Why work with a photography mentor or coach?
First, what is photography mentoring?
Mentoring is the opportunity to meet and work side-by-side with, even befriend, a well-known photographer in your field and to learn from them. Sometimes mentoring is about straight knowledge transfer, but mostly it’s about seeing opportunities and talents for that particular person and making them aware of those. You work one on one with a mentor over the phone or Skype and work with them as they help you meet your photographic goals.
A good photography mentor will help you improve your work like no class or workshop ever will! You work with a mentor over time and the continual feedback and incremental changes you make as a result mean big successes in the quality and creativity of your photography.
A good photography mentor will encourage you to explore new ideas and techniques, and gently push you to get out of your artistic comfort zone. They will help you shift your point of view and your mental context by stimulating your imagination with exercises and assignments. They can recommend further learning or training and serve as a trusted source of advice and supplemental resources.
Your mentor will offer an unbiased opinion of your photos, and will be able to see you vision for your images to help guide you to greatness! A good mentor is like having your own personal expert on-call to bring out your talent and skills. And to help you establish your own style and trademark technique.
While your friends and family can tell you if they like a photo or if they think it’s good, do they know about blown out highlights, or lack of detail in the shadows; would they know about selective focus or the Golden Mean? Your mentor will know 🙂 and will share this information in their review of your images.
Choosing a Photography Mentor/Coach
Having a photography mentor and getting an unbiased professional critique of work will be one of the best self-improvement decisions you will ever make. So finding the right mentor is critical.
When you are searching for a portfolio review of for someone to mentor you should select someone whose work is similar to what you are wanting to achieve – they should have the kind of style that appeals to you, and shoot similar subjects as you do.
Find out what their credentials are – it’s so easy for anyone to call themselves a photographer and put up a blog offering mentoring services! Weekend warriors and stay at home moms/dads may make great photos, has their work passed the “professional standard” and do they have any certifications, degrees, awards, and/or belong to a professional association? Has their work been recognised or accredited by a photography association or professional group?
If you want to become an excellent nature photographer or even a professional nature photographer, have your work reviewed by a professional. Lighting, storytelling, composition, technical expertise, and so many other criteria come into play to make a great image, that many people who call themselves photographers are just not aware of.
Does your prospective photography mentor communicate well? If you don’t understand the feedback you are getting you’re not going to enjoy working with your mentor. Make sure you like and understand their communication style. Often you can get a good idea about this from the mentor’s website. Good mentors and good photographers for that matter will be open and chatty on their websites – with lots of solid information and hopefully a lot of free advice which can give you an idea of their ability to make a point, and to determine if you’re both “on the same page.
Honest but Constructive Criticism
Your photography mentor should be honest and critical, but kind and encouraging. It’s never easy to have one’s work critiqued, and a good mentor understands this – in fact, they likely have gone through the mentoring process them selves and know exactly what constructive criticism feels like. But to be fair to you, it must be honest and not “sugar coated”, and a good mentor will also point out the things you do well, and the positive attributes of your images.
You should feel encouraged and pumped for your next photo outing after a session with your mentor!
Your role in working with a Photography Mentor
Your need to be focused – no pun intended. You need to know what you want to achieve in very specific terms. Do you want to learn how to use wide angle lenses to make landscape photos?
Do you want to become better at composition? Do you know what your weak points are with your photography or is it your goal that your mentor help you identify these? These are just some of the things you should think about before engaging a photography mentor or photography coach.
Productive mentoring is usually goal oriented so be sure to have some concrete and specific goals, even as a starting point. You and your mentor can discuss these and rework them if needed, but for your mentor to be most effective, they will want to know your goals so they can make a plan to help you achieve them.
Are you thinking about getting a mentor? You could work with me!. Really serious about becoming a better photographer? I also have a limited number of full year mentorships available in 2013 – I have 2 1 year mentorships open, and 2 6 month mentorships available. More about these full photography mentorship programs can be found here. For serious photographers only 🙂
Download my Photography Mentoring Checklist It has a part for you and your goals and another part for evaluating your shortlist of possible mentors. Are you ready for greatness? Get a mentor!