In my early days of learning photography, I watched countless free video tutorials on YouTube but was still confused by photography.
Most of my students said they experienced the same thing. They often buy a camera, watched 2 hours of YouTube videos but still don’t know what to do when it comes to photography. They often feel overwhelmed by all the information that they got. Some of them even told me they felt learning photography is like drinking water from a hose.
Now, watching free YouTube videos can be helpful. But here are some questions for you to think about.
“Can the videos tell you specifically what you need for your current, specific situation?”
“Can it tell you the mistakes that you’re making?”
“Can it give you feedback to improve upon your mistakes?”
Of course not.
This why you need a good photography mentor if you want to learn photography quickly and efficiently.
Having a photography mentor is one thing that really helped skyrocket my photography learning.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who you respect. He’s been there and done that. It’s different from a teacher in the sense that he has accomplished what you want in real life.
For instance, if you want to learn about fine art photography, a potential mentor for you is an award-winning fine art photographer whose works have been exhibited in several galleries, not a college professor who teaches the theory of fine art photography has few real-world accomplishments.
Now, I have to say that finding a good mentor is quite a time-consuming process, and you’ll often have to spend a good amount of money to work with one.
I’ve been in good and bad mentorship programs before, and I am also a photography mentor myself. It’s a difficult process to find and work with one, but the reward is immense.
To help you out, I’m going to share some tips on finding a good photography mentor and working successfully with one in this article.
How do you find a good photography mentor?
There are 3 criteria that I use when selecting a mentor.
Criteria #1: The mentor needs to be interested in your progress
He or she needs to be more interested in taking you to the next level than taking money from you. A good sign to spot this is to look at his response when you first approach him or her. If you approach a potential mentor and ask, “Are you willing to be a mentor?” or “Do you have mentorship programs,” and his first answer is, “Yes, I offer it for $X per hour!” I want you to stay away! This is a signal that he is more interested in getting your money instead of providing value.
Instead, find someone who responds with, “Can you tell me where you are in photography?” “What do you need help with?” or “What are you trying to get from the mentorship program?”
Criteria #2: The mentor needs to be willing to push you outside your comfort zone
Your mentor should not be afraid to let you experiment with different things. He should let you make mistakes and then give you constructive feedback afterward.
This might not be obvious when you first approach him, but you can spot this behavior by looking at his relationships with his students or directly asking his students how things are with their mentorship.
Criteria #3: The mentor needs to have accomplished what you want to accomplish in the real world
It bears repeating that a mentor is someone who you respect who has accomplished what you want in the real world.
For instance, if you want to be a fashion photographer who works with big brands, find a mentor who is a fashion photographer who works with big brands.
If you want to become a National Geographic photographer one day, find a mentor who is currently a National Geographic photographer.
Know what kind of photographs you want to take, what you want to become, and find a mentor who has successfully done it in real life.
We’ve talked about some ways on how to find good mentors. Now let’s talk about 3 ways that you can do to work successfully with your mentors.
How to Work Successfully with Your Photography Mentor
Success Tip #1: Don’t just listen to what he says. Take the time to DO what he says!
Your mentor expects you to not only listen to what he’s saying but also for you to take the time to apply it in the real world.
A good mentor LOVES his student to take action. Why? Because your mentor will be able to give you specific, constructive feedback based on your activity.
He will not know what feedbacks to give you if you’re not putting the work out there and make the mistakes for him to see.
Success Tip #2: Be Proactive
Your mentor expects you to be proactive. Don’t wait for your mentor to babysit you all the time. Take the initiative.
Experiment with stuff that you’ve never done before and show it to your mentor. Tell him what you did and why you did it. Ask your mentor what he thinks of it.
Doing this will make your growth in learning photography really fast and make your mentor more passionate about working with you.
#3: Respect Your Mentor’s Time
This last tip is very, very important. Your mentor will usually be busy and have a limited amount of time. So, you must respect his time.
Show up on time. Do the assigned work and submit it for review on time. Be concise and clear with your questions and comments.
This will create a statement that you are serious about your growth, and you respect this time.
Mutual respect is a foundation of successful mentorship.
In this article, we’ve talked about 3 ways to find a good mentor and 3 ways you can do to work successfully with one.
If you want to check out my mentorship program, please browse around this website. Most of the courses here come with a mentorship program attached to them. It is structured so that you can have flexibility in watching the video, take the time to apply the lesson, and get feedback from your mentor.
I hope you can skyrocket your photography learning with these tips. I wish you the best of luck in finding and working with your ideal mentor!