Cindy: Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your business.
David: I'm David Anderson. I'm a certified professional photographer based in Annapolis, Maryland. And as you might guess, I'm a "seasoned" photographer who has been basically involved with photography pretty much my whole adult life. I have a small studio in Annapolis, in a commercial location. I’m one of the few photographers that has a commercial location in this area. I also have a little photo school where I teach basic photography classes to amateur photographers primarily.
Cindy: What made you want to get started teaching photography?
David: I always had clients asking me if I could show them how to use their cameras or asking me about photography. And I thought, "I could make some money doing this possibly." I started teaching classes about eight years ago, I knew the information, but I didn't really know how to outline it and get a curriculum going. That’s when I found your course. That really helped me get everything off the ground. I put up a website and started marketing it.
Cindy: What type of photography classes are you teaching?
David: My most popular class is what I call DSLR basics and it's primarily using your basic digital photography curriculum. I've modified your course slightly to fit my teaching needs, and I've added some of my own images. It’s a 4-hour class, so I typically have it on weekends. I tried separating it into two 2-hour classes, but it was hard to get people committed to two different dates. I teach it typically on Saturdays, from 10:00 to 2:00. It's 4-hours because I also incorporate props. I'm not only giving them your workbook to fill in the blanks, I'm also showing the slideshow that you created. I have a camera hooked up to a TV monitor so I can show them my settings, and I have some props I use. I make sure each person gets a chance to use their own camera and make sure they know how to find the settings.
Cindy: How do you find students to attend your classes?
David: When I was first started Groupon was popular at the time. And since I was getting started, I actually used Groupon. We were selling the classes for about $99 each, and we were having some pretty large classes. My first few classes were held in a small hotel down the street and we had 24 students in a class. I also had a friend of mine, who's also a certified photographer. He also helped me teach those classes, but today I keep my classes limited to make them smaller. Now I primarily get the word out via e-mail. I have a pretty extensive email list, somewhere around 3000 plus. I email that out when I have a class coming up. Of course, I have my Facebook page. I also have a listing on Meetup, and I usually post on LinkedIn. Then I do some in-person networking around town here too. I use multiple ways to get the word out.
Cindy: Do you grow your email list specifically to get students or do you grow your e-mail list to get clients and then you email the clients about your photography classes?
David: I have a signup form on my photo school website. People call me regularly to ask about classes, and I add them to my email list. If I don't have a class coming up, I tell them I'll add them to the list, and they'll definitely be one of the first to know when I do set up a new date.
Cindy: You mentioned you charged $99 for the larger classes. Now that you have the smaller class sizes, do you charge more?
David: It’s $149 now. So, 149. During the pandemic I was keeping it limited because I have the classes in my camera room, which is small. I was keeping it limited to just four people. Now I'm back up to my usual six to eight people. It’s a good way to make $1000 on a Saturday morning.
I also do private lessons as well, where people can book those right on my website. They can either take an individual lesson of one or two hours or a series of lessons. Those range from like $100 to about $150 per hour, depending on which class they book. Once they come in for their first class, we set the date and time for the next class.
Cindy: You mentioned to me that you're teaching army photographers as well. Can you share a little bit about this?
David: What most people probably don't know is that all military photographers are now trained at Fort Meade here in Maryland, which is only about maybe 20 to 30 minutes from my studio. I started several years ago, actually before I was even teaching regular classes. At that time, it was still just the army located at Fort Meade. And they sent their combat photographers down to me. A group of maybe 10 or 12. Just to teach them a little bit about lighting.
About three or four years ago, the public affairs officer at Fort Meade contacted me and he has public affairs officers around the country. At first, he wanted my advice on buying new camera systems for them. He said most of them had journalism experience, but they had no photography experience.
I recommended camera system for them that I thought would be easy and hooked them up with a camera store. They bought several packages for all their public affairs officers. After they got them, he contacted me about doing training. He had his public affairs officers fly in from around the country and I taught full day class at Fort Meade.
It was essentially your class, but a little more extended. Since it was full day, a little more involved where we demonstrated how to photograph groups. A lot of them photograph retirement ceremonies and groups of people and that sort of thing. I don't think most of these are involved with combat photography, although we had both civilians and active-duty personnel and the military personnel in the class.
Cindy: What advice would you give to photographers that may be considering teaching a class, but might be nervous or unsure about it?
David : Well, first thing obviously is to get your curriculum. That's a good starting point as I found out. And if you want to modify it, you can do that. The way you've laid everything out makes it very easy for people to learn what to do and how to do it, a combination of workbook and slides. I think that's a good way to start out.
Then just figure out how to get the word out. That might be different for different people. The most effective thing for me is my email list.
I find that people pass that along to other people that they know who may not be on my list. And say, "Oh yeah, I've got a friend that's interested in photography and has been looking for classes."