photography mentoring
Hey Sparkle, remember when you were a newbie ‘tog who looked at all the ‘togs around you and thought “I’ll never be that good.  She is a legend and I don’t even know where to start.” But after a few years of digging in; learning the craft; and building your brand – YOU are the legend that the newbies are looking at. You did it. You are amazing. And, because you’re so awesome, you probably have other newbie photographers and hobbyists blowing up your inbox begging for your tricks and secrets.  The “can I take you to coffee” and “do you mind if I tag along to your next wedding” messages sound harmless enough {and you may even see some dollar signs flashing before your eyes}… but are they really the right decision for YOUR business?  Well, the truth is, maybe… maybe not.

This not be a popular topic, but it’s one that comes up A LOT in photography circles.  So it’s worth discussing!  As a highly trained teacher with a Masters Degree in Art Education, ten years of classroom experience, thousands of former students {both kids and adults} and a pro photographer with a thriving business {my fall calendar sold out in eight minutes… and I had just raised my prices}, I know I’ve got a thing or two to share with you about this topic.  So, let’s decide if you’re ready to do some photography mentoring… or if a hard pass is in your future!

Now you’re wondering, should I get into photography mentoring?

Would I be good at that? Do I have what it takes? A little extra money sounds great, after-all.

I need to be straight-up with you, sweet sparkle. There’s a lot more that goes into teaching than you think. And, here’s the honest truth….

you may be able to take a gorgeous photograph… but that doesn’t mean you necessarily have the skills needed to effectively communicate & teach your art.

There I said it.  Now don’t go sending me hate mail just yet.  I really want to you consider EVERYTHING that mentoring entails!  Ok?  Because when I started, I had no idea… and there ended up being A LOT more involved than I could have ever imagined!  Before you consider adding photography mentoring to your business plan, you need to make sure you are qualified.  Because if people are paying you for a service… you need to be sure that you can deliver what you’re promising!

Just think back to your high school or college days.  Did you ever have a professor who so incredibly talented in their chosen field… but who couldn’t teach to save their soul?  The ones who just gave you worksheets, endless reading assignments, and intense projects with little to no instruction on how to complete the task.  You don’t want to be that person.  Let me walk you through this process and help you decide if this is right for you.  Believe it or not, I’m on your side!


Before you begin photography mentoring, let’s make sure you’re qualified:

  • Do you have passion for sharing knowledge?

    For me personally, I’m incredibly energized and inspired by sharing my knowledge with others and then watching them run with it.  Even better is when those same people find massive success in their own businesses.  It’s an incredibly gratifying feeling for me!  Just last night I had a client telling me about how her Facebook reach was THROUGH THE ROOF!  After seeing her numbers, I asked her what was making the difference and she said, “YOU!!!  I’m just doing what you taught me and it’s working!”  My goodness…. that’s a darn good feeling!

    Keeping that in mind, take an honest assessment – how do you feel about mentoring?  Does the thought of helping someone get to that point, but answering loads of questions and giving tons of support along the way get you excited?  Or does that sound exhausting?  That should be your first clue as to whether or not you’re the right person for photography mentoring!  Because those moments of victory are fabulous… but it can take weeks and months to get to that point.

  • Do you have the ability to take a large subject and break it down into bites?

How would you explain bokeh? The rule of thirds? Facebook algorithms? Pricing your work for profit?  If you don’t know how to do that, you likely don’t have the required skill set necessary to teach.  When I was teaching elementary art, I had to teach my second graders the difference between organic shapes {which may also be called free-form shapes} and geometric shapes.  Now, you and I might implicitly understand those differences… but a seven year old certainly doesn’t and being able to clearly articulate those differences can be tricky!  So I had to find ways and words to use that made sense to them.  {Curious?  I’ll show you how I explained it at the bottom of this post!}

  • Can you teach to different learning modalities?

