“Write as much as you would like to say, and whatever you’d like to say. I will not censor or edit your reviews (except for spelling/grammar) – and if I do post your review, I will post it in it’s entirety, or not all. This internship isn’t perfect – and we know it – so write what you’d like.” – Mark

(Check out S3 Reviews Part 2 – Here.)

Hi Mark,

I’m reviewing the internship, but this is not meant for posting on your blog. If you don’t get enough reviews submitted for your blog post, just let me know and I’ll write an official ‘for posting’ review Saturday. But I figure you’ll get plenty of gushing good stuff, so I thought I’d try to write something more meaningful…

So basically, I’m going to just write some observations. These aren’t all that organized… just thoughts.

First of all, I think what you’re doing is pretty ingenious. You are clearly a master of marketing. But it’s deeper than that, because you seem sincere, and that’s the thing that will keep you in business. Marketing only goes so far. People crave authenticity. Your sincerity in what you do is your finest quality.

The army of interns is probably one of the most clever ideas developed in professional photography in a long time. It’s new because it’s old. Just like the days of apprentices to the big studios of the Renaissance or whatever. I’m not even going to say I wish I’d thought of it, because there’s no way I’d ever want to take on the amount of work and intense responsibility that it must be. However, I imagine that as your reputation grows, and it will, there will be a jillion copycats around the country. That is worth being proud of.

The flip side of that is burn out. More than a couple of times when I saw you over the past few weeks, you seem less… energetic or something. Having run a hectic business that consumed my life for a few years, I’m familiar with the signs of burn out. It’s important to make sure that you don’t let the work become WORK, or you’ll start to hate it. And I mean HATE. IT. Be a student and always keep learning. Stay passionate about what you’re doing and that will prevent burn out. (That, and frequent vacations to Key West.) You might be doubting what I say now, but in another year or two, it will all begin to make sense. Consider hiring an assistant soon. But be careful who you hire. Don’t just hire her because she’s pretty. Classic downfall of the artistic genius. All the famous painters back in the day did it. I’ve done it before myself.

I really appreciated your marketing class. It was probably worth the internship on its own. It seems like I’d already been reading a lot of the same books that you’d read, (and I wrote down a few more to pick up). But you were a few steps ahead of me. Hearing yours and Leah’s thoughts helped me organize my thoughts better and confirmed some ideas that I had begun to form. I made two pages of notes in my little notebook that night. The first page was key points from your discussion…. things that struck me as concepts that were important and needed to be written down. The second page was a brainstorming page of marketing ideas that I began to have because of the points that you made which connected all the information I’d absorbed in the process of my own pursuits. It’s kind of like I had already placed a few kegs of gunpowder around in my head, but you lit the fuse to ignite them all. It started that night with defining who my perfect client should be and has kept going, both from what you said and from the additional reading that I’ve dong. The fallout has been pretty long lasting. Thanks for that. BTW, if you haven’t read it, The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder Kabani is really very very good. Oh, and Leah’s slideshow was awesome. You should have one of those for every class.

You are very insightful. Your criticisms of my work have been spot on and greatly appreciated. I figured out why all my photos list starboard last week. Turns out I probably need a battery pack, since I’m right handed and when I tilt the camera, I don’t ever make it to level. That observation was also worth the price of entry.

I have a few regrets… sort of. I’m genuinely happy for you and Leah that you could have such a huge adventure in December. That was amazing for you guys. However, you were gone a long time. I wish there would have been a way to spend more time working with you over the course of the internship. I’m definitely not suggesting you didn’t try. I bear a great deal of responsibility for not spending more time with you and the other interns. In November I had a very busy month. Photography actually paid that month. That meant I had to pass on a lot of opportunities to work with you and the interns. Of course, there was also the sick thing too. That sucked. Oh, and the ice storm in January basically as soon as you got back. That sucked too. And now we’re all done. In short, I wish I’d had the chance to get to know you better.

