When you’re starting out in your career, it’s an emotional roller coaster. Whispers creep into your brain questioning your every move.
“Are you good enough?” they ask.
“Can you really do this?” they haunt.
“But there is so much to learn and so many people doing this. Why would anyone choose you?”
The voices. They really suck.
If you’re starting out as a photographer and you’ve heard the voices, don’t worry, you’re not alone and you probably don’t have schizophrenia (although I’m not a doctor, so what do I know.)
But I can assure on the first part, you are not alone in these worries. I had them too, and continue to have them every day as I push forward in this challenging and rewarding creative path.
It's easy to tell you to have confidence, to say “Things will get better! Stay positive!” But that is a sweeping generalization that I don’t think really helps. I like advice that helps me take action, advice that helps me learn a thing or two so that I can improve. Advice that allows me to grow, and that growth is what helps me stay positive.
You know where I find that kind of advice?
If there is one thing I’d recommend to new photographers out there trying to break into the business, it’s find yourself a mentor. Not just someone you idolize on Instagram for their amazing photos, but a real life person who you can reach out to and rely on. Someone who doesn’t see you as their creative rival, but as inspiration and an exciting opportunity to help someone grow.
This person will be there for you to help when you wonder what lens to use for what shots. They’ll be there for you when you need some constructive criticism on your work. They’ll be there for you when the voices of negativity feel so strong that you think you should just quit, and they’ll be the voice telling you not to.
Where can you find a mentor?
REACH OUT TO IRL FRIENDS
My mentor is the smiley guy in the picture up there, Trevor Axt (trevoraxtphotography.com), and he is my friend from way back in college. Back then neither of us were photographers. But years ago Trevor got a camera and pushed himself to learn and improve every day. I watched his journey into professional photography unroll on Facebook and I was inspired. I dusted off my own camera and decided to finally take it off AUTO (I know, makin’ moves!).
When I reached out to Trevor with questions about photography as a business and a skill, he was never threatened or annoyed. He was helpful, patient, knowledgable and enthusiastic. Everything anyone could hope for from a mentor. He was a wealth of knowledge and information so much faster than trying to read through thousands of articles in a Google search. He has brought me with him as a second shooter and taught me the ins and outs of wedding photography. I learn more in 5 minutes with a camera and him than I do in hours anywhere else.
I’m forever thankful for his help and patience with me and the inspiration I’ve drawn from seeing him succeed in this business.
Yea, I know I said don’t just follow someone on Instagram and idolize them. But you can find mentors on IG. Sometimes you’ll bond with another photog in the comments. Sometimes you’ll DM someone you love and they’ll respond and that will become something real. Sometimes that person will just be an amazing guy like Ben Sasso who makes a point of connecting with everyone who asks a question in the comments!
Man, I thought these things were so lame and spammy at first. But you know what? You can find some AMAZING photographers in there sharing their work and their ideas! Connect with these people. Share your own photos. Learn from them and build relationships. Those online relationships can turn into a real life mentorship. Don’t be scared. Share.
TAKE A CLASS
You know how I meet so many photographers IRL? I take classes at my local community college. I love it because the classes inspire me to try something new and I meet so many talented young photographers doing really cool things that I would never think of. There are photographers of all levels in these classes, not just noobs, and you might just meet your next mentor while you learn! (Seriously, we had a guy who shot for Vogue in one of my classes!)
JUST REMEMBER, DON’T BE TOO CREEPY…
A mentorship is something that develops over time naturally as a relationship develops. You know how when you’re dating someone new and after like one date you’re like “Are we boyfriend and girlfriend yet? Maybe I should just ask him to be my boyfriend and start calling him that to all my friends!”
Don’t do that with someone you’ve messaged once on IG. Let it happen naturally and don’t push it. Take your time and find someone who’s talents you truly respect and who when you’re learning from them, the voices in your head quiet down a bit.
Got questions? Don't let those voices stop you from asking. Connect with me! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org