Today’s Lesson Plan: Updating the Basics of Photography Education

Today’s Lesson Plan: Updating the Basics of Photography Education

Opportunities for Photo Specialty Retailers Abound


The ability to play a serious role in photographic education has always been a strong suit for most retailers. Even the big chains have had the ability to create special classes for people interested in learning more about photography.

These days, though, a lot has changed. Whether capturing images with a cell phone, point and shoot or DSLR, digital technology has brought more people into imaging. Along with the mad frenzy to post and share images, the landscape for educational opportunities has grown significantly.

Opportunities for retailers to separate themselves from the crowd abound, but you’ve got to look beyond traditional photography and Photoshop—both areas that typically were popular with serious hobbyists. Consider these class options.

Photo Walks. It’s not a new concept, but the old, basic photography classes have been replaced with inspirational sessions in the real world, with a pro photographer as the guide. The class on darkrooms may be dead, but not one on composition, exposure and learning to dissect the world into imaging memories. Plus, a sponsored photo walk by a camera or printing manufacturer is a great way to have consumers test-drive their products.

Social Media 101. Most consumers have been self-taught when it comes to things to do with their images. They often don’t understand Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, just to name the big three. There’s a terrific niche here to help consumers understand how to share the images via a post-and-tweet stream. There’s even an opportunity to help them build their own Facebook page or website, for those more dedicated.

Simple Fixes. You don’t need a full course in Photoshop to master a handful of easy manipulations. Adobe Elements is a little over the top for most consumers, but not some of the basics, like cropping, sizing, adjusting exposure and composition. Even smartphone photography creates an opportunity for teaching people some great basics in photography.

Sharing 101. Okay, it’s not the most creative name, but it sure identifies an opportunity to help people understand the best ways to share their images.

Now What? Yes, I’m suggested a class in helping people understand all the things they can do with their images. For example, I just spent time with a neighbor helping him get his images off of his cell phone, into his computer and printing them or uploading them to Shutterfly. He had two images he wanted to use for a holiday card but couldn’t get them off of his phone and had no idea how to crop or improve the image.

Video 101. There’s always been a need for video education, but with this capability in every camera, including cell phones, there’s a greater opportunity for a crash course in filming.

Slides Shows. Personally I’m a big fan of ProShow Web from Photodex. I consider myself the low-tech poster child of the industry, and they’ve made it easy for anybody to load in images and put them to music. However, there’s a sweet opportunity to teach storytelling and help your customers through the process.

Hybrid Technology. The textbook definition in photography today, or at least the way I’m using it here, is combining video and still images into storytelling with a slide show. Again, this identifies a need for a little basic photography combined with video and the skills needed for a slide show.

Accessories 101. From selfie sticks and reflectors to small printers and even drones, there’s a growing need to help consumers identify the best choices for enhancing their images and their skills.

Building Your Portfolio. Portfolios or online galleries aren’t just for professionals. For example, ViewBug gives people a chance to build galleries and share them online. Plus, there is a never-ending stream of topic-driven contests running all year. SmugMug is another good example and also offers a level of support better suited to the working professional.

Projects for Kids. Everyone takes pictures these days, and there’s a stellar opportunity for a few consumer-centric retailers to offer programs for kids in photography.

Here’s a prime example. I had a neighbor many years ago whose eight year old was a survivor of a rare type of cancer. Every summer she had to spend a week in a clinic in Colorado where she’d be tested, repeatedly poked and stuck with needles to make sure the cancer hadn’t reoccurred. Her mother told me her daughter was having a difficult time dealing with the upcoming trip. This was back in the early days of consumer digital, at least in terms of what point-and-shoot cameras could do. I had a little Minolta DiMage in my stash at home. I met with the little girl and her parents and gave her an idea: document her summer trip to the clinic; take pictures of everything and everyone and then put them together to tell a story. Two weeks later I got the report: she rarely cried this trip. She was too busy taking pictures so she could tell her story.

The bottom line for education support these days: there’s plenty to offer, with my favorite being a hands-on class for families. I love the idea of a parent/child workshop with a minimal fee and coupons for additional products, which will bring them back into the store.

As always, it takes leadership in the retail community to make it happen!

Skip Cohen has been involved in the photo industry his entire career. In 2013 he launched, considered one of the fastest-growing sites and blogs in professional photography. Cohen is the president/founder of Marketing Essentials International, a consulting firm started in 2009 that specializing in projects dedicated to education, primarily in photography, along with social media support. Previously, he served as president/COO of Rangefinder Publishing, where he was responsible for Rangefinder and AfterCapture magazines, as well as the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Association and the WPPI Convention and Trade Show.