Teaching Photography to Beginners

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Has someone you know purchased their first camera, and asked you for advice or instruction? Did someone see a photograph you took and ask you how you did it? Do you find yourself with the opportunity to provide a fledgling photographer with direction in their quest to improve upon their skills? Here are a few tips on how to teach photography to a beginner.

Have patience. This is probably the most important skill to have when teaching. It can sometimes be hard, when a photography concept or subject is second nature to you, to remember that it hadn’t always been second nature. At one point you were at the same skill level as the person you are teaching. So if a person is having a little bit of trouble grasping, say, depth of field and f-stops, go slowly and be patient. Explain as many times, and provide as many examples, as it takes for your student to have his “light bulb” moment.

Teach one concept at a time. Try not to overwhelm your student with a bunch of information all at once. Pick one subject and explain it thoroughly, before moving on to the next subject. Choose a linear way of teaching that allows each subject to build upon the next. For instance, instruct your student about aperture, then about shutter speed, then demonstrate how the two work together to impact a picture’s exposure.

Explain, then demonstrate. Have your student write down the information you are providing, then have them immediately apply it. Different people learn in different ways. Some people grasp information when it is provided to them in lecture form, some people learn better by being shown, some folks learn by writing things down, and some people learn best by applying the information themselves. Most often it is a combination of these things that really allow a concept to sink in.

Use real life/real time scenarios. Practice photography concepts along with your students, and help them to apply the information in real life, real time circumstances. If you’re providing information best applied in a studio setting, set up some still life shots. For outdoor landscapes, have a destination or two in mind. Help your students understand how to adjust their cameras to accommodate a variety of scenarios, and give them opportunities to apply their new skills immediately.

Let them teach it back to you. One of the best ways to permanently lock in information, is to teach it to someone else. Do a little role-reversal with your student and have them teach the concept back to you as if you were the beginner, and they were the expert. Once you both have reached this point in the learning process, the student can come away with great confidence in their own photography abilities.

Photo credit: “Student shown here” by Mike Baird on Flickr Creative Commons.

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