Posted by: David Vernon | November 7, 2008

Mentoring and Photography

Twin LovesLet’s spend a couple minutes talking about mentoring and photography. Most of us didn’t go to photo school. Most of us learned our trade while doing something else. And that means most of us learned by having a number of other people teach us what they knew.

You can read lots of books and you can become your own harshest critic – but in the end you really, really need someone else – someone on the outside who doesn’t necessarily share your bias – looking at your shots AND your shooting and telling you what they honestly think. And if you’re lucky – you get a few people in your life doing that. Sometimes all at once and sometimes spread out over years. If that person has been at it longer then you, or does something you want to do better then you do it now – then that person could be your mentor.

My first photographic mentor started helping me when I was maybe just 5-6 years old. Neither one of us probably realized it at the time but it was a relationship that went on for years, wiring my brain for good composition, good images, and a yen to travel all around the world to get them. My Uncle Bob had a job that took him all around the world – and he loved to shoot slide film. Once or twice a year he’d drop in and an impromptu slide show would be projected on the wall. And on some level I loved it and learned from it.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to have other photographers take an interest and help me out when I needed it. It’s now so ingrained in my philosophy that it drives a lot of what I do with other photographers. I think we’re a pretty giving group because we can all find something to learn from each other. Look at what Kevin May said in his interview the other day:

I want to help those that have the same dream achieve what I have (I’m talking about all the amateur photographers that want to be full time photographers)!

It’s just who a lot of us are – and why we mentor and pay what we learned forward.

Photographer Peter Carey wrote a nice introductory article on finding your mentor over at the Digital Photography School. Take a look and then think about who has helped you – and who can help you next. It’s worth it in the long run.


  1. That is one of the main things I was looking for in joining flickr, and the Peoria group in particular. To meet other local photographers, share local pics, and have gtg’s. Also, the main reason I have taken classes at the art guild. I try to help others when I can, and appreciate all the help I’ve been given over the years.

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