What? Me? A photography mentor? How is that possible? Surely I don’t know enough to teach a young person how to become a photographer.
Oh wait. I have attended gobs of workshops and seminars. I have spent countless hours behind the camera. I do read photography blogs and articles. In spite of, or maybe because of, ups-and-downs with photography and many mistakes along the way, I have accumulated a certain amount of expertise. But I’m not an expert.
I still think of myself as a novice photographer. In my circles, I’m largely surrounded by artists far more advanced and talented than me so it’s easy to recognize what I have yet to learn and achieve, leaving me feeling like a beginner.
Maybe it’s time to shift that mindset a bit and call myself an intermediate photographer now as I try to share what I know with a scrappy and motivated beginner. Fred and George dabbled with photography over the years but never got the bug. Now the teenage daughter of one of my best friends has taken up the camera. And she’s got chops.
I see in her a photographic eye similar to mine, especially as I was getting started. With that natural eye, learning the technical aspects is just that—the learning curve. By sharing what I know, hopefully I can save her from some of the struggles I had learning all of the complicated details—composition, technique, equipment, post-processing, catalog management.
It’s well known that teaching solidifies your knowledge. It’s a window into what you truly know and don’t know. It’s also well known that just because you know a lot about a subject, it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be a good teacher.
So in all this my challenge is not as much about regurgitating information but understanding how to present it in a way that’s useful to her and fits her learning style. My initial attempts in Death Valley last week when she joined me were disjointed and sloppy. She is gracious though and worked with me as I refined that over the course of our trip.
I also know that, while I’m her easiest access to a photography mentor, she needs to connect with others who can help her as well. That may end up being my most valuable role in her photographic development, especially given the challenge of living on opposite sides of the country.
All said and done, I fully expect her to surpass me quickly. I’d love to see that! Even if at some point she moves on to another craft, she’ll have learned valuable skills. And I’ll have learned a lot in the process as well.
Cheers, friends! Adventure on!