With a career spanning 30 years, assignments in over 50 countries, shooting cover stories for TIME, Newsweek, Fortune, New York, The New York Times and Men’s Journal to name a few, professional photographer Joe McNally just might have a thing or two to say about the prospect of teaching photography on the side.
The first workshop I taught was as a replacement instructor for the renowned photographer Bill Howard. I was terrified, but despite my nerves, I found that I enjoyed the experience.
I like the interaction and company of photographers and it’s very gratifying if they come to me after a week of teaching, saying thank you, my photography is in a different place now.
“I enjoy the passion, watching the imagination behind the camera and people trying to get to the next level. Photography is an ongoing, lifelong series of experiments –
I am still learning too, and sharing that journey is cool.”
A lot of my workshops centre on the use of Nikon Speedlights. The onus for many photographers is to work small and light fast, so Speedlights fit well into that scenario. To develop an expertise in fast lighting set ups however, can take some time and practice.
The people attending my workshops are a mix of working professionals and enthusiasts. I have taught in front of audiences of up to 1000, doing demonstrations on stage. These talks are very different to in-depth workshops, where the participants produce their own work. These often run over a few days and of course, the fewer people there are, the more in-depth and personal it is. Currently I am teaching 14 students for five days, together with three assistants and a pool of staff who facilitates the group.
We organise workshops in-house where we are responsible for the logistics, but we also partner with companies like Nikon or other existing photography schools where I just plug into their infrastructure.
Like photography, teaching requires a mosaic of skills – you need to be unafraid to fail in front of people, have the confidence to step on stage and be able to relate. It’s more work than you’d imagine so you must be prepared for that.
You have to be able to market yourself as there is a lot of competition. The primary tool is the internet and social media. I have an accessible blog and a reasonably large following on social media – it’s all about putting ideas out there, and hoping they catch fire and are re-posted.
I will always try to keep my workshops interesting, lively and fun, because that way people learn more easily. Humour is a big element for me, so I either poke fun at myself or involve the audience and use them as subjects. People enjoy that and there is a lot of enthusiasm. I will always make it a worthwhile day of learning and laughs.
This is the last in our series on this topic. Missed anything? Go back and read part 1, South African wedding photographer, Brett Florens, and part 2, wildlife photographer, Roie Galitz, to see what they had to say about teaching photography on the side.