’d like to say that but it isn’t the case. There are so many people entering the industry that the bad workshop leaders just need to keep getting new people and not worry about what previous students are doing or missed from attending their workshop. Or watching their DVD. Or whatever.
I can’t tell you what to look for and what to look out for. I’m not going to start naming names. Look at their work. Look at their experience. Look at what they are doing right now with their life. Does it add up to being someone who knows what the hell they are doing? I think the bad photographers who run good business should just teach the business part. I think the good photographers should just teach the photography part. You can learn a lot from some of these successful and popular photographers about networking, blogging, and the like. As soon as they start teaching the photography part you’re screwed. There are great shooters who try to teach networking and blogging and social media to all 2 people who follow them. And one is their mom. They just need to stick to teaching the photography part.
At the end of the day though…. nothing. And I do mean nothing… replaces experience. Go. Learn. Pick up things from many sources but go shoot. And shoot. And shoot. And shoot some more.
Some of you reading this are the next leaders in the industry. You’re going to be asked to teach and speak and make videos. Just as you had to learn how to shoot and run a business you need to learn how to teach. If you don’t know something then say you don’t know it. If you don’t use a certain aspect of this craft in your work then say WHY you don’t use it and give an example of why you would if you were doing another type of photography. If you can’t articulate how you compose a photo then say you have a difficult time articulating how you compose a photo. Learn some key points to the academic discussion of composition and learn how to relate that to your work and to others. Ok? Be an open book. An honest open book.