A few weeks ago, I was asked if I could be the photography mentor for a team of new entrepreneurs who were starting a media business. I smiled and agreed but at the back of my head the thought, “What can I possibly offer”, bounced around so violently it almost tore a hole in my skull. I don’t consider myself a good photographer. I think of myself as being on a long journey of getting better and better as a photographer.
I thought about the mentorship request over the next few days. Mentorship is a big word, I decided. I do not have all the answers. In fact, I have so many more questions about photography. What if I simply offered to help out as a friend? That sounded achievable.
To prepare myself, I took a look at some of the things I do and have done in the pursuit of becoming a better photographer. Towards the end of 2012, I felt I was struggling to find subjects to photograph. So, I reached out to car companies, bakers, fashion designers and just about anyone who could give me a “subject” to photograph. I didn’t get any interest and almost gave it up when, in early 2013, Towani Clarke of Kutowa Designs responded. She needed photos for the Kutowa Facebook Page. I just wanted to take pictures. It was a great fit!
Over the course of several months, I’d visit the Kutowa Studio and take product photos. It was frustrating at the start because I wanted to take the pictures a certain way. With time, patience and practice, I started to “get it”. The focus was on the products. Towani did not simply want pretty pictures, she wanted to sell dresses.
I was volunteering my time and skill but what I was learning at Kutowa was invaluable. Lessons worth noting:
- Show up—If you agree to be at a shoot at a certain time, be there earlier than agreed. As a photographer, it will help you get a an idea of the location and light. It will also help you build a good reputation.
- Listen—The client is in the driving seat. If you have your own ideas, they can take back seat until you have a good rapport with them.
- Have fun—I used this exercise to figure out if this was the kind of photography I would want to do and be good at. I’m not yet sure if product photography is my thing but I most certainly had a fun trying to find out.
- Remember that anything can be a subject—Photography subjects are everywhere, even if they are “just” mannequins!
Photographing mannequins at Kutowa ended up being a useful foundation to build on. Later, I’d be working with models but that is a story for later. For now, bring in the mannequins!