Friday, February 26, 2010

10 Great Photography Projects - Find Yourself a Mentor or Coach

This topic may seem a little strange for a photography project, but with every project, there is an objective to be completed and it does have a fixed duration.

Note: Free offer listed at end of article.

 Would you take a course form this guy?
I am heavily focused on some burnt window frames

In this series, I have tried to provide a list of activities, projects if you will, that might help you move your photographic, interests, skills, desires in a new direction that could open new possibilities to create interesting photographs.

Difficulty: easy if you deal well with people and can take constructive criticism about your work and not personalize the meaning of the comments.

Most of the projects I have discussed deal with self-promotion, self-drive and self-learning. If that self-part is not fully on your side, then as with many projects, they sometimes fail and fizzle out. It’s not that people don’t want to learn new things but sometimes we are stuck at a place mainly because of un-surety. 

This is where a mentor or coach can help you overcome any difficulties with your progression. Part of the problem with self-learning is that we expect too much from ourselves. Somehow we feel smart and engaged and yet some progress seems slow or almost non-existent.  We also tend to doubt our abilities, especially when we are bombarded with the wealth of great photos on the web and therefore may not notice any real progression we are making.

Most feedback is either “great” from friends in their attempt to be supportive but not really helpful. On other parts of the web there are only snippets of almost the same, or comments deal with generalities but not well suited to your photos and what you are trying to achieve.

Compositional rules are great but they are only guidelines and for any subject the artistic needs to understand where and how to apply the rules.

The other part with self-learning is that we also tend to take on too much work and complexity in hurrying to the end goal when many times the goal is only an end point and the journey was the interesting part.

This is where a mentor or coach can help you unravel the learning mess and systematically help you progress one step at a time.

What makes a good Mentor or Coach?

First and foremost, technical skills is not the key ability. It does help to understand the problems you are having here and be able to make corrective suggestions, but there are so many books and web articles available, this can be easily corrected once you understand  where you are not achieving your goals.

We all have a style, genre and areas of expertise. How well does the mentor’s own photography reflect your goals. If you like landscape, then a portrait photographer may not be the best, but if they are truly open it may work because its about the ability to help someone, not to dictate your own style.

A good coach listens first. In fact, needs to listen a lot. It is only by understanding the persons ideas and vision that a coach can help you progress.

The second part to good listening is to ask a lot of questions because you can’t solve what you don’t understand.  The experienced mentor or coach knows how and what questions to ask, and in the right order. Normally, the questions he asks will help the person arrive at their best solution (a lot like a trial lawyer).

A good mentor or coach will advise on the best steps to help the individual progress and the key here is that they will recommend steps that almost always guarantees success.

My own feelings are I would rather have you take 50 small successful steps to get to your goal than you trying 50 times with one big step, because most likely, you will quit before you try 50 times.

A good coach or mentor doesn’t blame you for any slow progress as we all learn at different rates. But at the same time, a coach will also not let you give excuses for not getting there. There are only facts and these are neither right nor wrong but information to help correct the approach.

I would rather have someone tell me that either they were too tired that week, just couldn’t figure out how to get going, wasn’t motivated, than telling me they were too busy to get something done.  Remember, there should be no blame but to understand the problem someone is having. New methods can’t be tried if we don’t know what to correct.

A good mentor or coach is flexible to the changes life throws at us. I am reminded that life is what happens between the plans we make.

My Offer for a free Mentorship Program to Blog Readers

For 2 persons, I will provide a photography mentorship program for about a 6-month period.  During this time I estimate I will be spending approximately 20+ hours of per person. You will most likely be spending a lot  more but I'm I OK with that. You should at least commit to 10hrs a month.

At my standard hourly rate, these types of services would make this about a $500 value.

My experience
For the last few years I have been providing these services to IT employees to help them become more successful with their work activities and career growth (my field of expertise is large-scale IT project management with a heavy focus on finding solutions to problems that develop).

With my local camera club I have provided instructional courses, and assistance with individual members over limited periods.

What I need from you
I need you to tell me about your current aspirations and in what areas you are having difficulty. I would like to see a portfolio of your images, and for at least 5 of them, to describe what you are trying to achieve or what story you want the image to convey.

Where you live (city and country) as this helps understand photo opportunities available.

How will it work?
I will listen to your goals and after a review of photos and questions about your style we will select an approach that will work for you. At least once a month there will be a review as to how the current approach is working and fine-tune as needed. During each month, depending on you schedule and free time, I will suggest photo assignments to examine certain growth areas and you will need to submit about 5 images that you feel are working, for review and which I will critique against the current goal(s).

You are free at any point to ask any questions.

Ideally I would like the ability to be able to talk directly (skype or other free service) to you as email is great for conveying facts but many times it is only by talking and exploring in real time that answers are solved.

Contact me via email, which can be obtained on this blog site. (I try to limit my email address as much as possible in articles to reduce spam).

This offer will remain open until I find 2 suitable candidates.

Niels Henriksen

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