Different people learn in different ways and everyone’s brains are wired a little differently. Some learn by seeing; some by doing; some by seeing things written or listening. When I am teaching a workshop. I use a multi-sensory approach to teach so errrrrrrybody gets it. Catering to different learning modalities is non-negotiable with photography mentoring.  This means I need to have my camera in my hands when I’m instructing and be sure I’m giving actionable steps for my kinesthetic learners to apply.  I need to have power point presentations with sample photos and diagrams for my visual learners.  I need to give clear instructions and simple explanations for my auditory learners…. it goes on and on.  You will have all of those learners in your classroom or studio at some point, so you’ve gotta be prepared to help them!

  • Do you have time?

Adding photography mentoring to your scope of service is essentially like opening another business.  You’ve gotta make time in your schedule.  I spend more time helping other people with their businesses than actually working on my own now!  It’s crazy!  So you’ll need to make time to plan to plan and prepare… and then actually teach!  Here are some things you should consider:

      • When do you have time in your schedule?
      • How does this look and work alongside your other professional and personal commitments?
      • In addition to classroom time, you also have to be able to support your students after class?  Do you have the time and a way to make that happen?
      • What are you going to give up in order to make this happen {family time? free time? sleep?}
  • Do you have tried and true methods?

Pssst.  Yes, I’m talking to you.  If you’re just winging your settings in the field, don’t you dare start mentoring until you’ve got a better handle on your skills, ok?!  You’re going to have to understand photography enough to problem-solve and apply tried and true methods. I’m a Nikon girl, I use Ontraport and WordPress… but I’ve also got to be familiar enough with Canon, Mailchimp, and Squarespace to be able to handle questions about those other formats and platforms.

There’s also something to be said for experience in terms of being about to convince someone that something matters.  If you’ve ever synced camera clocks and color profiles with your second shooter at a wedding, you know how much time that saves you in post-processing and can convince someone else WHY they’ve gotta do that too!  If you’ve ever forgotten to change your aperture and shot an entire bridal party on the altar at 2.8, had out of focus photos then had to grovel to the bride and groom… you know the value of double and triple checking your settings and can convince someone else to do that same.  We learn so much by experience and being able to explain WHY something matters is just as important as the knowledge itself!

  • Do you have a teacher’s heart?

A natural-born teacher would share everything he or she knows, all day long, for free. It’s true! I did it myself. I was spending five to ten hours a week mentoring other photographers {for free}. And, you know what happened? I was losing five to ten hours a week of crucial time. My family needed me. My photography clients needed me. And I needed sleep.

So, while *wanting* to give the world away for free is great {and a tremendous teacher quality} you have to be able to convert that feeling to a tangible and profitable benchmark in your business.  Because while it feels like you’re “just talking” or “just teaching” the truth of the matter is that it DOES come at a price for you.

  • Do you have a plan?

    • Your plan will need to include a curriculum {and it needs to be beta tested for efficiency and usability}.  Sidenote: if the word curriculum scares you… you’re probably not ready to teach.
    • Teaching your content will possibly need to include videos; you may need a Facebook group; you may need PDF handouts {remember the modalities?}  What’s going to be the best way to deliver your content?
    • How does your plan fit into your sales funnel? How will you strategically implement this into your sales strategy?
    • Your plan will need to include contracts that legally and financially protect your business.  {I personally love Rachel from the Law Tog and use many of her contracts}!
    • Your plan needs to include demographics. Who will you serve? How will you protect yourself in that capacity? {Remember: if you are teaching other photographers, they could potentially steal your business model if you aren’t careful. Protect yourself. Get it in writing so that can’t happen}.
    • A special word of caution: your plan needs to consider minor {under 18} clients. I don’t take any minor clients because, let’s face it, some parents be cray. I’ve even turned some of my nearest and dearest former students away because it’s a policy I uphold no matter what.

If you’ve answered yes to the majority of these things, congrats!  It sounds like you’re ready to start photography mentoring!

So, what happens now?  Should you just throw together a Facebook ad and hope for the best?  If only it was that easy, right?!  Three things to consider as you’re considering this new facet for your business and brand:

How will you price yourself?

