successful photography class

Do I have what it takes to teach a photography class?  Of course, you do, friend. You are the professional, my friend. You can step into your role confidently and rock this thang out! I promise. Implementing my four tips will help you feel more confident that you can teach a successful photography class.

Now, a little bit of pre-planning goes a very long way in terms of creating a successful class, “disarming” your students, and ensuring everyone has a great time!  Remember, that you set the tone for the class – so make it fun and plan ahead!

When they walk in the room, welcome them with open arms… plus coffee and mimosas!  Help them feel comfortable from the very start!  Have you ever walked into a room not knowing anyone or anything about the topic?  Yup.  Cue the nervous poops.

While it might not seem possible, never forget this one simple truth: your students will be WAY more nervous than you!

They might not openly admit it, but after eight years of teaching beginning photo classes, I can assure you it’s true!  Adults are frequently intimidated by the creative process, are terrified by technology, and are afraid to look dumb in front of their peers.  Combine all of these things and you have the trifecta of awful… aka: your photo class.

So make your class fun and as low stress as possible!  I play with my students and often treat them like little kids.  It may seem silly, trust me – I know what you’re thinking, but I can promise you that the more playful you are, the more open they will be to you and what you have to share!  Trust me!

Pre-planning will help you teach a photography class!

Any successful teacher knows that creating your content is only a small part of the process.  It’s uber important that you set your students {and yourself} up for success by planning ahead and implementing a few teaching tricks to ensure everyone walks away happy! These are easy solutions that will allow you to teach a photography class that is smashing success!


Yes.  I just yelled at you.  This is the number one mistake beginning teachers make.  A photography class should not be a three-hour monologue {can you just imagine?!}! You MUST shake things up and integrate active learning in order to have a successful photography class!  Any time I teach, I give a little bit of knowledge then give them time to practice.  Teach-practice-teach-practice… this ensures maximum knowledge retention and success!

• If you read no further than this paragraph, promise me you will stop lecturing.

• Lack of lecture will benefit your students AND reduce your stress!

Brain-based research confirms what teachers have known for years…  lectures are the LEAST effective form of teaching.  Once you start the lecture series, you become the “peanuts” teacher – just more white noise.

“lectures are the least effective form of teaching.”

As you develop your beginning photo class curriculum, promise me that you’ll give them time to practice! Not sure what that looks like?  Here’s a few simple ideas:

• have them help each other {ie: work with a partner and take portraits of each other using a narrow depth of field}

• ask questions and allow them to respond {ie: I’m photographing my son playing basketball, what settings should I choose & why?}

• give them a specific task to achieve {ie: take a photo using a slow shutter speed}

They MUST be able to apply what they’ve learned or it’s meaningless!  Do not forget this step as you plan to teach a photography class!

2. Send a pre-class video and survey to up-level the experience!

Save class time & get “boring” or “basic” content out of the way in a pre-recorded video. I have students come in with uncharged batteries, missing memory cards, and cameras tossed in a bag. My 20 minute pre-class video helps prep them for class and gives them confidence. This will allow you to provide an overview of the class, generate excitement and put the kibosh unprepared students.

teach a photography classAn intro video helps break the ice too. Many students have walked into my studio and said “I feel like I already know you!”  Win-win! This sets everyone up for a successful photography class.

Administering a pre-class survey will help you see their skill level and what they need to know. Spoiler alert: you’re going to get {just about} the same results errrrytime. Want proof? I conducted a nation-wide survey {with over 1k people chiming in} and asked them what they knew {and didn’t know} about photography, what they were willing to pay, and more!  I’m happy to share the results of that survey with you!  Just grab them right here!  The results are super informative!

3. Ask students to bring their manual {even if they’ve never read it}

Prepare yourself: you’ll see lots of different camera makes and models when you teach a photography class . It’s virtually impossible to know them all.  Having the manuals cuts down on googling {which is a total time-suck} and saves everyone stress & frustration!  Having that manual in-hand empowers them to help themselves, and each other when you’re looking for a specific setting or button!

4. Provide opportunities for students to take before & after photos!

One of the easiest ways to get people talking {and telling all of their friends about your photo workshop} is to have them experience success in your camera class.  But sometimes, “success” can be hard to define and, when they’ve learned a ton of new things they may be too flustered to even see the growth.  So it’s important that we provide them with a physical measure of success that tracks their growth!

teach a photography class {before and afters}Here’s what I do: have students take ONE photo on their PHONE at the start of class.  At the end, have them retake that same photo on their PHONE and BIG GIRL CAMERA.

Comparing those two photos side by side enables to see exactly what they’ve learned and gives them something to post on social media!  Don’t you love seeing a good before-and-after comparison?!  Yup – your students do too!  So make it easy for them to have something to share!

You know what else it does?

Makes you really darn proud of your students AND yourself!  This before and after set is from one of my former students Nikki, owner of Ruffles and Cuddles.  She needed high quality images in order to sell more dresses on her Etsy shop.  Look at that growth!!!!!!  If that doesn’t speak volumes to potential students – nothing will!

Pre-planning will help you teach a photography class!

These may not be the tips you’re expecting, but these are the things that I’ve noticed after 8 years of teaching beginner photography classes.  With some advanced planning and hard work, you can definitely add substantial income to your family budget by teaching classes a few times a year!  Ready to make it happen?! Grab my start-up guide to get a checklist of everything you need to do before your first photo class!

cyrissa sparkle society

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