How to Make Money with Photography: 7 Tips for Teaching Photography

7 Tips for Teaching Photography

You love creating beautiful photos for your photography clients but you struggle with getting clients. You’re tired of the ups and downs in your income flow in your photography business. Do you want to know how to make money with photography,  find clients who are the right fit, who will pay you what you’re worth.

If that sounds like you then you’re in the right place because I can relate. I live in Arizona and it gets really hot here in the summers. Between June and August the temperatures can reach 120 degrees. So, during these months we'd usually photograph very few clients. In the summers we survive financially by living off of deposits for future wedding photography clients. If money was tight what would happen was we would panic and lower the prices just to get the deposit. I don’t know if any of you have ever done the same thing. But you can imagine this turned into a vicious cycle which put our business in a downward spiral. And then we really hit rock bottom in 2011 when my daughter and I were in a car accident hit by a red-light runner.

We had hit the bottom and we didn’t know what to do. And so, around that time we had a lot of friends who wanted us to show them how to use their DSL cameras. We decided to start teaching a few photography classes. We were pleasantly surprised when in the very first month we made over $1000 teaching photography. And this was only from a few classes. So, we realized that teaching photography was a fun and lucrative way to make extra money and help us survive financially during the slow seasons.

Over the years we’ve been blessed teaching photography basics to adults, teaching photography to middle school, and even had the opportunity to teach photography to high school students.  I’m going to share with you everything that we’ve learned from our experiences including our top seven secrets.

Secret #1: You don't have to be an expert to start teaching photography

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that anyone with a DSLR camera can start teaching photography. You definitely need to know the basics of photography including how to use your camera on manual mode. What I’m saying is this...you will always be more knowledgeable than someone else on certain topics. So, why don't you just start by teaching what you know.

You’re going to teach things like how to use their DSLR on manual, basic camera settings, exposure settings, types of lenses and accessories. I think you’re going to be surprised how easy it really is. We were. In our classes, some students would arrive with their camera brand new in the box, not even knowing where to put the battery in. Now this is an extreme case, but still I'm talking basic stuff here.  Keep in mind, being able to learn something that you’ve been trying to learn for years from someone who feels like a friend is huge!

Secret #2: Teaching photography is not only about making money.

There are a lot of benefits of teaching photography than just making extra money.  There are three specifically that I want to share with you. 

1) Brand awareness and positioning.  Whenever you teach something you are perceived as an expert in the topic you are teaching.  This alone will help you stand out from your competitors.

2) Sharing the love of photography.  Teaching photography allows you to share your love of photography with other and even future generations if you decide to teach photography for kids.  The second one is you get to share your love of photography with others and even future generations if you decide to teach kids photography.

3) Traffic and potential clients. Ever wondered how to get photography clients?  Use your photography classes to get people through the door and show them your photography portfolio. At the beginning of each class, introduce yourself and tell everyone about your photography business. Be sure to feature some of your best images from your portfolio and tell them how you got the shot and any other personal stories behind them. Remember, this is your chance to market your photography business indirectly. Build a rapport with your students and show them that you are the expert. The next time they need a photographer you are going to be at the top of their list.

Secret #3: Define your goals of teaching photography. 

Define your overall goals and purposes for teaching a class. So, what are some goals? Like we talked about earlier, brand awareness, getting more photography clients, sharing your love of photography, and  supplementing your income are a few. You can teach a basic photography class, private lessons, a mom’s photography class. You can teach photography to kids and teenagers. And some photographers may find teaching iPhone photography is a great way to ease into teaching as it might seem less intimidating to you. 

Try to keep your goals for teaching photography aligned with your overall photography business goals. For examples if one area you are struggling in is how to get more newborn photography clients, perhaps you offer a class to young moms or expecting moms.  Or if you want to get more family photography clients perhaps you teach a photography for kids class. Or if you specialize in senior photography or senior portrait photography, you may want to teach photography to high school students. I think you are starting to get the idea. :)

Secret #4: Pricing your photography class.

How much should you charge for your classes? This is a question I get asked quite a bit. It's actually a little similar to determining how much to charge for photography.  Think about your financial goals you want to reach. How much do you need to make? What are other people in your area charging?  How much can your target market handle?  Who is your ideal client (or in this case... your ideal student)? 

Still you may be asking but how much do people charge for photography classes? Okay, here are some general guidelines. For a private lesson, like a one on one session, you can charge up to $300 an hour. For an adult class, maybe up to $250 per student. And for a kid’s class, maybe up to $250 for a semester club. And a kid’s camp, maybe up to $250 for a weekly camp. Now, on average what I’ve been hearing from a lot of photographers in my facebook group is that they’re probably averaging around $95 per student for their classes.

 Lets take a look at some things to consider when pricing your photography classes:

1) Classroom rental fees (if any).  You’d be surprised, there’s a lot of places that will give you their location for free such as a library.  And there are some other institutions that might want foot traffic to their campus in hopes of getting new students, so they might be willing to offer you a free classroom, or even offer a discounted rate.  Then there are lots of co-working spaces or co-op studios that you can rent from.  That's what we do. 

2) Paper and printing costs. These should be fairly low.  If you're using one of our digital photography curriculum bundles, all our lesson pages are able to be printed at home on a desktop printer. Some photographers like to have them printed and bound at an office supply store.  We found that we just got nice clear folder and we put a sticker with our logo on the top.  

3) Advertising costs. If you’re doing any advertising, like Facebook advertising or printing flyers to pass out in the area, you'll want to factor those costs in to your class fee as well. 

