Architecture, Photography, Teaching

Learning to Teach

One of the reasons I decided to pursue a Fine Arts Degree was so at the end of it I could do an additional course and learn how to teach.  I thought it would be a good way to earn some money as I pursued my art career.  Well the additional course didn’t happen, but teaching has.  I started teaching kids how to do art, but after about 2 years, it stopped happening for various reasons.

Then almost two years ago I decided that I should teach photography.  Someone I knew at the time suggested I contact Living & Learning Nillumbik in Eltham.  It has been a great experience for me, and the staff there have really nurtured me through the whole experience.  I really love teaching, but I have had to learn some things along the way.

Some of things I’ve really had to work on is believing in myself, believing in what I know and sharing it.  Not always easy, the first that is.  I also recently learned something which was new, that I need to be careful showing my images to my students.  If we go out and take photos and then I show them what I do, it didn’t occur to me that some of them would be put off, or decided that their images were no good.  So in last weeks class we did architecture and went to the local library in Eltham, fantastic building.

LeanneCole-classes-20140315-2860As a single building to help teach people how to photograph architecture, it is great. (In all my classes the class takes photos) There are lots of lines, shapes, and interesting art works all around it.  It was fun doing a small demonstation and then letting them all just go and take photos.  I walked around and made sure that they got help if they needed it.  I did get a chance to take a few photos myself.

After the class was finished I didn’t show them the images I had taken.  I decided to let them wait until after they had shown me theirs, which they will do this Saturday in our next class. I did, however, ask them if they would like me to process one or two images and show them what I would do to them?  The idea was to do it during the week, which I have now done, and then show them to them on Saturday.  I will probably do the original and then the processed one, so they can compare.

I thought I would show you what I have done here today.  I am going to put them in a gallery for you.  Well in a minute.  I just wanted to say that I do love teaching, and it has been a surprise to me how much I enjoy it.  The class I have at the moment are fantastic.  It is my first time doing a short course like this, and it is just wonderful.  I hope they are enjoying it as much as I am.  I am excited that my next course for next term is also filling up, if anyone is interested, go to my website for details.

Here is that gallery.  Oh, and before anyone asks, it was a very overcast dark day.


  1. Gorgeous photos. I so wish I could be in your class. I’m afraid I know very little about architecture photography but would love to do more of it. I love your processing as always!

  2. i wish you every success in the teaching part of your professional life, you clearly have a lot to offer, and are in tune with what works and what doesn’t. i am sure both you and the students will find this very rewarding (i speak as a retired teacher)

    • Thank you so much, what a lovely thing to say. I hope I know, but I am picking up on it as I go. I am surprised at how much I enjoy it.

  3. leecleland says

    Great architectural shots and looks like a fantastic place to use for teaching. I think that is a good idea to get the students to show their images first and then show yours and then how you processed them. It will give them more understanding of what you can do once you have a good image and should lead them to look closer at what they are including in the frame.

    • Thank you Lee, I hope so, I was very worried when the student decided their images weren’t good enough after seeing mine, not a good thing at all. I had to spend a lot of time explaining that I have been doing this for a very long time. I like this idea of the processing for them, it does give them some idea of what you can do to an image.

  4. I bet you make a great teacher and I think its really great that we never stop learning too! Come to think of it, we always had to ask our teachers to show us their work. Never thought of it like that before, but very sensitive, considerate and wise :)

    • I hope so Robyn, you can never tell it about yourself, but I hope I am. I am starting to see it isn’t a good idea, though I show work, but usually not of places where they are taking photos. Thanks Robyn. :)

  5. I really like that bottom left photo, and the walkway one too. Taking one of your classes would probably be fun!

    • Thanks Jen, it is an interesting place to take photos. I hope it is for my students, thank you Jen.

  6. Awesome, Leanne — so glad you’ve gotten back to teaching. It’s a pretty great profession/pursuit. Cheers — Steph

  7. Very interesting, I too did a Fine Art degree, which ended up with me making films, but the foundations of understanding composition and so forth are useful in any art form, and, about 10 years after completing my degree I went and did a Post Grad Art Teachers course, I did it so I had an understanding of formal education so that I could do projects not only in the community but within educational institutions. One of the things I learnt on that was the planning and structure required and that in the hour with a group of maybe up to 30 teenagers they have to come away with something worthwhile, quite a prospect!

    • Funny where we all end up after our degrees. I am thinking of doing some more formal stuff. Living and Learning have been fantastic taking me through the whole process. I only teach up to 10 people so small clases, but I try and make them comfortable with taking images, and also to have fun. Thanks Tim.

