Should You Invest in Gear, Marketing, or Education?

What is holding you back from living your dreams? This is the time of year we set goals for the year.

Often we are thinking budget and about making equipment purchases. I think just as important as investing in yourself and your people through education. 

While it is easy to point to so many things that are obstacles for us, most of these are out of our control. All is not lost.

Chelle playing at the mall

All the books and articles on this topic point to taking control of what you can do. That is your superpower. Decide what you will do in the face of all that life gives you. 

Borrowing from the great Ted Lasso, “Don’t let the wisdom of age be wasted on you.”  

This year I turn sixty years old. I have been working in communications since 1982 while in college. I want to offer forty years of experience to you and your organization. 

“Scar Tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on.” – Henry Rollins 

When I was younger, I broke my neck, was in traction for a month, and then in a body cast for eight weeks.

Through the years, I have many more events that I learned from that made me who I am today.

That scar tissue of mistakes through the years was one way I grew and learned what not to do and what to do next time.

The other way I was learning was from others. Formal and informal education is what taught me just as much as learning from my mistakes and success. 

I am now in a time of life where I want to give back and help others. 

I want to help you realize your dreams and aspirations. I have found that I do have a gift for teaching. It has a great deal to do with the empathy developed from the struggles of learning something new. Also, it came from learning from others.

While working on my master’s degree in communications, I had to take education courses. I had specific classes for Adults, Youth, and Children, as well as courses on teaching principles.

Teaching lighting with the School of Photography with YWAM in Kona, Hawaii. photo by Dennis Fahringer

What this means is I had to demonstrate that I could teach all these learning styles to pass those courses. By the way, I didn’t just get by with these studies; I was thriving. I made the Dean’s list almost every semester for my studies. 

I have learned through the years of teaching in different environments that students learn best when they want to grow and understand a topic. Workshops are where I discovered that almost everyone was highly engaged and wanted to know the subject.

“Stanley’s able to combine decades’ worth of experience in photojournalism and commercial photography with an acute sensitivity to the needs of my photo students. He teaches here in an efficient hands-on way on lighting as well as business practices. Those are just a small fraction of his expertise. It’s a joy each time we invite him back to teach.”

– Dennis Fahringer, YWAM School of Photography

Often in school programs, students are taking courses because they are required. They don’t understand why and usually are not engaged with the content. 

However, the best part of the workshop is that the instructor has the time to get to know you better than in a presentation one does, for example, the Rotary Club. 

The four core learning styles include visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. You will find many who might break this down into more categories, but I think this works pretty well for understanding that people learn differently. 

I have found that you can incorporate those styles in a workshop environment. I have also discovered that when working with a person one-on-one, I can customize my approach even more to that person.

Here are some of the topics I teach on through the years


  • Digital Asset Management – Learn how to spend less time organizing and more time being productive with your assets.·      
  • Photo Selection – Learn how to pick the best photos that communicate your brand. Also, learn about model releases, copyright, and usage concerns so that you do not get into trouble when using photos.


  • One Light Workshop – Learn how to use on flash off camera. You will learn the difference between hotshoe flashes and studio strobes. Light modifiers will also be taught. 
  • Lightroom for the photographer – Learn workflow of shooting RAW with your camera to producing edited JPEGs.
  • Creating your own photo library – Learn how to use Lightroom or Photo Mechanic Plus to organize your photos for easy searching and finding of your photos.
  • Business [separate topics]
    • Basic overview of being a professional photographer
    • Marketing
    • Blogging
    • Newsletter
  • Sports Workshop
  • Posing Workshop

My guest lecture experience at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism taught me something

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80

This week I was asked to be a guest lecturer at the Grady School’s Advanced Photojournalism class on the campus of the University of Georgia.

I think this was my sixth year in a row I have spoken on business practices to this class.

While the content hasn’t radically changed from the first time I spoke to now, each year I try to do a better job than the year before in the presentation.

This year I just felt like I was off my game and did a poor job. You see I felt like I was preaching rather than teaching with this class.

