Photography: Private Lessons vs Classes

By Courtney Liddell

Focus. Click. Snap. Some individuals envision mastering these three steps as the main secret behind photography. Don't we wish learning anything could be that easy? While some photographers were able to become successful without taking classes, the best step to becoming a professional is to be taught by one. Now that we have that straight, on to the next hurdle: private or group classes?

There are many benefits to participating in private photography sessions with an instructor.

Pick Your Own Schedule

Of course, as we get older, finding time becomes more of an obstacle. One of the advantages of taking private photography lessons, as opposed to group lessons, is scheduling. Group lessons and classes are usually scheduled on set hours and days, which can be problematic if your schedule does not permit you to attend those classes. Choosing private lessons allow you and the instructor to set up times and days that are best for both parties. A win-win for both sides.

Focusing on Your Craft

Do you have a hard time focusing on the task at hand when others are around? Catch yourself chatting about the latest season of The Voice instead of paying attention to the instructor's lesson on exposure? If you answered yes to one of the previous questions, then private lessons may be your best bet. You will be able to focus more of your energy on crafting your photography techniques as you rise from from budding amatuer to professional photographer in a shorter period of time. In no time at all, your work will be featured in your favorite museum and magazine.

Individual Hands-On Attention

It is important to remember that as individuals, we all have different strengths and weakness; therefore, each skill and step can be assessed effectively and improved only through one-to-one mentorship. You can only get so much individual attention in a class. Furthermore, comparing your skills to someone else in the class who is more experienced or is a much faster learner than you (or who has more time than you to practice) can be a distraction, and is not the solution. Private photography lessons eliminates the distraction of competing against or comparing your abilities with others around you.

Work at Your Own Speed

Slow and steady wins the race, but time waits for no one. Private photography classes can be beneficial for those who want to work at their own pace. You won't have to wait until everyone is finished with Chapter Three: Negative Space, or you may need more practice to really perfect one of the photography basics. One-to-one lessons are all about you: just go at your own pace.

Now that we have outlined the pros for private photography lessons, let's look at the pros for group lessons.

More Interaction

We are social creatures by nature; therefore, we thrive on interaction. While being in a group photography class may not be optimum at all stages of your development (no pun intended), it will help feed that need. Also, your fellow classmates may be able to give feedback (right or wrong) as well as the instructor. More feedback can sometimes help develop talent.

Learn From Others

When you are in a class, the instructor may not be the only person to teach you something new. You may learn how to use your camera more effectively or develop an interesting technique from a classmate if you take group classes. Your classmates may be able to give you a different insight or perspective. Also, meeting outside of class socially may be helpful to compare notes about photography, and will most likely not cost you anything! Who says nothing in life is free?

The Dreaded Tuition

One of the biggest factors when deciding to take a photography class is the actual cost of the class. Is the cost by the class or by the session? Are there discounts available? Is there a registration fee? Will I be able to budget the classes and materials associated with the class? These are four of the many questions to ask yourself when considering the cost. Group classes can be either expensive or cost effective compared to private lessons, depending on the variables. Private lessons may not be as expensive as you believe if it’s only “pay as you go” (ie: discontinue at any time) with no registration fee. Below are examples of the cost of photography classes (prices do not include materials and will vary by studio and or instructor).

Group Classes

Photography My Way (Roseville, CA)

“The Basics” + “Exposure” Classes 1-2: $178
“Composition” + “Lighting” Classes 3-4: $258
“Took Class 1 & I want the rest!” Classes 2-5: $506
“All Classes” Classes 1-5: $545

Private Classes

Teachers 2 Go (Houston, TX)

$65 per hour (most locations)

Deciding whether to take private or group lessons will depend on the availability of a professional instructor to teach you, your ambition, your level of comfort, and your budget. Whether you decide to take group or private photography lessons, one technique will guarantee your success as a photographer: PRACTICE.