  8. Teach. It seems that everyone wants to teach these days. I’ve always thought it must be a remarkable feelings to teach – to share what you know with others and enlighten them about everything around them. I really like the upshot of the trees and dark clouds. Very ominous, looks like something’s about to fall down from the sky :)

    Hope your week has been well, Leanne. My job that I started a few weeks back is taking a lot of time from me. Can’t go out and explore as much as I want to and it’s boring sitting at a desk. On the upside, new camera soon. Yes, I keep saying that, haha :)

    • It is a remarkable feeling, also kind of scary, the feeling that I am not good enough, but I have taught enough people to know now that I do like teaching. You mean the one of the top of the fence, a different kind of stay out fence, it was so lovely, so sculptural. If you ever get chance catch the train out to Eltham and take a look at the library. It is a pretty amazing building.

      Yes, my week has been good, Nikon has lent me a Macro lens to play with for a couple of weeks, so I am a bit excited, new toy to try out. I hope the new job settles down soon and you can do more. Ohh, camera soon, can’t wait to see what you get. If you want it, you will find a way to get it. :)

      • Yeah, the fence one was my favourite (2896). I hope to do shots like that, that bring out haunting elements someday. The feeling that we’re not good enough…that is a very scary feeling. I believe self-belief, confidence and just-do-it mindset is the best medicine for this. Can definitely see you have these qualities through your blog, you blog so well and know your craft.

        I am looking forward to time after my job ends mid-year. Saving and planning a month of doing nothing and just wondering around Victoria so I might just come up your end of town. Considering getting a Nikon myself, but then there are so, so many other great cameras out there ;)

      • I like the fence one too. I wanted the statue to be better, but the light coming through the tree really ruined it. I might go back in winter. Thank you so much Mabel, that is a great thing to say about my blog.

        Sounds great, you better let me know you are coming, haha. I love Nikon, and have had a great relationship with them, so that has always been really good for me. I just find Nikon so easy to use, but that is my perspective. Thanks Mabel.

  9. I can hear your enthusiasm Leanne ! How lovely to be able to share your passion for photography with these students . I’m sure you are right about showing them some of the different ways to process images , whether the final result is realistic, fantastical, surreal or a jumping off point to something else it will mean endless opportunities for their own individual creativity . Nothing quite like an inspiring teacher and I’ve no doubt you are just that :-)

    • It is fantastic Poppytump, scary too, I am always worried that I am misleading them, this is where believing in myself is really important, I have to believe I know what I am talking about. Thank you so much, I do have a great group of people and I really do look forward to going each week. It will be sad when it is finished. :(

  10. Do you think it would work to show them one of your images that you’re not completely satisfied with and explain why – maybe express the “I have to go back there” feeling that happens when the light was wrong? Creativity demands experimentation, which, in turn, requires that we analyze our results and tweak our approach.

    • That isn’t a bad idea, though I am not totally happy with the ones I showed you all today, there are things I had to work on, especially that one with the statue. It is interesting you saying this, I take photos I don’t like all the time. Thank you.

      • I do too. There’s one place I’ve been to three times and still don’t have what I want.

      • It can be frustrating when that happens. Sometimes you need to find the right weather conditions or something like that.

  11. I think students always compare their work to their teachers’ and forget how long it took the teacher to develop the skills and arrive at their current level of ability. Your decision, not to show too much of your work too early in the process, makes sense and is very gentle. Do you have any photos from your early days? Maybe those wouldn’t be as intimidating and they could get a sense of how you’ve developed your ability over time.

    • That is so true Kerry, they don’t really realise that. That is also a good idea, I should take a look, I have put some up on my blog in the past, all those negatives. Thank you.

      • I agree, Leanne, that it is important not to discourage a student with a skilled example before they’ve had a chance to shoot during a specific session. I also agree that it’s super-helpful to have an experienced photographer guide a student through the care of a favored photo from that session, to give them a sense of how the raw shot can be refined to something of higher quality. Perhaps something else might be guiding them, as a therapist might guide a patient, through their process of composition while nurturing their originality as a photographer. I’ve had a few opportunities, in a casual way, of sharing my joy of photography with close friends, and in the process have come away both delighted and inspired by what they did.

      • I do show them my work, but they are not images of things that we take as a group. I find that isn’t good, but I think it helps to show them the possibilities and what they could end up doing. Though some of the images I show them, are not always great. It is great to spend time with people that have the same passion as you.