Preaching vs Teaching

… the answer is more straightforward than any of them, and rests in the meanings of the words themselves. A kerux (the usual word for “preacher” in the New Testament) in the ancient world was simply a herald: a guy who rode into town to deliver significant news. A didaskalos (the usual word for “teacher”) was an instructor: someone who explained or taught something to someone else. There, it seems to me, is the difference. Preaching is proclaiming, heralding and announcing news to people – the gospel – especially (but not exclusively) to those who haven’t heard it before. Teaching is explaining things about the gospel that people don’t understand, and instructing them on how to live in light of it.

In other words, the difference between preaching and teaching is not shouting versus whispering, or illuminating versus bamboozling, or revealing versus informing. In a nutshell, it’s the difference between heralding and explaining. 

– Andrew Wilson

What triggered the Preaching?

When traveling abroad in a different culture and language it is quite common for people to talk slower and louder in their own language hoping this helps the person who doesn’t speak their language to understand. Often when it is apparent communication is failing we get louder, as if this somehow helps foreign language translation.
The questions and responses from some in the class were frustration being communicated about the content. 

“Where are you finding these clients willing to pay those prices?” was asked in different ways. After the class we had a real situation.  

A student had been asked to use one of their photos in a magazine. “What should I charge?” After talking through some of the pricing considerations we gave the student a range that might be good for her to use.  

She was being offered $25 for something that for the most part should have been paid $75 – $150 as a minimum price.  

“What do I do when they want pay it?” My response is to walk away. “But she will be losing $25 she could have had,” was the comment by another student. 

When students don’t like an answer and I have spent time explaining the content I realize the problem is like taking a science class without the lab portion of the class. They needed to see the proof of how this works.
Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/75

The need of a Lab

There was just not enough time to cover all the content and do a lab. I was stuck with knowing I have introduced some of the concepts of running a photography business, but they need to experience this first hand. 
I had made the presentation and even gave them all my PowerPoint notes they could download. 

The Key to Good Teaching

Great teachers don’t necessarily work harder at teaching than others as much as they care more about their students. Educator Ben Johnson said it best:

My experience is that good teachers care about students. Good teachers know the content and know how to explain it. Good teachers expect and demand high levels of performance of students. Good teachers are great performers and storytellers that rivet their students’ attention.

All of this is good but great teachers engineer learning experiences that maneuver the students into the driver’s seat and then the teachers get out of the way. Students learn best by personally experiencing learning that is physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. John Dewey had it right in 1935 when he espoused his theories on experiential learning.

So next time I will try and relax more when challenged. I will do a better job of demonstrating I care for them as people and fellow colleagues. I will also prepare some better stories that help demonstrate the concepts in a better way than I have done up to now. I will do a better job teaching and minimize the preaching next time.

After next time I speak to the class again, I will then dissect my presentation as much as I did this time and make changes once again, because I can always do a better job next time.  

For you Mac users: The best way of teaching is by example

Screenium software is available through your App Store on Mac for $39.99.

Don’t just describe a person what to do! It’s slow, it’s frustrating and chances are it’s easily forgotten so you’ll have to repeat that lesson at some point. Instead, record a screencast of your instructions and make it available online. What started as a one-on-one tutorial could help thousands of less experienced users all over the world.

I have done a few tutorials for folks and here is one I did on “Exposure Composition”

To make this I used the software Screenium.  It is available in the App Store on Macs.  It is very simple to use.

You can just record a: single window; a fixed area; fullscreen; or the mouse area.  If your Mac has microphone built in then just sit close to the monitor start the session and when you are done stop the recording.

You can then just post your video.

If you have a web camera hooked up you can also include this in the video if you like showing you talking to everyone.  Maybe you just want to use that to introduce yourself and then close the window or shrink it and then come back to it occasionally.

Here is one more video I did explaining depth-of-field. It has helped a lot of people see what DOF is all about and how to control it.

Now I think you can see from those two examples that seeing me walk you through it is much better than me just telling you something—wouldn’t you agree?