Remember: Photography classes are a great incentive and can be used as an indirect way to get more photography clients. It’s all about being creative in how you present and position your offers.

Secret #5: Finding students is easier than you think. 

Who are you going to be teaching? If you’re teaching adults you can teach retirees, hobbyists, and moms. If you’re teaching kids photography you might want to consider teaching an after-school club, a 4H club, a homeschool co-op, a YMCA community program, or even a summer camp or kid’s college. Where we live my daughter attends a kid’s college during summer at the local community college. For example, she took a class on how to make pastries because she loves to bake. 

While we're on the topic of teaching kids photography, I want to mention camera recommendations.  Do they really need a DSLR for the class? Well, to be honest, not a lot of parents, especially the parents of the younger children, are going to buy a DSLR camera for their child or even loan them one. Because parents want to make sure that their kids are going to stick with a hobby long enough before they invest in a camera. Or they’re concerned that the camera might get stolen if they take it to school or might even get broken. For younger children, the really young kids, we recommend a VTech Kidizoom Duo Selfie camera. And that’s around $49. You can buy it on Amazon. For older kids we recommend the Fujifilm FinePix XP80 which is around $140.  And then the teenagers, you can recommend a Rebel T5 with an EF-18-55mm lens. When they're at the teenage level the parents are usually a little more willing to invest or the kids might have some money they saved up and want to invest themselves.

Back to our tip for secret #5 finding students.  Start with your own photography clients.  Send out an email to all your clients and let them know that you’re considering teaching a photography class and ask them to reply to you and respond back if they would be interested in attending. Reach out to your social media channels, such as your Facebook page,  your Instagram, your Twitter. There are also local Facebook groups that you can join such as local moms groups or homeschool groups.  You could even start your own Facebook groups for people interested in photography in your area. You can network with complimentary businesses, local schools, and homeschool co-ops. You can reach out to co-op photography studios if you have some in your area. As you can see there are a lot of opportunities to find students.

You'll want to keep your photography class sizes small an manageable.  

This will help you not feel so overwhelmed and allow you to have more time to help people individually which will ultimately give your students a better overall experience. And for us and our classes, we try to keep them to a minimum of ten to twelve people for the adult classes and around the same for the kid’s classes. For the kids, maybe not more than fifteen students.

Secret #6: Preparation is key!

How will you prepare for your class?

1) Find and book your location well in advance. You’re going to want to market your classes a minimum of one month ahead of time. Especially if you’re considering having classes during the summer. A lot of people like to travel during the summer, so they want to book their schedule out ahead of time. If you’re going to market your classes at least a month at a time, you’re going to want to find and book your location at least a month ahead of time as well.

2) Keep track of your students as they sign up. There are a lot of online apps and platforms to keep track of things and organize your life. But for me, I’m still kind of old school. I like to keep track of things on paper. So, what I do is I have a separate calendar, planner, organizer just for my photography classes.  It’s a small one that I can carry around with me. So, if someone calls and registers for a class I can go ahead and mark in that date their name. You can also do the same thing inside your phone.  Once the class is full make sure to make it known so that you don't overbook your classes. You can do this on EventBrite. If you’re using EventBrite you can tell it how many students you want to have. And then once that date and time is full it won’t let anyone else register. 

3) Arrive early on the day of your class. You want to arrive early to your class on the day of. Allow time for traffic, time to set up the chairs, tables, PowerPoint, etc... And time to clear your mind before the students arrive. You don’t want to show up all rushed and out of breath.

4) Print your materials ahead of time. Print your materials no later than the day before your class. This is something that we’re guilty of doing...printing on the day of the class. And inevitably something will go wrong. Either we’ll run out of ink or the printer will jam or even worse break. So, don’t do this. You’d be surprised at how many photographers email me and they haven’t even downloaded their lesson pages until the day of the class. So, don’t do that. I’m just warning you now. :)

Secret #7: Materials and other items you need for your class. 

You'll need a clipboard and sign-in sheet to collect student’s info. Think about how you’re going to follow up and market them. You want to make sure to at least have their name and email address at the very minimum. You want to have pens and pencils. For this you can think of marketing. Maybe you have your business name or website embossed on the pencils that you’re going to pass out for them to take notes. You want to have a laptop and a screen for presentation. You want to make sure to have enough chairs, a way to collect payment at the door if you're allowing this option. If you want to collect payment at the door maybe you use Stripe as your credit card processor and you can collect payment on your phone or iPad. Don't forget to have your camera equipment and your lenses available so you can use them as props and show the students the different types of lenses available and what they do. And you want to consider having an assistant. Now, for our classes it was myself and my husband. And he did most of the teaching and I was the assistant. I got everyone signed in. And I went around to help everyone when they were finding their settings. And then I was also an extra body for when they wanted to practice taking pictures. Another thing you want to consider for your class is water bottles and swag. Of course, here in Arizona as I mentioned it’s hot... so we have water all the time so people don’t get dehydrated. You can think about having sponsors or even put your own logo on the water bottles with a special sticker or printable water bottle wrappers.  And then for swag maybe have a swag bag. Think of sponsors in your area who may want to contribute items or can contribute coupons or flyers or things like that and put it in a cute little bag. And then insurance. You want to have liability insurance. It depends on the location but most places that you rent, especially if it’s a co-op studio, will require a minimal amount of liability insurance. So, check ahead of time to make sure you have all the things you need. And finally you'll want to make sure you have the proper curriculum for teaching photography. This is where our curriculum comes in. We have a curriculum for every kind of class you want to teach whether it's kids, moms, teens... and we even have an iPhone photography curriculum bundle. 

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