You are on the internet. Everything needs to be delivered in sound bites, at high speed, so here is the (very) short version.
You send me some images. I look at them. I tell you what you could do to improve them. I will equip you with those skills.
You send more images. we both agree they are better – you have achieved your goal (you’ve improved).
I’ve achieved my goal (I get to eat – unless you used a free voucher).
Below is the slow version:
Welcome to the image mentor service. First, so we don’t waste your time, let’s tell you about what image mentor isn’t for:
If you want to start your own photography business, this isn’t what you need. If you are about to start wedding or product photography, you’ve come to the wrong place.
However if you actually want to create great art with an imaging device (that could be your phone, or it could be a Leica) but you can’t quite get there, this is your stepping stone to that goal.
A few thing this is not:
It’s not a structured photography course – there are plenty of those out there, from good to bad.
There isn’t a curriculum, there are no modules, there are no set assignments, examinations, or a qualification.
There is no classroom, you are not really going to be taught anything.
You are going to learn what you need to improve your photography to get you to the level you want to be at.
The original concept was a one to one, face to face totally personalised mentoring programme delivered from the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.
There will, one day, be the option of luxury accommodation in a sixteenth century eco-barn, with local pubs and restaurants to enjoy at the end of your day.
We can’t do that at the moment (the moment is August 2020 and we are in the middle of a global pandemic). The restructured offers the essence of the photo mentor process but delivered online. We still feel that the on site experience is the ideal, so anyone who signs up for the online service will be offered a discount when we are up and running.
Who is this for?
There is no typical photo mentor client, but the idea is to provide guidance for people (professional and non-professional) who feel that they want to improve their photography, but cannot work out for themselves what they need to do.
Many people want to improve their photography, and there are many ways to do this. The internet is full of self help videos, online training courses, tips, tricks, facts and plenty of fiction.
What is clear is that buying the best kit and learning how it works will not make you a great photographer. We all know the guy (it’s usually a man) who has all the gear, but never takes anything better than a snapshot. Perhaps more annoying is the person who takes stunning images and then tells you they know nothing about photography, and just took the picture on their phone.
A great photographer usually has a grasp of how the process works, but more importantly, is in the right place, at the right time with a clear idea of what they want. This is a skill that isn’t easily learned from books, and we all will take a different journey to this point.
Photo Mentoring is an individualised approach to improving your photography helping you on the journey towards your photographic goals. We all have a different starting point, and different interests so generic training courses are a ‘one size fits all’ approach that will rarely bring out your best.
There isn’t a process – but there is a starting point. The first thing we will do is look at some of your images, not just your best ones, and not the ones that you really know should have been deleted straight away, but some examples of your ‘best work’ and some that are not as good as you would like them to be.
We will also look at your selection of other people’s work that you feel is of the standard you aspire to.
This starts the journey… we then identify your strengths and weaknesses. We will discuss equipment, but we can almost guarantee that the gear you are using is not the problem. How you use it may be. We may discuss the way you look at the world, your chosen subject, and what you are trying to ‘say’ with your image. We can focus on photography in general, or you may opt to concentrate on just one genre, like landscape, or nudes, or abstraction, or your kids or pets. It’s all about you.
We will try to identify your learning ‘style’ and how you may respond to our guidance. One member of our team is an educational consultant with over three decades of experience.
We will then design exercises to help you deal with identified issues, and these can be diverse. At one extreme, we may point you to one of our guides that explains certain technical aspects that you really need to grasp to move forward. We may ask you to photograph an object, or even a person in different ways.
Of course this may show that you are actually taking really good images, but are struggling to process them in a way that brings out their best. So we may have a chat about software, computers and dull stuff like that. This will eventually fill in the gaps in your skill and knowledge. Then we can look at the new portfolio and see what we have achieved.
How is this delivered? We need to use whatever technology we can to facilitate each aspect. The best way to share images is email or Dropbox, if the files are large. Some people respond well to an email exchange, others a chat on the phone, and for some things video conferencing (Zoom, Skype etc.) can help – particularly when we are discussing post processing.
This sounds great – how do I book, and what does it cost?
We don’t have an online booking and payment system. We have limited capacity, and need to have enough time to look after each client individually, and also do all the other things we do, so the number of active clients will vary.
First thing to do is to get in touch by email – firstname.lastname@example.org or ideally via the contact form here.
During the pandemic period we are offering the service at a nominal cost, as people’s financial futures are uncertain. The service is offered in one month ‘blocks’ and includes: Initial assessment, nominally four ‘interactions’ and the final assessment. So, what is an interaction? A half hour phone call or Zoom session counts as an interaction. Two email exchanges count as one interaction, as email is more time efficient for us, and what you are buying is our time, and expertise.
At the moment you get all this for just £25 for the first month, and £20 for each month afterwards on a rolling basis with no tie in. You can stop at any time (or take a rest and come back later – just talk to us). We take credit cards, bank transfers, or PayPal (and like everyone else, bank transfers are the best for us, but whatever suits you). Payment is in advance and once you have started there are no refunds.
So, who is this person who thinks he know everything about photography?
My name is Jem Hayward and I do my photographic work as Briksdal Photography. I am not a professional photographer, but I do get paid to do some shoots, sell images online and through my exhibitions, but photography isn’t my proper job, for many reasons. Professional photography didn’t appeal, as I had a well paid day job for forty years (I’m was an Optometrist and computer programmer so there is a link there, lenses and computers).
I have now decided to make photography mentoring (and other things – AirBnB, cycling, classic car restoration) my new career.
Photography is my artistic expression (it’s a family thing – my brother is a sculptor) and I don’t want anyone telling me what to photograph, or worse, how to photograph it. Being a professional photographer is hard work & poorly paid. I have fifty years of experience, so I’m a bit past teetering on a stepladder to grab a picture of this week’s celebrity I’ve never heard of.
Yes, fifty years experience. Playing with my dad’s camera, my first box camera, processing my own black and white film took me through my teenage years. I then bought what I thought was my first ‘proper’ camera. My pictures were suddenly better, until I actually looked at them and they weren’t. I started thinking and realised that photography wasn’t about buying and using beautiful precision instruments (though I won’t deny that the engineer in me enjoys that aspect) – it was a way to capture what was around me and express it in my way and share it with others.
I started to experiment with different techniques, like infra red imaging, exposure times, filters and films. If we really did learn by our mistakes I’d be a genius by now, but slowly there were some silk purses amongst the sow’s ears. I discovered that people wanted to look at my images, and sometimes gave me money for them, and hung them on their walls.
I had become an artist.
Digital photography (I was actually quite a late adopter) married my photographic skills, with my IT background. I still have four film cameras but I don’t use them. However I don’t worship the process I am interested in the end result. I can develop film, I can print, I battled with inkjet printers for years, but I now use an external lab to produce my exhibition prints as they are better at it than I am.
Specific areas of expertise:
Lenses, design and use.
Camera controls and all those confusing terms.
Infra Red and Ultra Violet photography.
Small scale studio lighting.
Pinhole photography (not great in the digital world).
Probably other stuff to, fifty years is a long time.