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Internship Review by Alumni Intern Meagan

5 Jan ’12
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We like to say that we have the best photography internship in the country. It’s true – but only because our Internship is more than just me or Leah. It’s more than a series of classes or a couple of workshops. We don’t know exactly what it is – because it changes with each new Season of Interns – and so do we. The intern application for Season Seven will be posted this coming Monday. – Mark

– Posted by Alumni Intern Meagan | Season SiX | Meagan O. Photography

Happy New Year!! CAUTION: This will be the longest post. Ever.

So, I realize that I am two months behind in posting this, but better late than never! It’s time for review. I’m going to break down my actual experience as an intern first, and then go over what I learned. Side note: If you are an intern considering this internship, this blog is mostly for you. Let’s jump right in.

When I signed up for the internship, I must admit I kind of had to talk myself into it. I already had my own photography business and really felt like I was beyond being an “intern”.  Honestly, there were really only two reasons why I took the plunge and signed up. One, I wanted to learn about external lighting and I didn’t want to drop $2,500+ to chill in a Creative Circus class. And two, I love a challenge and from everything I’d read from the former interns, that seemed to be something they all experienced.
So, here’s what I thought the internship was going to be and what is actually was:
#1- I thought Mark would teach us to be mini-Marks. FALSE. 
One of the major things I was concerned about when I started the internship was that I was putting myself in a situation where someone was going to stand over my shoulder and tell me how to shoot. What to shoot. What settings my camera should be on. Etc. I did NOT have ANY desire to let some photographer stick their hand up my butt and treat me like some perpetual photography puppet. Word. In fact, many of the former intern’s blogs (especially the first few seasons) complained about how they wanted more direction from Mark. I took this as a great sign, and it was. The first night, Mark literally threw four-six different stations with models and different lighting set ups at us and said “Go”. Is this a little intimidating? Yes. When you are paired with another couple of interns and you have to figure out the lighting as well as direct the model and all while other photographers are shooting/watching you, it can make you nervous. However, I loved that we got to figure stuff out on our own. Leah, Mark and some of the alumni interns were also walking around helping us and answering our questions. Now, keep in mind the internship changes each time there’s a new round of interns. It gets better and better. Mark now has several actual classes where we come and just listen to him talk about topics like lighting, marketing, composition, how awesome he is etc. So there is time dedicated to instruction, learning and your questions. Plus, Mark is constantly telling you to be different. Think outside the box. Not copy him, but figure out what kind of photographer you are and then get better at it.
Advice: Push the envelope. Use this time to be crazy, make a rash decision, get into the lake, jump off the bridge, toss the baby. Not really. But don’t be afraid to look stupid. In fact, aim to look stupid because that’s when you’ll learn. That’s when inspiration breaks through and you become unique. This is your time to experiment. So do the things you can’t do when a client has hired you and you have to be “professional”.
#2- Mark is mean. FALSE.
I remember reading through some of the alumni intern’s blogs and getting the impression that Mark was going to be this difficult, antagonistic, and potentially mean guy. Yeah. He’s not. What he is is fun-loving, incredibly passionate about what he does and helping others and a very hard worker. He is also honest. He will tell you if a picture you took that you thought was great, is crap. Or ok. Or on the right track. But guess what? You need to hear it. He doesn’t tell you anything for the sake of upsetting you or to boost his ego. He will be honest with you about your work. And guess what else? He’s a successful and talented photographer who works constantly and you should listen. Does it mean he’s always right? No. (Ohhhhhh snap.) BUT it means that when you take a picture, YOU need to know why YOU think it’s great. And “because it’s pretty” or “because I like it” are NOT valid answers.
Advice: Mark likes to joke around. A lot. It makes for a fun environment and a lot of “that’s what she said” jokes. But if he ever does say something that offends you, just talk to him about it. Or if you really want to get back at him, talk to Leah.
#3- Mark and Leah do everything for you. FALSE.
Mark and Leah do a lot. A lot lot. They set up shoots, get models, set up classes, invite you to go with them when they shoot clients, etc. But you are expected to show initiative. They had each of us set up our own shoots for all of the interns. That meant getting the models, finding the location, setting up the time, etc. Here’s why this is great-because they show you how to do it all and you know how to do it after the internship is over. You decide how much you are going to get out of this internship. Mark and Leah create opportunities for you, but you have to show up. 
Advice: PLAN AHEAD!!! Seriously! It’s only three months. Suck it up, and be awesome.
#4- This is a big time commitment. TRUE. 
Another thing I was worried about was the time commitment. Everyone made it seem like Mark really kept them busy and I was concerned because I was already pretty busy with my own clients. And, yes, Mark and Leah set a bar for how much they expect you to do. Here’s the deal with that. You are in control of how much time you spend on the internship. How many shoots you go on. How many classes you attend. How many blogs you write. How many images you edit. However, that will directly effect how much you get out of this internship. This will be the greatest thing you do for your photography IF you work hard. This will mean nothing if you don’t care. What it won’t be is a waste of time IF you put in effort. If you have a full time day job, this probably isn’t for you. I spent an average of 10-20 hours per week on stuff with and for Leah and Mark. Here’s how my time broke down over those three months:
Shooting-50%
Editing & Blogging-30%
Classes-15%
Random Assignments-5%
Advice: If you are already thinking that you will just do the bare minimum and squeak by, do everyone a favor and don’t apply. Or if you think you’re going to drop out or just stop coming at some point, do not apply. There are genuine people who would move heaven and earth and not sleep to be a part of this internship and if you took their spot, that’d be sad. And mean. Also, spend this time pushing your limits. Say yes to everything and find out what your breaking point is. What was worth your time, what wasn’t. What worked for you, what didn’t. Just. Three. Months.
#5- You will learn a lot and this will change how you take pictures forever. TRUE.  I’ve learned:
How lighting works:
I now know how to correctly light my shot. And it doesn’t mean having to drop thousands on new equipment either. You will learn about and work with flashes, reflectors, soft boxes, continuous light, key light, back lighting as well as learn how to use them in a studio setting or outside. Mark will also give you a copy of his coveted equipment list, which tells you how you can light a scene on the CHEAP.
 