  • What has it cost you (workshops/time) to learn the knowledge you’re about to share???
  • Will it benefit your clients? Will it give their business an overhaul or help them improve a single skill? Price accordingly.
  • How much time will this take? Everything costs you something (even if it’s just your time).  And, spoiler alert, it’s ALWAYS way more than just your time.  You will start to become emotionally invested in your clients.  I’ve lost sleep and spent countless hours daydreaming and problem solving for my clients just because I care that much!
  • What type of mentoring is this? (Small group, one-on-one, group, in-person, online?) Again, price accordingly.  Group mentoring can be priced much lower than one-on-one mentoring!

How are you going to market this?

What is your long-term plan? How will I keep this going? Is this a seasonal project? Are you going to teach soccer moms? Other photographers? You may need to consider creating a separate website (there’s one of those sneaky added expenses).  Are you going to use the current branding you’ve got for your photography business?  Do you need an entirely new brand identity to market this well?

Will you need to create new or additional social media accounts?  This was a choice that I had to make for my own business.  The mammas that I photograph don’t exactly want to see me teach the psychology of a sales session {nor do I want them to really see that} or care about the latest Lightroom updates.  The photographers that follow me?  They want to know tips and tricks that can help them improve their business… but may or may not care about the pretty senior I just photographed or what my team is doing behind the scenes.  When you have completely different audiences, you need completely different social media accounts.

What’s going to go?

Anytime you say YES to something, you’re saying NO to something else. If you’re teaching for ten hours a week (you’re saying no to your business, family, fitness, sleep, etc) ten hours a week. Is it worth it? Can you do it?

This is the most important things to consider!  If you’re fabulous enough to have people asking you for mentoring… you probably already have a fairly busy business.  In order to ensure that your photography mentoring programs are a blessing {not a burden} on your family – you need to clear room for these new clients in your schedule.

Right now, I’m giving you permission to say no.  If this isn’t the right match, it’s okay to say so.  It might be hard to turn people down, but check out this video from Marie Forleo {I adore her} and you’ll be armed with an easy way to say no to people who want to pick your brain {without being a jerk}!

But, if you’re feeling confident about this – then it’s full steam ahead!  Invest in a business coach {photography coaching is a HIGHLY SATURATED and HIGHLY COMPETITIVE market} and start creating a marketing budget.  Plan plan plan plan as much as you can before launching and, when you do, you’ve gotta be all in!

So… how are you feeling about photography mentoring now???

Please hear me loud and clear because I did this backwards. I started mentoring in addition to my photography business and without a plan! I didn’t sleep. I gained weight. I was not happy. I was not prepared.  So while I have a very successful and incredibly rewarding photography mentoring business now, it has not come without a steep price; strategy; hustle and heart. If you’re considering teaching or mentoring – please use this checklist and know that I wish you all the best!  Considering all of the ifs, ands, and buts necessary to implement photography mentoring into YOUR business before you get started will only add happiness and sparkle along the way!

Now that I’ve got a plan, clear boundaries, and business strategies in place, I’ve got a six-figure company, awesome clients, a team of six ladies working with me, a happier home, and a healthier mindset.  Please please please…. learn from my mistakes and decide if mentoring is really the right decision for you!  And if it’s not, it’s okay to say no!

As always, it’s an honor to have you joining me on this journey and I’d love to continue to help you make informed decisions for your photography business!  If you’re a photographer in your first few years of business, I’d totally love to send you a FREE mini-workshop and help you sparkle and shine online!  Click here to download a freebie, with love from me to you!

immerse workshops cyrissa

ps – wanna know the difference between organic/free-form shapes and geometric shapes?  Geometric shapes have rules {ie: four equal sides, 90 degree angles, etc}.  Organic, or free-form shapes don’t.  Geometric shapes have names {ie: circle, square, etc}.  Organic shapes don’t.  But…. for OCD teacher’s pets: technically, a shape like a tree COULD be defined as an organic shape {depending upon how you define organic}.  I define it as something that is created by your imagination and is without limitation of traditional rules.  Some people define “organic” as shapes that occur in nature – tree, people, apple, etc. so it’s a little gray in terms of the precise definition, but you get the idea.  When you’re teaching to second graders, you gotta keep it as simple as possible!  🙂


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