One of the things I learnt early on in my teaching career was creating an atmosphere of inspiration and success. The old adage that says ‘nothing creates success like success’ is incredibly true when learning photography. Small amounts of success or at the very least, perceived success, are great motivators.
Recently I was teaching a course on creative photography. The class was small and fifty something in age with three of the students greying males. Maybe I was stereotyping a little, but I did feel that I was going to have to work hard and push myself to the limits. But what I ended up doing was pushing them to their limits and what a great result was achieved. This is what helped created success.
1. Find a subject and shoot it in a hundred different ways
When I gave them this assignment after the first class I could see in their eyes that they thought it was impossible. This exercise is my all time favourite when teaching a photography class. The words one hundred seem to signify impossible yet it really challenges the students. What this does is push them to the limits and get them thinking outside the box. Normally when asked to shoot an image one will take half a dozen or so images and there it is. When you are forced to find new angles and ideas the creativity starts to come out and by image number 47 or 68 perhaps, it really begins to work. Once these images have been shot, the range to choose from for a top image is incredible. Invariably all of the students have got great photos and this is the beginning of their success.
2. Choose a stiffer assignment like a theme
Part two along the creation path of success in photography is a slightly stiffer assignment like a theme or a concept shoot. I tell them I need five photos of theme of their choice. Each image must be strongly connected to the others via a theme. Now all of a sudden they realise the possibilities of the 100 photo shoot and start to get really creative. Again the results bring a real sense of success to each student. They are starting to feed off the success of each assignment and begin believing in their photographic abilities. Nothing has changed in who they are except that they now have self belief.
3. Give them a photographic brief for a product shoot
By this stage they believe they can do anything so I hit them with a tough assignment that gets them thinking and challenges that self belief. I gave them a concept and told them to shoot five images around the concept. But, because they have come such a long way and have seen that they can create great images they are open to the assignment despite its toughness. There you have it, they deliver and create images that wouldn’t look out of place in a glossy magazine.
What I am trying to illustrate here is that in your learning journey set yourself assignments that are reasonable and you can successfully attain. Once you see your potential and achieve the little successes, each one will create more success and lead you deeper along your photography journey. The by-product of all this is that gradually the self belief increases, you become more successful and your images improve greatly. Happy shooting!