We’re regularly asked what we get out of having our Interns. The complete answer isn’t always the easy answer – because we get quite a bit out of the deal. Beyond the small bits of manual labor – there’s the education. Beyond the education I receive through teaching, there is of course the friendship that builds – but recently it’s become more of a proving ground for finding out who it is we want to continue working with in the future.
Of course it’s not cut and dry easy – because being friends with us is easy – continuing to work with us beyond the internship isn’t. The next Season always takes center stage and all of the focus away from the Alumni. It’s a short three months and there are no do-overs. You either make the most of it or you don’t – and then we all move on with our lives.
For those that do figure out how to make the most of the Internship; when it ends they should have an appropriate gnawing feeling at the back of their heads – annoying them, nagging them – telling them that they could be doing more – more photography, more business, more studying, more learning – and then learning even more. I do worry about them, those Alumni Interns that really want to be doing this full time. The ones who tell themselves they’ll take just a little break – a small one – and then they’ll hit the road running next month. They’ll get their website up. They’ll start marketing. They’ll start shooting more. They’ll start practicing editing techniques. They won’t give up… I know that’s what they tell themselves. I know they’re also afraid that it’s just what they’re telling themselves to feel better.
Of course life gets in the way when we’re making plans – and that will always be the case unless we don’t let it get to us. Because when you start making plans – everyone and everything around you may decide to test you – and it’s easy to give in to those pressures and put things on hold. Just for a little while. Just until next week. Or until next month when life is less hectic. Okay – maybe in a few months.
There are aspects of this internship that won’t be found anywhere else. Most of them serve three levels of purpose.
- Basic skills for the Intern.
- Task completed for LeahAndMark.com
- Underlying skill to be learned.
That last one is the most important piece. Let’s take a look at one example.
Blogging. We have the Interns blog roughly once a week on their photoshoots. As far as basic skills – there’s the usual stuff – the taking pictures, practicing composition, practicing/discovering their shooting style, etc. The task completed for us is that when they blog – they’re essentially creating content and marketing for us.
The underlying skills learned aren’t nice and neat – but here’s my attempt at explaining how it works.
For the Interns – being required to blog forces upon them an artificial deadline. This is needed since they’re not overloaded with clients right now (if any). So they at least MUST review and edit their photos. Hobbyists don’t do this. Not only must the interns edit their photos – they’re posting their photos for the world and their peers to see (other interns). There is less and less hiding because you ‘had a bad shoot’.
Not only do we tell them to post their photos – we also tell them to write substantial blog entries that do more than just ‘list what they did’ on a particular shoot. You know what I’m talking about. There are so many photography blogs out there where all that’s written is a short introduction that doesn’t really say anything, “This family was the nicest, most fun, most cute, extra special… blah blah blah…” And then all you see are photos. Of course you should post photos – but if you’re a photographer who only posts photos on your blog without substantial text for content, then you’re competing on the strength of your photos alone.
This would be enough except for the fact that THERE ARE TOO MANY REALLY GREAT PHOTOGRAPHERS OUT THERE.
You can’t compete with only your photos. You have to get people to feel like they know you. If you read the intern blogs – they’re way more interesting than most photography blogs out there simply because the Interns are actually saying something.
During our business/marketing workshop – we also talk about building an audience instead of just finding individual clients. Now that the interns have a regularly updated blog – they can actually post it to their facebooks, spread the word on twitter, and even tell people in real life to go check out what they’re making! And they can do it in a way that’s not just ‘Look at my latest family portrait session’, or ‘Check out these recent baby photos I took’, or ‘Look at these models that I photographed’. It’s an excuse to unabashedly start making that transition in everyone’s minds from a person who likes to take pictures, to a serious photographer who has clients and charges them money.
There is no better way to learn than to actually DO things – and the better interns understand that promoting their intern blogs is a great excuse to really start getting a handle on all things social media. And if you don’t think marketing is an important thing to master – then you’re probably not getting much business.
The interns ask a lot of questions – and sometimes I’m not in the mood to just give them an answer because what they really need to do is figure it out.
Now I’ll give you an example where I was forced to learn something new and figure things out. We’ve started profiling different people and interviewing them. We end up with about an hour of audio that needs to be typed out in order for us to piece together the blog entry and make it interesting.
I hand the .mp3 files over to different interns to do the typing. Needless to say, it can take some time. If you don’t type super fast then you have to stop, go back, and replay each sentence. An hour long interview can easily end up taking 2 or 3 hours – not fun for anyone. Recently I had an intern let me know that they were having problems with playing the .mp3 and it was going to take much more time than they had available (it wouldn’t ‘pause’ and it would keep going all the way back to the beginning). Since this is a free and unpaid internship – obviously I’m not going to ‘make’ anyone do anything they don’t want to do.
But I still needed that audio typed up. So I sat and thought about it for a few minutes. And then a few more minutes. At first I wondered exactly how fast I could be at doing it – even if I typed at talking speed it’d still take me at least an hour, and I didn’t want to have to do that every time I interviewed someone. Then I remembered that hey! There’s dictating software now! What if I just played the .mp3 into a mic and let the software start typing?! Totally a possibility.
In the end, I went with a completely different solution than electronic dictation software – and it solves a few other problems that I was having trouble answering.
I might not have been forced to solve this problem if I didn’t have the interns and that’s one of the biggest benefits of the internship for ME. It’s not that they actually give me ideas – it’s that I’m forced to go find new ideas to solve my own problems.
See you tomorrow.
Posted by Mark