My Teaching Style
I'm often asked if I teach classes, workshops, or 1-on-1 lessons by photographers. Some are experienced in one area of photography but would like to learn more about landscape photography, while others are brand new photographers but aspire to create images similar to my own work. The answer, of course, is yes, I do teach, in all of the ways listed. I love teaching. I enjoy watching the lightbulb go off when a new photographer "gets it", and I enjoy watching the celebration a photographer does after successfully trying a new technique. I have found that different people learn differently. Some work very independently and simply want someone nearby that they can ask questions. Others prefer a much more directed approach, given step-by-step instructions, or having someone monitor their process to make suggestions. There is no wrong way to be a student. The key is to let the instructor know what you need.
I try hard to find out how each student I work with likes to be taught. In 1-on-1 situations, it's pretty simple. In a group workshop, it can be a bit more difficult to know for sure, but I will generally state up front that I try not be overbearing. I know some instructors who stand over a student's shoulder, watching everything, making suggestions. In the end, the students tend to churn out work that looks exactly like the instructor's. To some extent, that can be expected- heck, there's a reason we choose to learn from the people we do! But at the same time, I try to give my students the tools to find their own way of seeing and photographing things. To me, it's more satisfying to see someone discover their style while working with me, even if it's completely different than mine, than to see a student learn to mimic my style.
I find it very easy to communicate the technical stuff. How do you know which shutter speed to choose? What should my ISO be? etc. Then I take that information and try to relate it to a creative approach, so that one not only knows how to set an exposure, but how to set the exposure to achieve the visual effect he or she wants. I take a similar approach with composition. Generally, I'll let the student work a few angles and ask what they're seeing. I try to aid them in seeing possibilities, rather than telling them "compose this way".
"He knows how to teach and share his knowledge and passion for photography. At the same time he knows how to step back and let a student do her thing. I have learned to be open to ideas and experiment, make my own mistakes too. But at the end of the day I have always had some shots I can be very proud of." - Deb S.
"Several times Rick has been able to identify I was struggling with a concept and switched his methods to suit my needs and way of learning. Above all, I believe it’s most important to Rick that his students learn the material and enjoy the process. His positive attitude and encouragement have been vital to my success as a photographer. His communication skills are impressive; he has been able to explain many complicated and technical subjects to me in a way that made me not only able to retain the information, but also able apply it when necessary." - Kristen Wilkinson