Way back in 1992, when I originally started doing my courses in photography, I never realised how these same courses would evolve into what today I consider as my main job and passion. Although some courses and tuition were already being done by the only, at that time, organized photography group on the island, it was really unheard of for a person to teach photography in Malta as a freelancer!
How dare someone teach the profession and enable others to become better photographers! How dare someone deprive already working photographers of their livelihood by helping the ‘competition?’ What audacity for someone to facilitate the path of other ‘wannabe’ photographers towards building a business or a career in photography?? As if anyone who is in any profession has any God given right to stop anyone else from taking the same route that he or she, as a beginner, had first undertaken! Do you know of anyone who was born a photographer right away in his cot! Had all these short sighted detractors forgotten their humble beginnings?
Yes, all these accusations were leveled at me when I took the plunge and started teaching. Today, most of my critics are belatedly trying to do what I did years ago: yes – teach. I have always advocated that learning is important and I have eternally been in favour of a free market. Anyone who is capable and passionate enough has all my full support. Yet, currently, I cannot but cringe at the way that matters are shaping up. It really seems that everyone now is trying to teach photography and, although there are various persons capable of doing this in the right manner, there are a host of others who are just jumping in without any skills or background. Recent years have thrown up a spate of complaints from persons who are in some way being ‘duped’ into paying for photography tuition and then finding out that they are really learning very little or, worse still, getting the wrong information or guidance. There are even cases where courses where just terminated midway through their schedule without the students being refunded! Yes, unfortunately it is becoming a jungle and there is little one can do but attempt to educate the students BEFORE they go out and book courses blindly.
The answer boils down to common sense and, first and foremost, one needs to realize that a skilled photographer does not always make a good tutor. A good tutor needs to be organized, needs to know how to deliver and share his knowledge, and needs to keep abreast and on top of his game. Taking good pictures and being a professional in one’s work is necessary but a good teacher needs many other skills. With social groups and online marketing, it has become quite easy for anyone to create a course and diffuse it around the internet and attract students. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, it is a free country, but be aware, particularly of those who have no visible track record of teaching. A student can really pass through a nightmare experience. If you needed a doctor, would you go to anyone who advertises on social media? Would you blindly ask for a service from any company which pays for an advert in yellow pages or would you ask for referrals and recommendations? Do an exercise and look up photographers on Malta’s yellow pages – some of the claims that some advertisers publicize make you laugh (or cry, for that matter!) This is not just in photography, but in all other professions or service industries – it’s a sign of our times.
So how does one go about selecting the right course or the right tutor? In Malta it is rather easy. Just ask for recommendations, ask someone who has already been to the tutor that you are considering. There is no better advert than recommendation and word of mouth, particularly on a small island like ours, where everyone knows everyone else. Go for courses which are well structured and clearly map out what you are going to be taught and how it is going to be done. Look for professionalism in every detail.
So the next time that you are seriously thinking of going into learning photography, do yourself a favour, and research your tutor well. It will avoid you unsavoury experiences and a waste of time and money.
© Kevin Casha