So You Want to Be a Photo Educator?

March 3, 2016

By Ben Sasso

I’ve been pretty freaking lucky. About three years ago, I decided to steer myself toward the education side of our incredible industry and have been lucky enough to be able to speak to my peers, host workshops, teach classes and meet way more photographers than I ever thought I would.

When Libby Peterson (an editor here at Rangefinder, and one of the easiest people to work with) reached out to me to write an article about how to transition from being a photographer to a photographer and educator, I thought I’d be writing about how most of my start in education came through pitching speaking topics to conferences, how I started my first workshop series or how I used to run my mentor sessions. Instead, I decided not to talk about what I did, but about how to do it successfully.

Think about some of your favorite photographers to learn from. What is it about them or their education that makes you so drawn to them? I have an ever-growing list of photographers I look up to as educators and I’ve noticed that most of the educators I look up to share three simple traits.

All photos taken at a styled shoot from Ben Sasso and Katch Silva’s CAMP! Workshop in Joshua Tree, California.
Photos © Ben Sasso


Some of the top educators in our industry are the farthest you can get from intimidating. Nobody’s going to come to you with a question if they feel like you’ll judge them for asking. Putting yourself out there is a scary thing (especially when you’re starting out in an industry that can be pretty abrasive at times). Invite questions, and answer them openly. Let people know how you do things, but be the first to admit that your way isn’t the only right way. 2 + 2 = 4 but so does 3 + 1. Show your excitement for sharing what you know and you’ll build a community that appreciates that openness.


Don’t let people see you as a salesman; let them see you as an educator. Sure, it’s great to be able to make money through classes, workshops, etc., but what separates a salesman from an educator is sharing liberally and for free. Host workshops and offer classes, but also share what you know without asking someone to pay you for it. Write blog posts, share tips on Facebook and answer questions when they come in. This pushes the community forward and helps you build one that will be more likely to invest in your paid education when they’re able to.


Nothing can give a young photographer the boost they need quite like a little word of encouragement from someone they look up to. Trust me, I speak from experience. Early on, I reached out to plenty of photographers to ask questions or tell them I love their work, and I can still recall who responded and who left me hanging. What might seem small to you could be huge for whoever’s on the other end.

These three things boil down to something pretty dang simple: Be in it for the right reasons. Great educators are approachable because they truly love helping other photographers along, they share openly because they’d rather push the community forward than make a quick buck, and they’re encouraging because they know how hard it can seem when you’re just starting out. Get into it for the right reasons and you’ll see that the other steps like pitching talks to conferences, hosting workshops, and whatever else you might do will be easier than you thought because you’ll have built an audience that respects you and knows that you respect them.