Mentoring and having a professional critique on your body of work can be one of the best things you can do for your photography. Finding a good mentor is half the battle. When you are searching for someone to mentor you or give you a portfolio critique remember that they should be critical and not criticize while viewing your work. It is very important to the creative soul that you are encouraged on your journey and not made to feel poorly about where you are currently in your work. We all start somewhere and all we can do is improve from there!

*one of my first images of my daughter back in 2008 – wonky skin tones and super color pop and don’t even get me started on the awkward composition.

There are several reasons that finding a great mentor will help you to improve. When you have someone that is not close to your work like your family and friends are, you are gaining a new set of eyes to see critically what needs improving and what you are already rockin’. For example, I once had a critique where the photographer noticed in some of my black and whites images there was too stark a contrast, whites were blown and shadows had lost all detail. I had not noticed this before, but once it was pointed out to me I knew to be more conscious of my black and white conversions. Had I not had this critique I would not have advanced and improved in this area.

A good critique can also help you down your creative path and help you to evolve your style.  An experienced mentor can pick out in your photographs what sticks out as your strengths and can gently guide you towards a particular style. So many times we get caught up in our work and even overwhelm ourselves trying to figure out what style we are and where we are headed and this is such a wonderful way to get some outside perspective to give you that push you might be needing. This, to me, has been incredibly valuable.

If you find yourself after a critique wanting to cry please know that the person that was critiquing you was not doing so properly. We should NEVER want to give up or stop shooting after a critique. Here are a few things to look for when selecting a mentor…

  1. Their style- is similar to yours or what you want to shoot? While it isn’t always necessary to pick a photographer in your genre, it can be helpful to have someone that is similar so that they aren’t critiquing you based on portrait photography if your specialty is lifestyle.
  2. Their credentials- are they known for their mentoring services? Are they established in their career? Before spending money for a critique or mentorship, it’s great to be able to know if they are going to be worth it. Do they have references they can provide? Good feedback posted on their website? These are all important things to ask about and search out on your own.
  3. Know before your mentorship or critique what you want to get out of it. Be prepared, ask questions. Otherwise you might not get what you wanted from the session.

*one of my most recent images after years of learning and seeking out mentors and critiques – this baby is about the same age as my daughter in the first image.

As a photographer, we should constantly be stretching ourselves creatively and pushing ourselves
technically. Mentorships and continual learning are essential to keeping our work fresh, inspired and at
it’s best. So the next time you are faced with what to purchase next, consider looking into learning, after
all, it probably has the best return on investment.