It depends what you want to achieve and what level you are at. If you are just getting started it is easy to find a photographer who will give you advice and offer a few tips. Once you are more confident you could go to an educational institution such as a college, art school or university where there will be opportunities to meet up with other photographers.
Alternatively, you could look on the internet. There are plenty of websites that cater for people looking to improve their photographic skills. The National Association of Photographic Art Societies (NAPS) has a website with links to other organizations across the country.
For a more informal experience, perhaps it would be worth getting involved with a photography group. This can be either a local club or an online one. Most clubs will have members of varying skill levels and they often provide advice and help to those who join. A photography group could also offer inspiration to those wanting to get started.
There are two types of photography mentors: those who teach you how to develop your own style and those who teach you how to shoot great images.
Both types of mentor are important. You need to find a mentor who understands what makes your style unique and who can share their knowledge of the industry.
You also need a mentor to guide you through the practicalities of how to shoot, how to develop your work, and how to make it sell.
But how do you find your ideal mentor?
1. Think about your aspirations
What kind of images do you want to create? What type of subjects do you want to photograph?
2. Choose the right mentoring venue
There are many online learning platforms and community groups dedicated to photography, as well as events for photographers. The internet is a vast resource of knowledge, and it’s only a matter of time before you find a suitable mentor. But make sure you check out what they offer – there are some less-than-savvy resources out there, which charge an arm and a leg for their services.
3. Be clear about the value you place on mentoring
Is it important to you to be mentored? Can you commit to spending time learning from your mentor?
You’ll need to decide for yourself whether you need to be mentored to succeed. There are lots of other things you can do to improve your skills, such as reading, practising and networking. You may not feel ready to be mentored at this point, but you may feel ready at another time.
4. Take time to research the mentoring options available
There are plenty of online learning platforms for photographers, so spend time researching them. Consider the amount of content, the structure of the lessons and the support provided. Are you looking to be taught in depth, or are you happy to follow a set plan with no additional direction?
5. Decide what you want from a mentoring relationship
If you want to work with your mentor as a business partner, or if you just want to be guided on a particular aspect of your work, then you’ll need to work out what it is that you’re seeking. You’ll also need to decide whether you’re looking for a one-off mentoring session, or whether you want to join a regular mentoring group.
6. Start the conversation with your mentor
Ask yourself: what is it I want to learn? What is the type of photography I’m interested in? What kind of mentor do I want? If you are considering joining a mentor group, do you want to join a group that focuses on a particular style, or do you want to be taught by someone who has a wide range of experience?
7. Begin the relationship
It’s important that your mentor feels like they’ve got something to offer you. If you haven’t been able to make a relationship work before, it may be worth starting again.
8. Ask your mentor for regular feedback
Your mentor will have their own ideas about how they work. If they feel like you’re not getting what you need from them, they may not be the best person for you. But if you don’t ask for feedback, you may never know.
9. Have a conversation with your mentor
Discuss what it is that you’re hoping to learn, and how you can make the most of the sessions.
10. Stay in touch with your mentor
It’s a good idea to keep in touch with your mentor after the mentoring session. This will help you to maintain a working relationship, which will be beneficial if you decide to work together in the future.
Stay in touch with your mentor throughout your photography career. This will help you build your own mentoring network and help you to stay connected with your mentors.
11. Find a mentor who works well for you
A mentor who doesn’t work well for you won’t provide the kind of support you’re looking for. If you’re feeling like you’re not getting the best out of the mentoring relationship, try asking for some changes.
12. Don’t forget to get your own back!
You need to be prepared to be honest and open with your mentor. They’re giving you their time and expertise for free. It’s important that they feel that they’re getting something in return.
14. Remember to be kind and respectful
Be kind to your mentor. Remember that they’ve invested their time and expertise in helping you. Make them feel that they’ve done you a favor.
15. Take control of your mentor relationship
Think about the best way to work with your mentor. If you feel that the relationship isn’t working, then try to discuss it with your mentor. It may be that you need to change the way you work with your mentor.
16. Make sure you’re ready to succeed
If you’re looking to work with a mentor, you need to make sure you’re ready to succeed. It’s no use having a mentor if you aren’t committed to making the best of it.
17. Ask your mentor for help
If you’re struggling to make the best of your mentoring relationship, your mentor may be able to offer advice.
18. Create a plan for your mentoring relationship
Before you begin your mentoring relationship, make a plan. You’ll be able to ask more informed questions, and you’ll be able to know more about what you need to improve in many areas of photography.