Finding A Photography Mentor Redux

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By Steve Russell

A couple of months ago Tiffany posted an article entitled Six Tips for Finding a Photography Mentor. From my perspective there is one other way to find a mentor that she could have included that would have given her seven tips. Another great way to find a mentor is through a local camera club. Some of them, like the one in Orlando, FL, even have a formal mentoring program.

Cheetah Cub

What’s a camera club and how do I find one?

A camera club is exactly what the name implies – a club made up of individuals with interests in photography. Their mission is typically to provide its members with educational opportunities and a means to increase their skills related to photography. In most clubs the members’ skill levels range from beginner to serious amateur to professional.

To find a camera club near you a good place to start is with the Photographic Society of America (PSA) website. At the bottom of their home page is a link to their listing of the PSA member camera clubs in the United States and Canada. There is also a link to a listing of clubs outside North America. Not all camera clubs are members of PSA and for whatever reason, not all clubs that are members of PSA are included in the listing but it’s a good place to start.

While this is probably very obvious you can also do an internet search for “camera clubs your location.” For example, a search for camera club Orlando returns this link to the Orlando Camera Club.

Redish Egret - Breeding Plumage

If I join how do I get a mentor?

If you belong to a club that has a formal mentoring program like the Orlando Camera Club, then all that is necessary is to contact the person that coordinates the program for the club and let them know you would like to be paired up with a mentor. The coordinator will select an appropriately qualified volunteer member that has similar interests as yours and is at a skill level that will allow them to provide you with guidance and assistance in your photographic endeavors.

Don’t worry if the club doesn’t have a formal mentoring program. Photographers are an interesting group of people. Many of them like to talk about photography a lot and many of them want to teach and help others whether it’s how to operate the camera or compose that great shot. Once you join the club you can talk with one of the officers about your interest in finding a mentor or you can find one on your own. Be social. Don’t sit in the corner at every meeting. Get to know the other members. You’ll make friends and you may find yourself with a mentor before you know it.

As with anything else, a little common sense also goes a long way. If your interest is in studio photography don’t expect someone who does nature photography exclusively to be of a lot of help with studio lighting. A wedding photographer isn’t going to be what you’re probably looking for in a mentor if your interest is in gritty street photography.

The first camera club I joined was a nature photography camera club. On my first field trip with the club I connected with one of the other members who became my mentor until I relocated half way across the U.S. three or four years later.

Basket Flower

I thought camera clubs were for competition.

Most, if not all camera clubs hold photographic competitions. In any club you’ll find people that are really intense about competition all the way down to those that never participate in that particular activity. The competition is there if you want to enter but you don’t have to.

If you don’t belong to a camera club, I recommend that you search for one close to you and at least visit once to see what it has to offer. In fact, most clubs charge very nominal annual dues and joining for a year may prove invaluable to you and your photography. The clubs also have regularly scheduled meeting, sometimes monthly and sometimes more frequently.

Not only have I learned a lot as a member of camera clubs, I’ve had the opportunity to go on a number of club sponsored photography trips and made a number of friends. In fact, I have a very good friend of 25 years that I met at a camera club I belonged to in the 1980′s.

I should add that the connection between the photos used in this article is that they were all taken on various camera club sponsored field trips. In some cases we had access at times that would not be generally available to an individual.

Photo Credits: All Steve Russell

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