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Teaching Is a Great Way to Learn

Posted By Stanley Leary On March 6, 2009 @ 8:08 am In Teaching Photography and Design | No Comments

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After Tiger Woods won the Masters the first time, he felt he could still improve his game. Tiger went back to golf’s fundamentals; he worked on his swing.

Tiger is not the only professional athlete practicing the fundamentals of his game. Each year, Major League Baseball teams go to spring training, where they discipline themselves in the fundamentals of baseball. They’re doing pretty much what your kids in Little League are doing — running, hitting, catching and throwing.

How often do we as photographers revisit the basics of our profession?

Nuts and Bolts

I stumbled upon the benefits of being plunged back into the nuts and bolts of photography when I started teaching what I do to college students.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching others the basics of lighting and business practices for photography. At the Art Institute of Atlanta, I worked with those pursuing photography as a profession. Later, teaching in Kona, Hawaii, at the University of the Nations, I taught students from all over the world who were learning to communicate visually. In Fort Worth, at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference, I spoke to a group of my peers about business practices in photography.

I was the one who learned the most from these experiences.

Teaching your profession requires a lot of thought about how you do what you do. Teachers are taught how students learn.  This enables them to pass on the essentials of a subject in a way that their students can understand.   To do this, a teacher must know the subject extremely well. 

In every profession, there are those who know just enough to “get by” in their jobs. Some of these folks probably don’t know why certain things work; they just know they do. Odds are they’ve never tried to teach anyone what they do.

Up Close and Personal

I received my masters in communications from a school where communications majors were required to take classes in teaching. We studied how people learn at different ages. They taught us how to package information to communicate to a particular audience.

In 1985, while working with a missionary organization, I was assigned to teach missionaries how to take better pictures and put together interesting slide shows. I have taught in colleges, to camera clubs and other groups ever since those early days. Over the years, I have had to find effective ways to present the fundamentals and help people improve their skills with their cameras.

Teaching is up close and personal. If you spot a puzzled expression in the class, you know you didn’t get your point across to that person. It’s an opportunity to get better.

If you’ve seen that same puzzled expression in meetings with clients — and you think you might be seeing it too often — maybe it’s time to try teaching to improve your skills. I can tell you from my experience that it’s made me a better communicator, and a better photographer.

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