PHLEARN MagazineLearning To Teach

Learning To Teach

Crap. They’re here.

After months of waiting, preparing and anticipating this moment, it has arrived.

The fresh new batch of college photography students are now staring blankly at me. All those faces looking to me for hope in creating a photography career.

I’m a college professor teaching Photoshop and Image Editing to students in Toronto.

Having spent over 30 years as a photographer, I did pretty well in the business. I didn’t win the shiny awards or have images hung in national galleries, but I did manage to feed my kid, own a nice house and pay cash for the latest shiny photo toys I kidded myself I had to have.

In a way, my past success presents a problem for my students today in this classroom; it creates an expectation that they’ll reach similar success. While I had no real formal business education, I somehow managed to be comfortable in a field that often leaves the creative hungry at the curb.

Photography in 2017 is nothing at all like photography in the 1980s when I started. To say new technology has impacted it is like saying the internet has changed how we communicate. It’s simply too simplistic. This brings me to the problem at hand with those staring at me for advice; how do you navigate and survive in a business that now sees images selling for pennies?

First off; focus. You can tell on day one who will be lost in the first month. The student texting during the intro? He will be lost. His focus is already scattered and day one isn’t even over. If nothing else, being a photographer, or any business for that matter, takes 100% of your attention when it really counts. Smartphones are great for business, but are a death blow for people with a short attention span in a learning environment.

Next up in class is the proverbial “tell me about yourself portion”. As I roam the room discussing goals and aspirations in the world of photography, I am inspired by the drive and ambition many people have to simply be creative. It reminds me why I started and emphasizes how much better my working life as a photographer was for me than my counterparts in the world of cubicle existence. This is quickly shattered by the student who tells me they want to be a full-time photographer for National Geographic magazine. I then think; should I burst the bubble on Day One? National Geographic doesn’t have full-time photographer positions. They use freelancers on contracts. How did you decide on giving up two years of your life for a program to train for a job without investigating if it even exists? I’ll leave that for week two, I suppose.

Day one winds down and, as the students leave the room, I respect those who leave with cameras in hand, full of creativity and energy. I like to think that, despite the fact becoming a photographer has never been easy, there are many great images to come from a select few of these students. Anything is possible and, if they remain driven and focused, there will be a place for them in this field. I just need to help guide them a little.

Learn more about Dave and his work at his website.

Dave Starrett

Dave has been shooting people places and things in Toronto for the past 25 plus years. Working from a very comfy Holmes on Homes studio; his quirky nature and odd dog have been making clients happy and producing impactful images seen around the world.

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