Your Attitude Determines Your Success

Photo of a flowing Red Curtain and Window at the Louvre, ParisLeica M9 camera and Leica 24mm f1.4 M-series lens. Exposure Details: 1/25 second @ f4.8 ISO 100.

Over the years I've worked with literally thousands of students. For the most part the experience has been very enjoyable, at least from my perspective. In larger classes, particularly the ones at formal college level courses where I no longer work, I found I could classify my students into 6 distinct groups. And, while some folks display characteristics that can, on occasions, see them cross camps or display characteristics associated with more than one student-type. 


Of those there is one type whom I used to battle with, from day one, to listen to basic wisdom that I've gained over the years, often through bitter experience. I often run into them, years later, where they proceed to tell me the way things are in our industry. They are simply re-canting what I told them during our first conversations. Maybe it's their way of saying I did understand, but it actually comes across like I know all this stuff and, now that I'II telling you, our roles are reversed. It's a bit like "Now Obi Won, I Am the Master". It's a tad sad, don't you think. The point is I was only trying to help, to provide a non B.S. opinion of the industry as it is, as opposed to how people would like it to be.    

As a contractor or employee you really don't make a lot of money teaching photography. That's not to say there isn't money in it. You're just not the one getting the lion share of it. Its true to say that, at least when dealing with adult students enrolled in part time or short courses, most tutors make less money than the majority of their students. And, you'll know within seconds of your course beginning, just how open participants are to you and the information you want to provide them with and how many are pre-judging you based on the way you look, dress and, of course, by the camera equipment you use.

I've learned that, to protect such folk from their own negativity, its important to be able to project yourself in such a way that impresses them while still being true to who you are. Its all about maintaining a degree of respect or authority, not so much for your own self esteem but as a way to engage with the group and, at the same time, protecting the majority of the class from the negativity of one or two within the group. You can't always expect to win everyone over, but its important to do what you can to protect the more vulnerable elements of the group. And, in a world where old-school discipline is largely frowned upon, student respect is more important than ever.

One of the things about having a calling to teach is that you desperately want to prevent others from suffering in the same way, and for as long as you have. It may have taken you decades to acquire your skills and achieve a degree of success, but your students have an expectation that you'll give them what they want, which is of course often quite different to what they need, within a few short sessions.

Each class needs to be fun, without sacrificing order and structure; informative, without pushing participants too hard; and practical, while still providing the fundamental theory in visual, audio and written forms. And all this needs to occur within a few short hours. I tell you teaching is not for light weights.
Its just such a pity that some folks only want you to tell them what they want to hear. And that's, ultimately, how they'll judge your abilities as a teacher.

I guess we all remember teachers we've been exposed to over the years. We judge them all, for better or worse. I certainly remember my favorites. In fact I've made a point of tracking a few of them down and thanking them personally. They didn't all remember me, but that's OK. It's not about me. We all need positive reinforcement and the only feedback institutions seem to provide these days is negative feedback. Have no doubt there's more than a little power play involved in that process.

Anyway I'm so glad that these days I work with folks who actually want to be there. And I love it, more than ever. I have a few old friends, whom I've remained close to for many years. Social media has allowed me to come into contact with great friends from years gone by, and that's been great. I've meet so many wonderful people, who share my passion for photography, that, together with my family, travel and personal photography adventures have made my life full indeed. The fact that my social media efforts have allowed me to reach many thousands of people around the world has changed my life in ways that are hard to describe. Thank you all.

So, whether you're a tutor or a participant, you are responsible for the success of whatever endeavor with which you're involved. We all need to be open minded and do what's best for ourselves, which isn't always easy, and the ones around us. At the end of the day, we make our own reality.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru