Boise, ID photographer
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Photography Education

The Wild West of Photography Education

May 18, 2023

Navigating the Wild West of the family photography education world

If you’re anything like me (and most photographers – I think we can all agree on this one!), you want to grow your business. Whether you want to improve your work, increase your income, decrease your hours, stand out in your market, etc., you want to grow. The question, really, is how?

The short answer is through education – but that’s easier said than done. There are online courses, mentorships, masterminds, workshops, and so many offerings in between, and it’s difficult to figure out which is the right resource for you and your goals. Education can also be a big investment, and you’re trying to invest wisely of course!

What’s more, there are so many different educators out there, each with their own style of shooting and teaching. Yet being a great photographer does not make someone a great teacher! They’re two separate skillsets, and they only sometimes go together.

Truthfully, the world of photography education feels a little like the Wild West – there are no real rules or regulations. In fact, the only requirement to become an educator is to call yourself one – no classes or approval needed!Because of this, I can’t tell you how many students I have worked with who told me that they invested in a workshop or product or other service, and walked away without learning much of anything at all. Yikes.

But as someone who has been navigating the wild west of the photography industry for many years, both as a student and as an educator, I have learned plenty about how to navigate it well. I put together a two part email series designed to walk you through the world of photography education, so that you can truly understand the many different offerings out there, as well as how to find education that is a great fit for you.

Here in part one, I’m going to walk you through the different types of educational offerings out there, and what you should expect from them. In part two, I’ll walk you through what to look for in an educator so that you find someone who is a great fit for you. Let’s go!

Photography Education and coaching with Hannah Mann

Photography Education and coaching with Hannah Mann


Mentorships are a one-on-one meeting, typically done over Zoom. They are perfect for digging into a couple select topics, and most educators are happy to teach on almost any questions you’d like to dig into. The pricing and length of time vary from coach to coach, but personally I like to be able to dig in deep with my students and never be rushed, so I believe 1.5-2 hours is a better time frame than one hour. 

I always have my students prepare for our time together by answering a questionnaire that I created that helps me understand clearly what their goal is with our time together, what they’re wanting to learn, and who they are. This saves so much time during our actual meeting, so that our learning time can be maximized. I’ve done mentorships myself in the past where I am essentially a total stranger to the coach I’m working with, and I’ve found that it can be a bit of a challenge to cover any content with real depth when they don’t even know anything about me. I make sure that every student I work with has done their own preparation, and given me important information so that I am also prepared to make our time together amazing!

A mentorship can be game changing – but keep in mind that it’s going to change the game on a couple important topics. If you’re not sure that you can cover all of your questions in one meeting, just ask the photographer you’re wanting to learn from! I will always be honest with my students about how many meetings I believe they’ll need to reach their goals, as I strive to make each meeting as valuable as possible.


I know these terms can get confusing! A mastermind and coaching are not necessarily the same thing, but you’ll often hear a group coaching program described as a mastermind. I’ve honestly never liked the term ‘mastermind’ – but these days it’s pretty standard in our industry and so I choose to roll with it. 😉

A mastermind, or a group coaching program, is an experience that lasts anywhere between several weeks to several months. In programs that I’ve participated in, there is online educational content, as well as regular live calls with the coach and an online platform for access between calls. Not all masterminds are structured like this, but I’ve loved that structure and I chose to structure my own mastermind in the same way: I have very in-depth online course content, bi-weekly live calls with more education and Q&A time, and a group platform where my students ask questions throughout the week.

So there’s the structure, but what about the purpose? After all, masterminds tend to be one of the larger investments you may make in your business, typically several thousand dollars (though some are tens of thousands and beyond).

The high investment is directly related to the enormous value. Ongoing access to a coach who will provide you individualized feedback and troubleshooting based on where you are currently at, as well as their years of experience boiled down into content that you can work through in a significantly shorter time, is going to be expensive – but as long as you work with a coach who is a great educator, the payoff will be much, MUCH bigger than the investment!

Online courses

Online courses are incredibly varied – some are very in-depth, others cover highly specific topics. Some are long and some are short. Some are heavy on video while others focus on PDFs and workbooks. Honestly, there are so many great ways to put together an online course! Just look for one that is from an educator you trust, and that hits the topic(s) you want to learn about.

While I offer online course content for my mastermind students, I don’t yet have a standalone online course available – but that will be changing soon! One of the most popular topic requests I get is about how I direct/pose families, and I’ve been working on creating a course all about this so I can release it in the first half of this year. I’ve developed a method for directing my clients that is all my own and wildly easy and effective. I truly can’t wait to put it into a course and share it with so many students!


Workshops can be slightly controversial in the photography world – turns out, many photographers have very opposite opinions on them! You’ll hear some say that they’re the best way to learn, as you shoot in person and work with a coach face-to-face. They can be an invaluable resource for students who need to immediately put new skills into practice to really digest them, or for those who want to make over a portfolio quickly and effectively. They can also be fun and a great chance to make online friendships into real-life ones!

On the other hand, some photographers hate the idea of shooting a session while competing for space and good angles with other photographers. This can be especially unappealing to introverts! You may also hear some complain that so many people are sharing photos of the same session after a workshop, because it can be noticeable when you’re connected to several photographers who attend the same event. And while travel can be fun for some, it’s not an option for everyone, especially many mothers of little ones (and our industry is mainly comprised of working moms!). 

In the end, it’s 100% up to the individual on whether or not a workshop is a good fit, and if the pros outweigh the cons. I hosted a workshop in 2019, and absolutely loved the connection and community and the chance to teach in a hands-on way. I had planned to host one again, but between covid and having a fourth baby, it was not an option for the next few years. However, I would absolutely love to host one again in the future!

Photography Education and coaching with Hannah Mann

I’m a family photographer and educator based in Boise, ID. I am passionate about equipping my students with transformative, actionable education. I believe that anyone can succeed in this industry with the right tools and knowledge, and I love to equip others to have thriving businesses.

Interested in more? Browse my free resources, get to know more about my educational offerings, sign up for my newsletter, or get to know me. I’d love to work with you and support you in your growth!

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i'm hannah

I'm a photographer and educator based in Boise, ID, where I live with my favorite guy ever and our two boys + two girls.

Since founding my business in 2014, I have relentlessly honed my craft and the experience I offer to each client I work with. My commitment is to always deliver industry-leading artistry and quality. READ MORE...