  12. I cannot tell you how often I have to beg people to see their vacation/travel shots…they tell me that they are no-good and they are embarrassed for me to see them – so I completely understand how off-putting your students might get after seeing your images. I like your change in teaching tactic.

    • People can be so funny about showing you their images, I often get told that they won’t be as good as mine, but that isn’t what I think. Thank you Robert, I hope it makes all of them feel more comfortable.

  13. I really like the second one. It’s composition really draws me into its almost monochrome character. The fountain intrigues too. One of the joys of teaching is your own rewards: how much the students will teach you. It’s definitely a reciprocal experience. I’m an educator, and had many decades in higher education and arts administration. Teaching adults is most glorious.

    • I like that idea Sally, the reciprocal experience idea. I really enjoy getting to know all the students and it is wonderful seeing them learn and grow. Thank you so much.

  14. I think teaching also helps you to get to know and understand your subject even better. Keep up the good work.

    • I really agree Stevie, it really does, it really makes you work out exactly what you mean. I have become so much more knowledgeable because I have had to really understand what things are because I have to be able to understand it more. It is quite challenging sometimes. Thank you.

  15. How fun! I wish my photography teacher had been like you. It was a photojournalism class and we got “talked at” for how to do it but she never went out with us. My photos were always wrong, according to her. Very frustrating. The gift of post processing your students photos is so awesome…

    • I don’t like talking at my students, I prefer discussion style classes, but I know as a visual person, that I learn visually, so that is how I teach. I also think you learn by doing, so they take photos, with me around. I never tell my students their photos are wrong, I tell them how to improve an image, or what they can do, but I don’t want to destroy their interest, how is that good for them or me. The photos I processed were the ones I took Dakota, but it should help them to see what is possible. Thank you.

  16. The second shot is intriguing, Leanne. :) So good to have found something you love doing, and it can only help to increase your self confidence.

    • It is increasing that, slowly, I have to believe that I do know what I am talking about. Thank you so much.

  17. Straight out of school I taught for two years and hated every minute of that time. The kids were very undisciplined (what did I expect? They were only 11 and 12 years old). But your post makes me think if the students are interested in a subject it should be rewarding for everyone. Student and teacher. I do question whether or not it is a good idea to process some of the images yourself. Please let us know how that goes. I have an argument for doing it and not doing it. But I think they will be excited to see what can be done with their creations. You might have to do all the students, though. Be prepared.

    • Oh, I think I explained it incorrectly, the images that I processed are mine, I won’t do theirs, but it was an idea to show them the possibilities of where they can go into the future, and also so they can see that my images often look better because I have processed them. I couldn’t imagine teaching kids that age, though I did a bit younger with art classes, though they wanted to be there. The students I have now are all adults, so it is very different and they do really want to be there, keen to learn and I am keen to teach them, what could be better. Thanks Emilio, maybe you could try teaching some adult classes, quite different.

      • That’s exactly what my wife says. But I don’t think I am adept enough yet. Neither can I explain precisely about depth of field and such. I understand it and can use it. But to explain? Maybe one day, though. It does appeal to me.

      • You start teaching it and then you realise you know more than you thought. I was a bit shaky with shutter speed, but I have it done pat now. I just did stuff, I didn’t need to know exactly why it worked, it just did, now I have to explain why it works, so have to figure out why. You should try, find a friend who wants to learn photography and see how you go.

  18. It is always good to pass on enthusiasm – I have found that this really inspires students and I am sure you do this. Just a little comment – when showing my images I remind people that I have been taking photos for some time and that of course photography like all art is subjective. Always look forward to your posts

    • It does Diana, it is really good. I have been telling them, and I keep reminding them that I have been taking photos for many years. Thanks Diana.

  19. I know from my own experience, teaching anyone anything means you have to know what you’re talking about yourself, so it’s a real test!! However, it can also be fun and very rewarding. I also learn lots from my own students. I love your shots here!

    • That is so true, it really is a test, and you really do have to know your stuff. The same, yes, fun and very rewarding, you also get to meet lots of people, which is always good. Thank you.

  20. “believing in myself, believing in what I know and sharing it” – love this and it was something Christer Strömholm did too … from were I’m sitting I know you will do very well with your classes and you’re a fantastic mentor.

  21. It’s good to read about your teaching ventures, Leanne and how you impart your knowledge and experience with photography. I also enjoyed my teaching years, doing ecology and environmental management.

    • That is fantastic, it is hard to get past that idea that teachers are usually people who have failed in the world, but seriously, I teach because I love it, I get paid more doing other things, but I really enjoy the interaction with other people and meeting new people, always interesting. Thank you.

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