There’s a difference between “Teaching” & “Schooling”

After our SNAPP event a couple of nights ago, I came home and started doing the usual check of websites/mail accounts/feeds before hitting the sack.  There’s this Meetup group that I co-organize here in Tampa.  In that group a couple of people had gotten into a dust up about an image.

Apparently one of the photogs in the group took an image of someone and was (in their opinion) heavy handed in the processing.  Rather than talk to this person in private, you get things that are posted like “Overzealous processing.. ” or “I didn’t  know doing hallucinogenic  was required before processing” or “this is what’s wrong with HDR”

My favorite of all of these was this one, which I HAVE to quote.. exactly:

(If I was just a dumb model, I wouldn’t have opinion on this matter; but I’m a professional photojournalist, and feel the compulsion to clarify some things) ….we’re photo professionals–we’re supposed to aspire to professionalism. But you will never see this sort of zealous over-shopping done in print because it is amateur…..  but I feel like no one is doing anyone a service if we never identify that this is a problem.

I sat there just wondering… “Man, that’s quite a bit of nerve ” (I actually said something a LOT more colorful than that). He prob made that person feel horrible! It made me think back to another set of events I experienced not too long ago.  Same vibe, different circumstances.

As much as i don’t want to have a problem with this – I do.  Here’s how I see it. There is a BIG difference between TEACHING someone and SCHOOLING someone. Want to know what the difference is? read on.

Here’s the gist:

  • There is a technique or style that is -overused- . Like waay too much.  Or that something isn’t used at all.. and should be..
  • People feel it upon themselves to stand on a specific side of an argument, then preach from that side.
  • People’s mission becomes to LEAD you to this solution.. which is their answer..
  • You will be treated like an idiot for overusing – or not using at all – said technique or style
  • People will use their (industry experience/book knowledge/SAT Scores/Letters of Recommendations/whathve you) to justify why you are wrong in doing X
  • People will feel the need to have their voice be heard, no matter what, calling you out on your heretic, misinformed, ill positioned, thoughtless ways through the use of a comment, forum post, tweet, what have you.

I love to teach.  It’s my favorite thing to do (I totally think it has to do with never being able to get on a Broadway stage or something…cause im a horrible actor).  I really like being in front of the class showing someone -something- that they can find beneficial.  I’ll share something, and try to say “So.. there it went, cool huh?”  At that point, my inclination is to just let –you- decide how important this is going to be for you.  I’d think that when you want to teach, you want to teach for the sake of teaching.  You’re not really taking a stand one way or another.. you’re just presenting stuff out there, and saying “Well what do –you- want to do with it.”   I guess its why I find the HDR argument fascinating.  I dont think there’s a ‘side’ you need to be on.  You just kinda learn the technique – and whatever side you happen to fall on – you do.  It’s not my job to advocate a position, or pass judgement.  It’s my job to teach.


Schooling is when someone uses that same amount of experience to say “Let me show you why you are misinformed”.  In the end, what they may be showing you may actually be of benefit.  The information may be correct, insightful, and revolutionary – but the intent is totally different.  You’re not being shown this information for your benefit. You’re being shown this information so you can see how smart that person is – their benefit.

I got my degree in Education back at SUNY Plattsburgh – and this was one of those lessons that resonated the most with me.  I remember my professor in our Block II Practicum talk about teaching, who it benefits, and how to present it, and how what you say can be completely discounted by your intentions.  It was our job.. she advised .. “To teach to inspire change.. not to get validation for what you already know.  No one likes a know it all, and certainly no one will listen to you.”  It’s one of those things that I try to keep in the back of my head when im teaching.



  1. Thank you for being an encouraging teacher! You do inspire us to keep trying and to do better all the time without making us feel dumb because we aren’t as good as others.

  2. Well said, my friend! I’m with you 100%.

  3. You made a good point!

  4. Thank you for pointing out the difference between teaching and schooling. I have to laugh when I hear there is a “wrong” way to create art, which is what most “schoolers” are doing.

  5. Very insightful and encouraging post, teaching it is not about us but about imparting knowledge to make them want to be a better person.

    Anyway like the stuffs that you are doing 🙂

  6. Well said, RC, well said.

    I think this goes right back to a conversation (that I believe you were part of) on The Grid a few weeks ago. Once an image is not bound by the ethical constraints of photojournalism, it is now art. And the technique(s) used to make it that have to ring true to the artist making the work.

    Will everyone like them? No.

    Does it matter? No.

    Using “schooling” to belittle the artist and his choices does no one any good, least of all the cause of creativity, and ends up diminishing the “schooler” in the process.

  7. Nice, RC! You’re right, the student is the one that has to decide whether to use what you’re teaching. It still should be taught.
    In one of the Kelby classes (Light Shaping Tools Pt 2, I think), Joe McNally said that there’s no right or wrong in photography, it’s all in what you’re trying to convey, and what you like.
    I think that those who wish to advise you what you did “wrong” have a little too much time on their hands that could be better spent out shooting!!

  8. Great post RC, and so insightful to your character and level of professionalism you bring to everything.


  9. Thing is, I have not seen this behavior in real life (not yet at least), only on the internet where people are hidden behind their monitors. It’s like their anonymity gives them extra confidence to be more obnoxious. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but some are just best kept offline if you will.

    I used to run an online gaming community for over 10 years, and I have experienced the same BS on our forums there as I have seen so far while learning to become a better photographer. Same stuff, different subject. We are talking adult people here…go figure.

  10. Thanks for your comments. I have dropped out of my local meetup group because most members use that approach. I have a lot to learn in photography, but being schooled isn’t going to help.

  11. Great blog, I see so many people who think their way is the only way. Its so easy for people to think there is one way and one way only to create

  12. I think it is funny that the photojournalist was applying his standards on someone else, who it appears is not a photojournalist. Maybe the portrait wouldn’t appear in the Washington Post but I have seen some crazy stuff in art magazines, not all of which I have liked.

    I think that you are right on the money when you talk about someone schooling someone else. It is usually just so that they can point out how smart they are and how little everyone else knows. The only problem is that people like that can rarely be shown the errors of their ways. They are after all, always right.

  13. Hi, Well Said:)

    I just got your book ” get your photography on the web”, and it’s AWSOME! i’m from denmark, og loove your D-town show allso.. Keep up the good work:)

  14. Can’t agree more, a good teacher insulates students from the teacher’s ego.
    Love your work, it has heart.

  15. amazing! artists telling artists how they should make art! I remember back when photographers told digital photographers that digital photography wasnt art. and it was ” cheating”. I guess Ansel Adams “cheated” in the darkroom, and thus it wasnt art!

    if you make it, someone will love and appreciate it, and thus buy it! …. get real all art is art! I dont like country music, but I cant tell country artists how to do their art!

  16. Good point and I agree with you.

  17. I just wanted to say thanks for your response and handling of the above issue with our photography group as well as what an honor is to have you as Co-Organizer for our local Meetup group… The inspiration and impact from your professor’s quote below is seen by your local support and community involvement on a regular basis. You are a positive role model and gifted teacher doing just what your professor set out to do! Her advise was… “To teach to inspire change.. not to get validation for what you already know. That no one likes a know it all, and certainly no one will listen to you.” You have been successful in keeping those thoughts in the back of your head when teaching. As those words and advise are so much of who you are today when you step upon that platform to teach and advise! Thanks again for stepping on to ours and for all you do and give to our group… 🙂

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