on mentoring part 2

01.28.2008

Part 1 is here.

Dan Heller left a really good comment over on the mentor post. What he says is so true,

“Since most people in this business fail more than they succeed, and of those who DO succeed, most are not really well-equipped to “teach”, and of those remaining, few have the time and experience to do so effectively, it really ends up working more against you than for you by trying to find such a mentor.

The true secret to doing well in the photo business is to stop thinking that it’s about photography. It’s not, it’s about *business*, and you can learn much better business skills through non-photo resources”.

For more, read Dan’s blog post on mentoring here.

That last paragraph is key. If I had to split the percentages up I’d say that my time is spent like this:

  • 49.5% Emails, phone calls
  • 15% Talking with rep
  • 10% Reading blogs
  • 5% Writing blog posts
  • 5% Reading business books
  • 5%Brainstorming personal projects
  • 4% Reviewing/updating marketing plan
  • 4% Internet research
  • 2% Portfolio visits
  • .5% Actual time shooting

**This is a simplified list.

So as you can see it really is all about business. If I had to do it all over again I would have been a business major. It is soooo much more applicable. Anyone can learn how to use a camera and anyone can learn proper lighting techniques. Sure there’s a difference between knowing how and doing it well but the point is, you can learn photography on your own time. Become a student of business, find business mentors, you’ll be glad you did.

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4 Responses to “on mentoring part 2”


  1. I’m a very inexperienced newcomer to this field (I’ve only shot semi-professionally for the past year), but in that albeit brief period I’ve witnessed exactly what you described above.

    The sad part is that the seemingly trivial “overhead” components (communicating, researching, writing) are so poorly executed in so many situations. The photo product that is produced by those with whom I’ve interacted is certainly high quality, but their digital correspondence is abysmal.

    Emails I send to a colleaque with 3 or 4 logistical questions about an event are typically either dropped or come back with a responce to 1 of the questions. Sometimes I don’t know until the last day that I’ve been given an assignment to cover an event.

    I liked your comment soliciting some of the best practices photojournalists have adopted. I wish that our industry (as a whole) placed more emphasis on communication, but unfortunately I don’t see that happening.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to encourage colleaques to be more verbose (or detailed?) in their messages? What have you done in situations where questions you’ve asked have gone unanswered?

    Please bear in mind that I’m looking horizontally at my peer group or upwards towards either photographers I aspire to or towards editors I report to.


  2. Good post, Ed.

    I’m a big believer in treating my creative business like any other business. Which means that its financials get a lot of attention. It’s not hard to learn how to keep your own books, and I highly recommend it to anyone. Learning how to interpret your financials isn’t hard either.

  3. Michael Larkey Says:

    This is an interesting post and indirectly discusses some thoughts I’ve been consumed with recently, especially regarding where my career as a photo is actually taking me. Would it be wrong to assume that during the portfolio building period and maybe up until representation, the breakdown was significantly different and more shooting weighted?

  4. Ed McCulloch Says:

    Michael-

    Definitely. Shooting as much and often as possible would be a great idea as your building your portfolio-


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