As a photographer, you already have a number of skills that you bring to bear in your work. If you are already established as a professional photographer and make your living this way, then you definitely know more than the average person about your field. Teaching is a great way to make some extra income, whether you do it within an existing institution or within the framework of your own private course.
Here are five subjects you can tackle to help others learn what you know.
1. The basics of photography
Let’s start with the most obvious skill you can teach: how to take photographs. Many people believe that they already know the basics of photography thanks to their smartphone cameras, but as photographers, we know that that simply isn’t the case.
The basics of photography can include a range of subject matters, and you can take the course on for as long as you like. It could be a one-day session to pick up some quick tips, or it could be a year-long course designed to turn participants into fully-fledged professionals.
A good place to start is how to operate a DSLR, either at an amateur level or a professional one. You can also teach composition and framing, exposure, and how to use manual camera settings to control the image. You could get your students set up with a studio photoshoot including a professional model, or instruct them on how to practice with their family and friends.
You could teach the basics of lighting and how to use backdrops, as well as how to tether a camera to a computer or set it up to control the lights with a radio trigger. You can teach focal points and how to use manual focus, as well as how depth of field can impact the finished product.
It could go on much further – and once you have students who are trained in the basics, there’s nothing stopping you from putting together a pro-level course which takes them to the next stage of their skills. As a course leader, you could listen to your students and find out what they are most keen to learn after the basic training to see which direction you should take your programmes in next.
2. Editing in Photoshop or Lightroom
For many people, editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom is a total mystery. Younger generations who are more likely to think of filters as coming from Instagram or Snapchat, and whose only experience of editing comes from a phone app, might find it even harder to get to grips with the new usage of familiar terminology.
It’s interesting to see how people attempt to use these programmes when they have never come into contact with them before, and you’ll soon realise that there are a lot of things you know which you could teach to others. Your course should be focused on a particular skill or genre: how to remove backgrounds, how to switch out skies, how to edit portraits, or so on. This will help your students to find you, and you could easily sell a large number of small courses which are designed to help students at different levels of expertise.
A good way to frame your course is to include an image that students can download and work with to follow along with the process, so that they end up with the same finished product and understand how to apply the lessons that they have learned.
There are a lot of Photoshop courses and videos out there, particularly on YouTube, so you’ll need a point of difference that makes people want to pay to try your course in particular.
3. Darkroom photography
If you started photography a while ago, or you’ve been privileged enough to get access to a darkroom in recent years, then you have skills that are part of a dying art. Most photographers don’t know how to use a darkroom these days, and there are plenty of people who are interested in picking up this knowledge because it’s considered to be pretty cool now that it is dying out.
A course could follow a simple set-up in which students go off with analogue cameras in the morning, taking pictures of something around them, or perhaps of a model put up in a studio specially for the course. Then, they can learn how to develop the film, before coming back after a break when the film is dry. The afternoon, or perhaps a second day of the course, would be dedicated to proofing and then printing some of the images from their films.
This is perhaps one of the most expensive courses to run, and the one which cannot possibly be done over the internet. That presents some unique challenges – but if your aim is more to pass on a skill that you respect than to make a lot of money, it could definitely be a fun subject to teach.
4. Photography business marketing
If you are making a living as a photographer, then you certainly know how to market yourself. You know how to set up an attractive website, how to make contacts in the industry and amongst potential clients, and how to use social media to your advantage. You understand the power of the referral, and how to get new eyes on your work so that you can increase your sales.
A lot of new photographers dream of setting up their own studio, but they just don’t have the marketing skills to get their name out there and start making money. For this reason, many of them fail. However, plenty of those that do are well aware of the fact that they need better marketing skills, and they are willing to pay in order to get a better chance of success. That’s where you come in.
You could run general courses and webinars, create step by step roadmaps for your students to follow, provide them with marketing materials such as templates, and help them to set up schedules and analytics so that they know whether their marketing is working.
Another approach is to offer one on one coaching with fellow business owners who need more of a personalised touch. This could allow you to charge much more for your services. A great method to earn the most money would be a hybrid model, with free material funnelling students to your paid courses and then encouragement to sign up for personal coaching if they feel they need an extra helping hand.
5. Modelling skills
Finally, even though you may spend all of your time behind the camera, you still manage to pick up a lot about what it means to be in front of it. This subject may require you to learn some new lingo and even have a go at modelling yourself, but you will know most of what you need just from the fact of taking pictures of other people.
There are a lot of people out there – both men and women – who want to break into the modelling industry and turn it into a career. There are also a lot more people who just want to look better in photographs, to improve their social media pages and build their confidence. They may also include actors, presenters, sportspeople, and others who expect to be in front of cameras in the future without any modelling experience.
The advice you can give them is all about how to pose, how to use their bodies and faces, how to move in front of the camera, and how to find their best sides and angles. You can teach them to look for the light, how to keep themselves looking at their best whilst still making eye contact with the camera, and how to vary their expressions and poses to avoid anything getting stale or repetitive.
This is great for you as a photographer, too – you might just find your next muse, and the best part is, they will definitely know how to pose after working with you!
There are bound to be even more skills than these that you have built up over your career as a photographer. Just remember, if you’re particularly good at something, someone out there will want to learn how to do it. Anything you know can be monetised easily through teaching workshops and online courses.