There are a few improvements you could make in the program… and please understand that this is completely meant as constructive criticism and not bitching. I think you guys are doing a good thing and I want to see you succeed. Anyway, here’s a couple of thoughts on where I think you could make things better. I hope they’re helpful.

First, just dumping everyone into shooting with flash the first night was kind of harsh. People have varying levels of experience using the equipment and so they flounder and feel frustrated. Then they cry. That sucks. Don’t make their first impression of their internship be that. I spent the first night watching everyone just blindly stab in the dark to figure things out and be frustrated with themselves (in case you haven’t noticed, I watch way more than I interact). Instead, have a five or ten minute lecture on how to do something specific and then send them out to do just that one thing. Tell them that they need to keep their shutter slower than 200. Tell them what to set their white balance on. Tell them what ISO to use. Don’t make them have to figure it ALL out. Some will. Some won’t. The ones who don’t might cry. Yuck. And if you tell them how to succeed, they’ll make better pictures that night and then they’ll make better blog posts. They’ll still struggle, but they won’t doubt or hate themselves so much.

The editing class was kinda dull. Of course, editing is usually pretty dull. Get a stripper next time.

More follow through. If you say you’re going to do something, be sure you do it. Even if it’s a little thing. Over promising is deadly.

Be more aware of what your interns are doing. This is more about protecting your investment in them than benefitting them, although it will indirectly benefit them.

Last thing I want to say isn’t really anything wrong or whatever. I just think that you could do yourself a huge favor AND be more valuable to your interns by accepting fewer each time. Ten is a lot of people to be responsible to, especially when they’re inexperienced and need lots of guidance. In the end, you will have less stress and less burn out if you aren’t overburdened. You have plenty of people to call on now, so you can afford to take on fewer people. Oh, and with all that talk about making babies, you’re going to need more spare time. Just sayin’. Work smarter, not harder. That’s the secret to getting rich. So they say.

Oh, and if you ever want to read a fascinating book that’s not about business, but is the most valuable business book ever, take a look at ‘The Survivor Personality’ by Al Siebert. Amazing book. You are totally a survivor personality. If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I’m hanging with you. And THAT is the ultimate compliment.

Anyway, thanks for all that you’ve done. I’m grateful to you and Leah for what you’ve put together. It can only get better. If there’s ever anything I can do for you, never hesitate to ask. I have lots to offer… what with my sparkling wit and dashing good looks and all.

Best wishes to you both and see you soon,

Amanda (www.amandasummerlin.com)

It blows my mind that I’m actually writing my intern review. The past three months have flown by, and I’m not at all ready for this experience to be over. It’s a little bit scary to think I’m now an “alumni,” that now I’m supposed to be miraculously changed and a real photographer now. Honestly, I don’t feel like that. I’m more desperate to learn now than I was in November. Maybe that’s why part of me feels like I haven’t gotten enough out of this. I can’t deny at all that I have way more motivation and a better skill set to act upon that drive. But I think the main idea is that I’ve seen how much more I have to learn, how much more I can improve, and how much of a lifelong process that will be.

For the sake of organization, I think it’s most fitting to use bullet points, even though I’ll probably end up ranting in those.

– I wish Leah and Mark had been in Atlanta…or the US….more often. I feel like I lost the month of December, but then again, that was as much because of the coma I let myself live in for a few weeks once I was out of school without a car.

-I wish I had pushed myself more and not only taken every opportunity, but had made more for myself. I could have learned so much more if I had just put myself behind a camera and into new situations more often.

-I wish Mark and I had communicated more. I’m a bit shy, and Mark is fairly stoic, so I feel like we never talked much. On shoots, I just kind of watched and then tried to do something that he’d be pleased with. I’m not sure what he usually thought of my shots though, because I didn’t get much feedback and I never got up the nerve to ask for it. Actually, I’m going to ask for it now.

