Or, Why Mentoring?
Photography is a beautiful and complex art form that requires a combination of technical and creative skills. While there are many resources available for learning about photography, from online tutorials to photography books, there is no substitute for the guidance and support of a mentor. So, let's take a look at the importance of photography mentoring and why it is crucial for photographers at all levels to seek out mentorship opportunities.
The benefits of photography mentoring.
If you’re trying to step up your photography game, it is not hyperbolic to say that finding the right mentor can be life-altering. You can work with them to find what is working and what needs work, so you can quickly improve your skills and create a plan to keep growing. Plus, a mentor will bring a fresh set of eyes to your work, which can help you discover new styles and techniques you never thought of before.
Having a one-on-one relationship with a mentor means that you have a brainstorming buddy that is into the same things you are. If you have ever felt like that one weirdo that is way too into cameras, finding your team is a real change in your life. I know this from personal experience.
Having this close connection with your mentor is one of the best ways to get honest feedback on your work. It can help you identify the areas where you need to improve, so you can keep growing as a photographer. This is honestly one of our biggest jobs as photographers, the constant push to better our craft. This can be overwhelming solo, but a beautiful experience together.
Trust me, your mentor has made TONS of mistakes. Working one-on-one with a mentor means you can avoid some of the beginner mistakes that many photographers make when they’re just starting out. That means you’ll save time, money, and a ton of frustration in the long run.
Different forms of photography mentoring.
Ok, so you are interested in mentoring. There are so many ways to get started. One-on-one mentoring means working directly with a mentor who gives you personalized feedback and guidance on your work. This is the way to go if you’re after an individualized approach to growing your skills.
Group mentoring, on the other hand, is when you work with a group of photographers and a mentor who gives feedback and guidance to everyone at once. This can be a great option if you’re keen to learn from other photographers’ experiences and feel part of a tight-knit community.
Online mentoring is also an option. This is great if you live far away from the mentor you like, or if you want to talk with your mentor more frequently than you are able to get together. This can involve zoom calls, facetime calls, phone calls, screenshares etc.
But, also don’t forget about workshops and classes! These are events where photographers of all levels can learn from experienced pros and get personalized feedback on their work. Workshops and classes are a great way to find out if you like the teaching style of a mentor. See if they run workshops or classes, and see if you can attend one of those first.
What to look for in a good mentor.
- Guidance and support is huge, and overlooked. A good mentor will help you navigate this weird and confusing industry, while giving feedback and guidance the whole way. Do you feel like you can be comfortable around your mentor?
- Honest, yet direct feedback and critique. It can be REALLY hard to get detailed critique in this job. Looking for feedback online is a mixed bag. Some people will be kind, some will be needlessly cruel. Do you feel like your mentor can give you advice that you need to hear? Even if it is difficult?
- Opportunities to grow and stretch your skills. A good mentor will guide you towards things you might not have even known you should be working on. Do you feel like your mentor can push you to grow?
- Hype. It does not matter how long any of us have been shooting, we all need someone in our corner cheering us on. In a very solo driven world/industry, a good mentor should help you feel less alone. Does your mentor make you feel supported?
How be a good photography mentee.
Constructive criticism is not always the easiest thing for us to hear. Human beings are fragile, and doubly so when we are talking about our art and livelihood. So, how do we learn to make the best of the lessons our mentor’s work to share with us?
- First REALLY listen to your mentor’s feedback: It’s important to be open to feedback and critique from your mentor. They’re here to help you grow and improve, so don’t be shy. Take their advice and use it to your advantage.
- Use this time to be motivated: Mentoring isn’t a one-way street, y’all! You gotta be proactive and take initiative in your own growth and development. Ask questions, seek feedback, and put into action the advice and guidance that your mentor provides.
- Be honest, be vulnerable: Your mentor can not help if you are not honest about your goals, strengths, and weaknesses. I personally have almost seen it all, so the idea that you are going to tell me something make me think less of you? nah!
- Share your successes and your failures: Your mentor will want to see you succeed, but your failures will also show where you can and have grown.
- Make Moves on Your Goals: Sit down with your mentor and set some goals for your growth and development. And then? Follow through. Make a plan for how you’ll achieve your goals and get on it. You got this!
Don’t forget! You got this!
Photography mentoring is an incredibly valuable resource for photographers of all levels. With the help of a mentor, you can quickly and effectively improve your skills, gain a new perspective, and avoid common mistakes. Whether through one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, online mentoring, or workshops and classes, photographers who seek out mentorship opportunities will be well on their way to achieving their full potential as artists. We have many options here, and I personally would be honored to be in the short list of people you consider. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, or leave your stories of good and bad mentors below in the comments.