A phrase I've always laughed at because it's kind of true! Well, that was what I thought anyway.
Ever since I began retouching, I wanted to do nothing else. Obsession, I had it.
I didn't believe what I had to know was reason enough to teach someone else how to retouch their own images. That felt a bit too pretentious to me. After all, who am I to tell anyone else? Plus, I'm a working retoucher, remember? Why do I need to teach? I don't need the money. Plus, wouldn't educating others just be giving away my secrets? That would hurt my business.
My shallow way of thinking stopped there, until people kept asking. First, it was a few whispers in suggestions followed by a a request from someone I couldn't walk away from. A team leader of the game World of Warcraft was an avid Leica shooter who enjoyed portraits and wanted to see what I did. My story of how I began and how that happened can be found here.
That was my first experience in the world of education. From there, I went on to being interviewed in person by sites like SLR Lounge and Framed. I started to test the waters with smaller workshops and eventually groups like ASMP. That took my teaching abroad in other countries, educating commercial studios, working with my idols on big scale workshops, and eventually to Creative Live and so on. At the same time, my career grew even faster.
So what was it that convinced me that it was something worth doing to begin with?
1) A Better Working Industry
My selfish mindset took a quick turn when I realized the impact demonstrating what I knew had. People easily fall into bad habits and they are always searching for a better way to do something. With improper guidance, this can be difficult in a sea of options, many of them leading to strange YouTube videos. Learning the proper techniques gave people the ability to produce better results on their own.
The second part to this was my favorite element. Photographers not only produced better work, they helped set a standard of better quality and also educated their own clients on what was possible. When you educate the working photographer, they in turn spread that knowledge to their own clients. Whether that is the art director, editor of a magazine, or even a makeup artist. Everyone benefits through transparency. It trickles down back to me on what can or cannot be done, or what should or should not be done! Sometimes, even they know, but they need someone to say it out loud to make it concrete.
Suddenly, it started becoming clear on why I should do this.
2) A Higher Level of Knowledge
I've been extremely fortunate to travel to teach what I do. Not on my own pursuit, but on request from other groups and individuals.
I learned how each country has a completely different aesthetic as far as quality, inspiration, and ideology of retouching and photography. For instance, traveling to the Scandinavian countries, they really have a unique balance with color work and keeping skin and detail as natural as possible. The balance is delicate, and much different than one I have found in other countries that like pushing things more.
Understanding these differences allows me to keep things in perspective on my end and also educating photographers on these differences as well. It also brings light to the talent in these countries how other people do it in theirs. It opens their eyes and mine in the process.
On the note of self-growth, these classes opened my mind to learning more than I had ever imagined. Even after 10 years of daily Photoshop, I didn't think I could learn a lot more. I was wrong (surprise).
I treated each class as an open environment. It wasn't me teaching to everyone, but an open invitation to share what they had known as well. Along the way, we all shared different methods on common problems and everyone benefited from it. Nothing was taken as an offense, and I welcomed ways to improve what I did too. I began to realize that I liked teaching so that I could also grow from my students. And in turn, this gave me a pool of knowledge that I could share with everyone else that came ahead.
3) Student Growth
The final nail that sealed the deal for me was actually seeing people grow from these techniques. I would remember revisiting countries where I had been the previous year or two and meeting some of my students. They showed me their latest work and what my workflow had done for them. The results were inspiring and that meant it was working.
My students are primarily working photographers. And they have told me that this increase in quality and performance had directly increased their sales. It allowed them to provide for their families and open opportunities that aided their own success. I still get e-mails daily on stories that just make me proud.
Teaching isn't something I rely on for income. In fact, I lose money having to say no to jobs and telling my regular clients I'm not available for a set of particular dates. It's a lot of stress working on the road, managing jobs, while still finding enough time to teach. I also don't price my own workshops at a point where it's unreasonable or more profitable than working. But there is no better feeling giving someone what they've been looking for, for their own growth and for all the reasons mentioned.
Don't take for granted what you know, showing others the way doesn't have to be looked down upon. You can do and teach and that is great!
Those who do, can teach as well, and that teaches everyone to do as well.