-I do though, feel like he must have at least been a little bit confident in me, because he sent me to places like the High Museum, shoots that I never would have imagined being asked to work on. While I may not feel comfortable yet in event photography or enjoy it as much (not sure which emotion causes the other), I know now that it is something I’m capable of doing. Which means I have no reason not to keep doing it and keep improving.

-I’m not just more confident in working events though. After the last three months, I think I could do a pretty decent job at just about anything I wanted to shoot. I’ve done portrait sessions, fashion shoots, fashion shows, products, etc. I’ve begun to understand off camera lighting and how to make a not so exciting location into epic photographs. I have the knowledge base to start working as a photographer and not just be a student. Now, I don’t just look at amazing work by a professional and think “Oh, hopefully I’ll be able to do that when I graduate from school.” Before, I just hoped for that to happen at some point but focused on just getting work done for each individual class, when in reality, learning this is a continuous process that I’m in the middle of right now. Leah and Mark have shown me that there is no reason for me not to produce amazing photos right now. I can’t let myself give out the excuse (especially to myself) that I’m just a sophomore photo student. I’m capable of so much more than I thought I was, even more than I let myself believe during this internship, but at least now I’m aware of it and unwilling to settle for the way I used to be.

-Most of all, my absolute favorite part of this experience, are the people I’ve met. Every time I’ve done something for Leah and Mark, I’m overwhelmed by the amazingness of the people I’m surrounded by. Even though I’m the baby of the group, I never really felt that way. Mark actually keeps up with how my life is going, Leah is the kindest person ever, and my fellow interns are some of the most interesting, talented, encouraging people I’ve been around. Whether I learned anything about photography or not, I’ve made friends that I really truly hope will be in my life long past the end of January. And I’m ever so grateful for that.

All in all, I don’t want to over hype this internship. There are many things that could have been better, but in hindsight I understand that this experience will never be anything more than what you make it. Mark gives you all the tools you need (some you might need to ask for) but you have to go out there and use them. To the new class: keep that in mind always, and good luck! And to Mark, Leah, and my fellow and alumni interns: thank you a thousand times over.

Hey Mark,

Here is my review.  Sorry for the lateness.  I’ve been swamped with work, all of those papers that are now due for school, and trying to be wife, mom, and photographer.   Thanks for taking a chance on me and letting me represent you and Leah as an intern.



So we have come full circle.  After 3 months of following the yellow brick road and finally reaching the Emerald City, I get to go inside and find out that what I was seeking really wasn’t there.  I went in this whole intern experience thinking that it was all about the technical aspect of photography.  I was wrong.  It was about so much more than taking the perfect picture. Don’t get me wrong – I learned a lot of technical stuff.  I was exposed to  the world of off camera lighting, advance composition, and the business side of photography.  I also got to shoot different types of photography that I would have never explored on my own.  However, the most important lesson for me was the journey itself and the people you meet along the way.

Mark’s way is making you do.  Explanations are often short or nonexistent.  More of a “learn it as you go” method.  For me, that was scary.  I longed for the hand holding and praise along the way (hey, I am a Kindergarten teacher).  However, I truly believe that is who Mark is as a person.  Mark’s teaching style kept me growing.  For me, It was about becoming uncomfortable enough to grow.  I guess that’s why they call them growing pains.

For those of you wanting to be an intern, let me suggest having no expectations.  Instead be in the moment and experience it to the fullest.  Love it for what it is.  When it’s time to go home and reflect, you’ll be surprised by what you picked up along the way.  Put more value in the internship experience and the people that you meet.  Leah and Mark are awesome people outside of photography.  They attract other awesome people.  Get to know the other interns.  They are not only great photographers, but great people as well.

This internship isn’t perfect, but that is what makes it real. And I’d take smelling a real less than perfect rose over a plastic one any day.  It’s just much sweeter that way.  Thank you Leah and Mark for providing this journey.  I’ve learned a lot and would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Atlanta. Photography. Internship. Reviews. Photos. Interns. Program. LeahAndMark.com

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