BEING A PHOTOGRAPHY MENTOR
By Kelly Marley
Photography is a passion that is best shared with others. Some of my best work has been done in the presence of other photographers, often during a workshop. Yet many of us have few friends who would say “YES” to heading out of town for a weekend of photography. Not everyone is able to indulge in conversations on composition and the exposure triangle.
However, if you have an adventurous friend who has even the slightest interest in photography, and is available for a weekend away, you have the formula for fun! The key is to find something you both find enjoyable, and weave photography opportunities into the trip. And being a photography mentor can be a satisfying way to improve your own skills too!
Recently, a friend of mine relocated from the midwest to Florida. And she was ready to embrace new experiences. My photography piqued her interest because she has a curious mind. I offered to take her out and show her how to go beyond taking snapshots, to truly creating images. After some thought, she was in. The rest of this post will explain how to take a novice and, using the principles of adult learning, quickly mentor them into an enthusiast.
We agreed to combine her introduction to photography with a weekend in Miami. She would plan the weekend, and I would coach her photography skills. It’s a win-win! Anticipating that we would be photographing all weekend, I kept my kit to match hers. That included one camera and lens, extra batteries and memory card, and a table top tripod. This weekend was about mentoring my friend. Plus we’d both get great images from morning until night.
She arranged our lodging, restaurants, and other activities of mutual interest. For my part, I considered the following principles in my approach for her introduction to photography. Follow along and you will see how I used each of these principles.
Adult Learning Principles:
- It must be relevant to the learner.
- Learning must be “just in time”.
- It must be in real time.
- Learning is best by doing vs. reading.
- It must be performance-based.
- Learning is social.
The first order of business was to upgrade her camera from a smartphone to something with more advanced features. This solidified a commitment to truly learning a new skill. And it made learning relevant to her. If your friend isn’t quite ready to jump into investing in a new camera, let them borrow one of yours.
A week before our trip, my friend and I met for lunch. I helped set up her camera with optimal settings. This way, she could concentrate on getting the shot and not worry about menus, dials and buttons. I was determined to keep her off AUTO mode. So we set the camera up to shoot in JPEG, and Aperture Priority mode. We also set reduced highlights, enhanced shadows, auto ISO and auto white balance.
We reviewed all the buttons and dials on the camera so they weren’t so foreign. Then we talked about what we were going to do in Miami. In the meantime, she was practicing and watching a few suggested tutorials. This is the “just in time” concept, so the information was top of mind while we were in Miami.
To add to our adventure, my friend found a great alternative to a hotel – a boat! We were going to stay on a yacht right on Miami Beach for the weekend, and walk or Uber to all our destinations. This made for great photography opportunities we wouldn’t have had otherwise. And frankly, this was a nice change from the usual hotel experience. We were now ready for our weekend of learning and fun.
We checked into the yacht in time for happy hour. Then we set foot along Lincoln Road in Miami for some street photography opportunities. We eventually stopped at a great rooftop bar, and then headed to dinner. As we explored Miami, she was learning in real time. This included suggested f-stop changes, focal length adjustments, and composition tips from me. This was based on the lighting conditions and the opportunities before us.
Most of us learn by doing, and the changing conditions and venues provided the perfect classroom. Every location offered an opportunity for me to reinforce concepts. And it allowed her to see the effect of the camera settings in real time.
In case you are wondering, “why Miami?”, it was the city hosting a lecture we were both interested in attending. Always with photography in mind, the venue provided for some architectural photography, and more urban shots over lunch and dinner. After the lecture, we walked through the Wynwood Arts District for some creative wide angle shots of street art. We ended the day with a brew pub and dinner.
As we walked and photographed, I was able to watch her technique. I would review her images, and quickly provide some real time feedback. It was clear she was a fast learner, as her performance was improving. As the opportunity for skills such as long-exposure presented itself, we dove a little deeper.
Our last day started with breakfast along South Miami Beach. Both the classic and exotic were on full display. The cars and people made for more great street photography. And the art deco hotels and restaurants allowed for some classic Miami architectural photography. Of course, the day wasn’t over until we got some beach shots!
Our photography weekend was a huge success. It was approached in a very social manner, and was a lot of fun. I was able to mentor my friend throughout our walks on how to “see” the photographic opportunities. No longer will she just look at the scenery around her.
Throughout the weekend, we practiced the art of street, urban, architectural, and landscape photography. We discussed the settings that need to be adjusted to optimize the image for the lighting conditions and composition. We shot from sunrise to sunset, discussing the various challenges and opportunities all hours presented. I believe my stint at being a photography mentor was successful. Because as she says, “You have created a monster, you know!”
Maybe you know someone who is ripe for a new experience and wants to learn the art of photography? Turn the opportunity into a fun weekend and see what you can create together.
(Check out Kelly’s other posts here)
Kelly Marley describes a lot of what happens on a typical Photo Workshop Adventures trip. Research and planning go a long way into making a successful photo adventure. Every little detail matters, and the team at PWA prides themselves in ensuring every guest comes away with new skills and better images.
Everyone learns at different paces, but most everyone learns best under the guidance of a mentor. The Photography Guides + Leaders on PWA’s Adventures help each guest advance their photography through individual guidance. See what’s in the schedule for your next adventure here.