Unlocking Your Potential: How Mentorship Fuels Your Growth

Unlocking Your Potential: How Mentorship Fuels Your Growth

Photographers will face many challenges on their journey. Finding a photography mentor can drastically change the trip from being overwhelmed to having confidence.

Feedback and Direction

When embarking on your photographic journey, the road can lead you in many directions, and you need to decide which route to take and when to take it. Coming to your first crossroads can take time, especially regarding what road to take. Most of my mentoring students try to take all the roads at once. This leads to an overwhelming feeling and a lack of knowledge of the basic techniques. This makes any future education more challenging than it needs to be. Finding a mentor that works for you can be a vital piece of the puzzle. A mentor should be a person who will guide you and give you the information you need to make decisions, not decide for you. While you're on your journey, a mentor can provide feedback on your choices and, if you have fallen off course, help you get back on track.


At some point, you may find yourself losing that inspiration and drive to pick up your camera. This is where a mentor can play a crucial role. Having a mentor you can rely on for an outside perspective can help you analyze your current lack of motivation and find new inspiration. In the past, I have relied on others to help me find new perspectives and dig deep into why I was losing my inspiration and motivation, which has always reignited my passion for photography.


You need to set simple and attainable goals to grow your skills and become a better photographer. However, goals can be like New Year's resolutions; they initially sound great but eventually fade away. This is where a mentor can be a game-changer. They can keep you accountable for the goals you set and be there to help you achieve them. They can give you a quick text reminder or check in to see how things are going. When I have to answer to someone other than myself, I commit more time and effort, and I'm sure you will too.

Justin Tedford speaking at Professional Photographers Iowa Winter Convention


Opportunities can arise anytime, and when you network, the chances of opportunity are greater. Mentoring is more than about building new skills and directions. Finding new colleagues to network with a mentor can help by introducing you to other photographers and creatives. These new colleagues can help you along your journey and might be able to help in areas where your mentor can’t. They will even bring you new opportunities for education and business opportunities.

Real World Learning 

In my book, there is theory and reality. Theory is excellent, but reality is usually king. When working with a mentor, they can help by sharing real-world experiences. The best experience is hands-on experience. There is no better way to learn than the hands-on method. Working with a mentor who has real-world experience will be invaluable. They will be able to teach you things and give you tips the books do not. This knowledge is all based on the experiences your mentor has.

Whether you're new to photography or have been at it a while, you know there are trials and tribulations when it comes to being creative. From learning the basics of exposure and composition to advanced techniques in Photoshop, there can be a lot to learn. Finding a mentor and the right mentor can help in your journey.

Bonus: How to Find a Mentor 

  • Identify your goals for mentoring; clear goals save you and your mentor time.
  • Be prepared financially; we wouldn’t expect to shoot for free, so don’t expect the same from your mentor.
  • Choose a mentor in the area of photography you photograph; a portrait photographer wouldn’t be a well-suited choice if you're trying to be a better wildlife photographer.
  • Be open-minded and realistic; you’re there to learn, and being open-minded makes it better for everyone. Don’t expect your mentor to answer a 2:00 am call or respond immediately to your requests. Finally, in the end, it's all up to you, so put in the time and effort. With this, you will see the results you are expecting.
Justin Tedford's picture

Justin Tedford, a Midwest photographer, captures the essence of rural America along Iowa's backroads. He's a road trip junkie, enjoys exploring national parks, and savors a good cup of coffee while focusing on showcasing the beauty of the rural American landscapes.

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Of course, mentorship works both ways. I suspect that many of us who frequent this website have a lot to offer as mentors. I've started mentoring a couple of young, aspiring wildlife photographers, and it has been very fulfilling. Perhaps you can work on another article that approaches mentorship from that direction.


I could really, really use a mentor for Photoshop and Lightroom. There are many online resources for learning these programs, but I really struggle to learn from tutorials and the like. I learn best with face-to-face in-person instruction. I have been looking for such a mentor for years and years, but there doesn't seem to be anyone in my community who knows any more than I do in the area of photo editing. I've been stuck at the same place, not advancing my skills for years and years, because of the lack of a mentor.

Thanks for the article idea and for interacting in the comments section! I have mentored people in Lightroom, and I love teaching. I also learn better in person, but with software, that is a little easier if you're not in person as you are watching. I like to teach where I show and then have students work on an assignment to implement those new skills! Thanks for mentoring a new generation of photographers!

finding your style is a challenge I haven't overcome yet. we all look at thousands and thousands of tutorials but when you are in front of your picture you don't know where to start :)). sound familiar to anyone?

I think if you are consciously trying to find your style, then you never will find it. Style has to happen organically. It happens because you have something that you want to communicate in a certain way ..... it grows from that passion that you have for your subject and/or for a particular way of seeing that subject. Not everybody has something to say that is unique, so not everyone will necessarily be able to develop a "style".

Tom, I feel like we have a very similar in out photographic ways!

Agreed! I think your style will naturally start to fall in place and evolve over time.

Great comments and article!

Thank you!