It is 2022 and the market is flooded with fantastic photos that range from beginners to the most advanced professionals. It is overwhelming to take that first step into a field that is so saturated. However, it is possible with the right expectations and mentorship. The number one hurdle I find with new photographers is not technique or talent building, it’s direction. They are lost in this giant world of artistic expression and have no idea where to start. If you are one of these photographers who just isn’t sure where you fit into the photography universe, this article will help give you a path to an inward journey of self-discovery. That, and the wonders of a good photography mentoring program.
Mentoring Photography: What to Expect Before you Begin
Before I agree to provide mentorship to anyone, professional or hobbyist, we always sit down and just discuss why they went into photography, what they get from it, and what they hope to do with it. These are important questions to ask yourself. It allows a mentor to help you focus your growth on your goals. Mentoring for photography isn’t about leading you to a big paycheck. It is about learning to express yourself through an artistic medium. Hobbyists become professionals and aspiring professionals often end up as a hobbyist. If you end up loving what you do, then it is time well spent in my book.
Where a Photography Mentoring Program Starts
If you are new to photography, I will always direct you to my ten (10) part free beginner’s course to learn the absolute basics of the fields, techniques and camera settings. This step is vital to hit the ground running. I can answer questions as you review the short course; but it also lets me know exactly what level you are at in your photography experience. I know that I can now discuss everything from photography fields and niches to the exposure triangle.
Honestly, it’s a great review for even the more advanced photographer. Fundamentals are vital in photography and the better you know them, the easier and quicker you react to problems as they arise during a shoot. Since mentoring during the age of COVID, it is so easy to text or email back and forth questions as they arise or just share our experiences. Photography fundamentals are the building blocks from which we expand to new heights. Don’t think you need it? Have you ever watched a professional baseball game where a shortstop misses a routine grounder or an outfielder takes his eyes off the ball and misses the catch? Happens all the time. Why? In that split moment, their talent overshadowed the fundamentals.
If you really want to be the best photographer you can be, I always recommend read each lesson with humility and a positive attitude. Sure, the first two lessons on Fields of Photography and Specialties/Niches might be a quick review. But once you get to technique and fundamental skills, it is important to hone those skills and ask questions that arise. It’s about developing your skills not about impressing anyone! A good mentor won’t judge your knowledge level, only see your future potential.
Theology of Photography
As for myself, this period is the most fun mentoring someone. It’s a discovery period to learn how you view photography and where you fit into this big wide world. But often, I have found that photographers come down to two talent types.
The first, is the interactive photographer. These photo gurus always prefer to be involved in their photography sessions and will create a scene over just capture a scene. These photographers just have a talent for staging. They create a vision of what would make a great picture in their mind and make it happen. A great avenue for your less patient shooters! They are most comfortable directing models, stacking rocks in their landscapes, changing backgrounds, and going wild in photoshop.
The second, is the purist photographer. I would personally classify myself in this category, but never let a label define you. This is just where I am most comfortable. I love to watch life happen, uninterrupted, and find the scenes to capture. This does not mean I can’t direct a model or stage a shoot, have done it countless times, but my best images are always candid. Because I lean toward purist or “candid” style more, I can fill a memory card up with pictures from a photoshoot. However, the best pictures of the bunch are normally during those moments I saw something and just raised my camera to take a few shots.
You can be great at both, but knowing where your talent lies really changes the way you approach photography. Both styles are essential in every genre, that is what makes every picture unique. Take the time to learn how you fit into the world of digital art and it will serve you for a lifetime.
Focusing on Composition
Once we have started the path of a more theological and psychological view of photography, we begin working on our natural eye to composition. It’s great to know all the rules of composition, but when you can see it naturally it becomes second nature. This is a great opportunity to be a second camera at a photoshoot or go out on a landscape, wildlife, or street shoot to compare notes.
The great thing about mentorship is that both individuals grow in the relationship. You can learn from someone at any skill level because everyone brings something new and unique to the field. That’s why I strongly encourage anyone who has an interest, to get outside and begin shooting. It doesn’t take nice equipment to learn photography and grow. It takes a desire and a love for what you do. Each day that goes by that I didn’t shoot feels a bit gloomy. Photography is my everything and helping others while advancing my own skills is one of the greatest pleasures of my life.
Getting outside the comfort zone
You would be surprised how many skillsets can cross pollinate. Have you ever seen a picture by a wedding photographer who knew how to properly “pan” a running shot? How about a landscape photographer who had a love for minimalism? When you test and try new types of photography, you develop skills that can make you better at your specialty one day.
A photographer who has never experienced a super telephoto lens is a crime! A portrait photographer who has never captured the macro universe is lost potential! It doesn’t mean these are the fields you are going into, but it does give you a unique skillset, another weapon in your arsenal that you never knew you needed. Take the time to experience photography and you will fall in love with it all over again.
Mentoring in a Nutshell
The key to being properly mentored is to find someone you have a connection with and has your best interests in mind. You have someone you can confide in and helps because they just love photography. Mentors who charge for their time are missing the point of the experience. Mentorship is about building a friendship, having someone who understand what you are going through and takes an interest in your hobby or profession.
Each mentor will bring you a new world of possibilities and endless opportunities; I highly recommend one for any budding photographer. If you are interested in Seven11, feel free to reach out to us anytime to see how things work. Most of our mentees are virtual, so we can handle most mentorships through messaging and emailing with the hopes that we get a few shoots in with you before you move on to bigger and better things. Here is another list you can also look through that is well vetted.
Either way, find someone who loves photography and wants to be part of your journey.
Written by Jon Frederick, Lead Photographer for Seven11 and author of “Immersion– An Inspirational Christian Photography Collection“
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