Not a reference to the Spongey fella that lives in a citrus fruit.
When I first started in photography, I was in high school. It was a pretty cool experience to play around with exposure and development settings in the darkroom. Most photographers starting out today have not had to spend hours in a darkroom to get results, and are satisfied with instant gratification. Count me among them, of course. I relish my days of darkroom tedium, as it has prepared me for the patience I would need later in my career. But I also like looking at the back of the camera and thinking “okay, that worked!”
As I branched out in my career, it was important for me to learn from other professionals. There were really three types of educational opportunities; internship, apprentice and assistant. I interned with one photographer, but for only a short time. I apprenticed with two photographers for about two years. And I assisted whenever I could. I can’t remember how many photographers I assisted. But that’s not the point.
The point is that instead of just picking up my camera and starting to take pictures, I worked WITH a seasoned professional. I learned (practically absorbed) everything possible, even if it didn’t seem to have bearing on my future as a pro. Then, I wasn’t sure that professional photography would work out for me, and wanted to be prepared for whatever might happen next. By the time I was in my fifth year, I knew a LOT about flowers, dresses, tuxedos, cakes and music (or at least playing it).
Which leads me to the post’s title. What I have long offered is the ability for any student or young photographer to intern or apprentice with me. No, internships don’t pay money. Apprenticeships pay little. The payback is the experience, exposure and thrill of working for and with someone who has had the long-term experience to pass along. But this is not just an offer to work with me as an intern.
It is also a big time request for you to intern, apprentice AND assist with anyone who could help further your career. Offer to take out the trash, clean toilets and sweep the porch in exchange for some “sit in the corner and watch” time at the next session. Go visit a church (or ten) and watch how a wedding unfolds… and ask questions. Offer to do something for the church in return for putting up with you.
Photography evolved beyond the darkroom.
But it did not evolve beyond the absolute need for photographers to get experience WITH experienced professionals. Don’t be lazy… go help someone, and help yourself in return.