Photography, Filmmaking, and Design Explorations

Photography Workshop: Preparing to Teach

Next weekend, I’m teaching a photography workshop, so I’m thinking quite a bit about training and communication concerns. (Obsessing, actually.) From the logistics through to the message. My goal is to really communicate about photography’s “technical” side while providing a guided environment and structure in which people can successfully use what they’ve learned.

Terence McKenna (writer, ethnobotanist, and psychonaut) said:
“If the truth can be told so as to be understood it will be believed.”

I’m thinking about McKenna’s statement quite a bit because it clearly puts the responsibility and burden of communication on the trainer/storyteller. What I take away from his statement is: “If they didn’t ‘get’ it, you didn’t teach well.” With a caveat or two: The audience must be able to cognitively grasp the concepts—this is assuming the concepts have been reduced to simple, straightforward pieces of information. Additionally, the audience must want to ‘get’ the concepts—so, part of the work is to persuade people about the material’s worth.

Using the word “Truth” to describe training? A bit strong for this context. “Truth” is in practice a localized phenomena and “Truth” (unfortunately) comes burdened with moral connotations. It just doesn’t make sense here.

A little surgery nips and tucks the phrase so it works and reflects my point of view:
“If the facts can be told so as to be understood, they will be believed.”

In the end, one-on-one training is about persuasion. I think that a good trainer is able to persuade about a given topic, while being responsible for understanding and using the facts. I also believe that good training results in people being able to immediately do something with what they’ve just learned—while the new learning becomes self-perpetuating though future use. If it can’t be used right now and also going forward, what’s the point?

Keeping all that in mind, I’m refining my training plan to ensure I’m on target:

  • Facts should be communicated clearly and illustrated when possible.
  • Facts should be separated from matters of taste and style.
  • Facts should be recognized by a learner as useful and useable.

To improve retention, I’m approaching the session with these deliverables:

  • Presentation – visual and aural
  • Handouts – visual and tactile
  • DIY – tactile, visual, and aural

To keep personal accountability, I’m hitting each of these areas:

  • Full manual camera operation
  • Ability to light a scene
  • Ability to recognize light and leverage manual camera operation to shoot it
  • Fast and accurate operation of RAW developing software

To ensure some level of immediate success:

  • Work with attendees to shoot well-lit, “commercial look” sets
  • Process photos on-the-spot to check work and demonstrate results

What I want attendees to take away:

  • Real value from the workshop
  • Improved future shooting results through application of process/skills

Well, we’ll see how it goes. I have high expectations for what I can communicate effectively. But I’m up for it.

To shift gears, I’d like to take a moment and give credit where credit is due. Photographer and organizer Albert Heefner made this training session possible by listening to what I had to say about training, recognizing that my interests aligned with his interests for adding value to his Meetup group, and then facilitating the session. For this event he offered the studio space, published details I provided, engaged in the fun-fest that is “herding the cats” (getting attendees, models, and the MUA to come), and will be “production-managing” the actual event. This has let me focus on content and approach instead of having to focus on organizing and physical logistics. So, thanks for the work, Albert.

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