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Wedding Photography Mentorship in Toronto: Is it Right for You?

I offer advanced wedding photography mentorship in Toronto and I am frequently inundated with emails from a wide variety of camera owners asking to me a part of my long term, advanced mentorship program.  I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss long term mentorship versus wedding photography workshops in Toronto and the pros and cons associated with both.

Have you ever shot a wedding before?

If you have:  If you’ve shot at least a half dozen weddings (but ideally 10+) and still love the idea of 14 hour days, minimal bathroom breaks and severe dehydration (I’m not exaggerating as much as you may think I am) then it’s possible that the advanced, longterm mentorship is right for you.  The advanced, longterm mentorship is meant for those who already have intense passion but also considerable experience in wedding photography and want to fine tune their skills along with the guidance of a mentor.

If you have not: If you have never ever shot a wedding before or have only been a second shooter at a few weddings the long term mentorship is not for you.  When accepting a candidate into the long term mentorship we need to know that you not only want to shoot weddings but that you love shooting weddings with every ounce of your being.  The long term mentorship is not for you to test whether or not you like shooting weddings or to simply gain experience in the field.  If you want to gain experience, you should be looking for second shooter jobs.

Where do you see yourself in 1 year?

Having a business and booking your own weddings: If you’ve got that fire burning under your butt and you are so motivated that you can barely sit still then the long term mentorship may be the right fit for you.  Don’t get us wrong, we love working with aspiring and talented photographers but we also want to see you succeeding.  If you enter the mentorship motivated but lose your motivation thereafter, your mentorship may be terminated.

Still getting portfolio work and slowly starting to get the word out:  Our advanced, longterm mentorship program is an incredibly amazing opportunity that is unlike any other photography mentorship in the GTA and it is reserved for only the most talented and motivated new photographers.  In many cases, hard work can actually take you further than raw talent can and for that reason we often ask applicants to provide us with a business plan and/or list of goals as part of the interview process.

Have you taken any formal training courses or workshops?

No – no college courses and/or no workshops:  Self-directed learning is great; there are many blogs and books available that can give you a good background and lead you in the right direction to continue your learning.  Self-directed learning; however, also involves choosing to take workshops and courses to help improve your skills.  There are many free photography workshops through Creative Live and many workshops around the world that are spectacular – but cost a pretty penny, too.  Either way, there is no reason at all as to why you can’t continue your education with courses and workshops, regardless of your budget.

Yes; college courses and/or varying workshops:   By participating in a variety of courses and workshops you’ve helped further refine your skills which means you’re more likely to succeed (and succeed quickly) within the mentorship program.  When choosing individuals for the long term mentorship course, preference is given to those who have taken the initiative to expand their horizons via courses and workshops.

What do you hope to achieve in the mentorship?

Achieve a few very specific goals in a short amount of time:  If you have specific goals you want to achieve and fine-tune specific skills, a one-on-one workshop is more than likely the better option.  Weddings are variable and you never know what to expect; sometimes you simply are not given the opportunity you’re hoping for during a wedding day that you need in order to achieve your goals; therefore, arranging the opportunity via a one-on-one photography workshop is ideal.  (Example: If one of your goals is to learn how to shoot a ceremony in bright noon-day sun, there’s no guarantee that we will have an outdoor ceremony on our roster as well as no way to guarantee that the sun will be bright that day.)

Fine-tune and perfect your photography skills:  You’re a candidate for the long term mentorship if you already have photography skills but they simply need perfecting over a wide range of areas.  Think of this as starting as an entry level professional and finishing as a higher end professional.

Become a better photographer overall:  For a general increase in skills, help transitioning from amateur to new professional or general business advise and guidance, a one-on-one or group workshop is probably ideal.  Those who enter the mentorship are supposed to already have existing photography skills and the mentorship is meant to help you perfect those skills, not create them.

Increase my portfolio materials and experience:  Neither a mentor nor a teacher will hold your hand and spoon feed you experience and a portfolio – a portfolio is a showcase of your best material.  If you want to build your portfolio you need to start working as a second shooter; find second shooter jobs that allow you to use the images you taken.  It’s the best way to build your portfolio and to gain experience.

Do you have a portfolio to show me?

No: If you have no existing portfolio then we have no way to assess your skills.  Without being able to assess your skills, we cannot consider you for a long term mentorship.

Yes: You may be considered as a candidate for the long term mentorship if your portfolio contains wedding and engagement related photos.  As we mentioned above, the mentorship program is not meant to be an introduction into wedding photography; you should be approaching the mentorship program with at least a half dozen weddings under your belt and we would love to see the resulting photos prior to scheduling an interview.  It is not uncommon for us to ask to view several galleries of whole-day wedding photos as well as your most recent work.

Do you have a website to show me?

No:  Similar to the question above, if you have no website to show me then it becomes difficult for me to be able to assess not only your photographic skills but also your motivation in terms of building your business.

Yes: You may be considered as a candidate for the long term mentorship.

What has attracted you to wedding photography?

Just want to try it/I think it might be for me:  If you aren’t sure if wedding photography is for you and you just want to give it a try, I would suggest either shadowing another photographer as an assistant (a non-shooting day) or to spend some time taking wedding photography workshops in order to introduce you to the genre.  If you aren’t sure that wedding photography is for you then you should not be enrolled in the long term mentorship.

I live, eat and breathe weddings:  If you have already had some experience with wedding photography and have truly fell in love with the genre then either a workshop or the long term mentorship may be ideal for you.  The mentorship is hard work and in order to complete it free or charge, it may take several years.  The long term mentorship is truly a long term experience – but a wonderful one for those who are truly destined to be wedding photographers.

Why do you want to do the advanced mentorship versus the workshops?

Cost:  If one of the deciding factors for you to apply to the advanced, longterm mentorship is that it’s free, think again.  The dvanced, longterm mentorship is based on a quid pro quo agreement; for every hour I invest into you, you owe me the same amount of time in return upon completion of the mentorship.  If you can’t/won’t/don’t want to fulfil the quid pro quo portion of our agreement, you will be invoiced the amount outstanding.  (And for the extra curious, if you breakdown the cost of the long term mentorship into chargeable hours, you have an overall cost comparable to a few years of university tuition.)  So, no.. the mentorship isn’t “free”… it’s an exchange of services.

Guidance over time: If you are looking for guidance over a course of time as a way to build upon your own self-motivation and initiative, the the mentorship program might be right for you.

Do you like my style?

It’s nice but it’s not really me:  If you’re a vintage inspired photographer or film photographer or if your style lends itself to harsh lighting, dramatic  and/or surreal poses and compositions and your post processing is done with VSCO filters or other trendy presets and actions then the mentorship program might not be right for you.  You need to “click” with your mentor (no pun intended) which means that your styles need to be at least somewhat similar to mine.  If you have a unique style (as listed above) it is best you find a mentor whose style mimics yours.  Think of it this way: you wouldn’t go to an Italian cooking class and expect to learn how to make sushi.

Love it – I would totally hire you as my wedding photography: If our styles are similar then there’s a much better chance that we will click and that you’ll find the information that I’m providing you relevant to your improvement.  If our styles are somewhat similar, both the workshops and the mentorship may be a good fit for you.

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