Stop being lazy:
Before I did this internship I worked, but I didn’t work hard. I didn’t realize how much I could knock out in a weeks time when I just got up and did it. I think the main reason so many  photographers aren’t able to really get their business to thrive is not because they suck at photography, but because they are lazy. Or if they are working hard, they are pouring their time and energy into becoming better at their “art” instead of figuring out how to get clients. Mark is the hardest working photographer I know. He will show you how to hustle and teach you the meaning of hard work. I know all of this sounds kind of sucky. I mean, who wants to work hard, right? BUT when you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work because it isn’t. It’s fun.
 
Shoot more. And more. Then double that.
You cannot get better if you don’t shoot. However, you will continuously get better if you continuously shoot. You have to make time to shoot just for you. For fun. Not to please a client. Not to get a paycheck. Get a model, go out and try new things. My new goal is to shoot at least one thing a week that’s just for me. That’s when you can be creative and what’s awesome is that creative stuff circulates a lot more than normal stuff. Family pics at the park-eh. Seen it. Pics of a model with candy canes raining from the sky as she walks a tight rope suspended over two buildings? Way. Cool. Is someone going to hire you because they want to walk a tightrope with candy canes raining from the sky? No. But normal people will check out those photos and they may think you’re so cool that they want you to shoot their daughter’s wedding.
 
Take yourself down a notch:
Photographers are famous for trying to act like super-hipster, creative artists who are better than everyone around them. Inside we all know we are a little less cool and a little more like a poser than we’re acting. If you think you’re better than others, you can’t get better. If you look at everyone around you and realize that you can learn something from them, then you will. And it will be awesome. Don’t be the photographer who thinks that all other photographers are out there stealing their business. There’s plenty to go around. Let’s help each other be successful. 
 
Get to know more people who aren’t photographers:
Photographers aren’t normally looking for photographers. Everyday people however, do need pictures. It is part of your job to be meeting new people. All. The. Time. That means joining that yoga class, or that book club. Or Volunteering. It’s easy when you work for yourself to spend hours watching a America’s Next Top Model Marathon (guilty), but Tyra’s not gonna be calling you for pics anytime soon.
 
Quit looking at other photographer’s websites:
I know I’ve spent many MANY hours doing “research” aka: looking at all the other photographer’s websites, but all that does is create a copy cat. And, let’s be honest, it turns us into that sniveling shell of ourselves who think “If I had all that equipment, I’d be amazing too” or “Her website is so much cooler than mine only cause she spent $5000 on it” or “How can HE charge THAT!?” Be you. You really are awesome. Really. Get inspiration from art, music, fashion, food, friends, books, nature, light, etc. Then YOU’LL be the one other photographers are checking out!
 
Know what YOU want:
You should work hard and be awesome, but understand what you want your life to look like. Honestly, I don’t want to shoot everything like Mark does. I want to shoot people in love. I also don’t want to work as hard as Mark does, but I want to work hard. Figure out how many shoots you need to be shooting per week and what’s too much. How much money you want to make and how much marketing you need to do to get there. Maybe photography for you needs to stay a hobby. Just for you, for fun. Or maybe you want to make a living at it. Figure out why photography is important to you and keep that reason central.
 
Use social media like it’s your job:
Because it is.
 
Be legit:
If you are going to offer you photography as a service, make sure it’s worth being paid for. And that’s not just the pictures, it’s also the experience of your client. Just because you got a shiny Canon 5d II for Christmas, doesn’t mean you are now a professional photographer who can charge $3000 to shoot a wedding.
 
Finally, Leah and Mark really ARE. SO. AWESOME.
Leah and Mark pour themselves into their interns. You will learn so much, but they make that happen. They will share with you anything you want to know about their business from who prints their business cards to what wedding blogs they follow. They sacrifice time with each other, sleep, energy and so much more to make this experience something great for you. And that’s not just during the three months either! Mark is constantly online and you can drop him a line to ask a question anytime. Plus you leave with the resources of the all TOO awesome plus photogs. Shout out to +Deb, +Raven and newbie and fellow season sixer +Jo! You guys each added something unique and irreplaceable to the entire internship experience! Double shout out to all my fellow Season Six Interns who I got to learn from, learn about and hopefully keep in touch with!
I think that’s it. So, if you got through all that and you still want to be an intern, do it. The only thing Lean and Mark ask for in return is that you give this internship your all. It is So. Worth. It.
 
If you’d like to follow up on me and my photography-you can check out my website www.meaganophotography.com.

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5 Comments

  • Reply Jo Arellanes 5 Jan ’12 at 9:06 pm

    Yes. To everything.

    Also an example: 6 shoots in two days… never the same photographer after that weekend because I failed and found my limit. 😛

  • Reply Atlanta. Photography. Internship. Interns. Review. About. Information. LeahAndMark.com 28 Sep ’12 at 1:09 am

    […] only that – if you’ve read the reviews – (this one by Alumni Intern Meagan is one of the best overviews) then you know that I (Mark!) – give very little instruction, and I definitely don’t […]

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  • Reply Atlanta Photography Internship | LeahAndMark.com | Review | Information 11 Apr ’13 at 11:51 am

    […] can’t really explain what the internship is – I think Alumni Intern Megan explained it the most accurately. {She kinda took the words out of my mouth.} I gained so much from everyone durning the internship. […]

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