How to choose the perfect photography mentor for you

Working with an experienced mentor is a great way to develop as a photography but choosing the right mentor can make a big difference.

This week has been a very successful week for my lovely mentees with four talented photographers passing their qualifications! I feel very proud to have helped them achieve their goals and am very much looking forward to helping them develop even further in their photographic journeys!

I always have a great relationship with my mentees which I believe helps! So if you are looking for a photography mentor? What are the questions you should be asking!

Whether you’re a complete beginner learning the basics or seasoned pro looking for a bit of a creative boost there are certain questions you should ask a potential teacher to se if they are the right choice for you!

There are many incredible photographic trainers and educators out there all with their unique ways of inspiring and encouraging.

One persons teaching approach can be very different to the next and may not fit your particular style of learning.

We all take on information in different ways and at different paces it is down to the skill of the mentor to develop a personal programme for each student rather than a one fits all approach that you would expect from a training course.

When deciding on your choice of mentor there are a few pointers that may help you decide!

Can you work well together?

If you are aiming for a qualification or developing a style of photography you may well spend a great deal of time chatting things through with your mentor so it is important that you can work honestly and communicate well together.

Some mentors offer great shorter getting to know you mini mentoring sessions as an introduction so that you can get to each other before committing to longer sessions.

What level of expertise do you need?

Are you looking to just simply learn how to use your DSLR or Mirrorless camera competently for taking images of your family or aiming to gain qualification with a photographic body? You must ensure that your chosen mentor has the ability to do so at the level required.

Has you chosen mentor a proven track record and achieved the level and photographic skill that you are aiming for?

Is your mentor an expert in your chosen genre?

This may seem like an obvious point! But if you are interested in qualifying or developing a style as a portrait photographer it makes sense to be mentored by a photographer with those particular skills, and especially one whose work you admire!

I have experience in mentoring many genres of photography with my 15 years of mentoring and training experience. I do however have specific expertise in both portraiture and travel photography, both are genres where I have qualified at the highest level of Fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photographers.

Does your mentor offer ongoing support?

The best sort of mentoring is in my mind ongoing as the relationship will build and grow stronger with your mentor really getting to know your way of working and your particular style of mentoring.

The stronger mentors encourage and develop their mentees own personal style over time rather than creating clones of themselves.

I am able to do in person consultations at my studio in Cheltenham on location at a venue of your choice or virtually via Skype or Zoom.

If you are interested in learning and being photographically inspired to achieve your goals lets get to know each other!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Saraya x

Talking Photography!

A few days ago I had the great pleasure of joining the amazing travel photographer Paul Choy for a chat about photography and life in general!

We talked specifically about some of my images and the motivations behind them! Hope you like it!

Saraya x

Here are the images 🙂

So if you missed it! Here is my chat with the lovely Paul Choy! I think we did a good job for the first one! 🙂 xx

Posted by Saraya Cortaville on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A short history of…. well me and my photography journey!

A few weeks ago I was asked by Fujifilm UK to record a short little piece about my journey as a photographer.

Recorded in my lounge the sound is a bit rough and ready but I hope that you can enjoy the stories and the images that I have taken along the way! 🙂

The images span a fair few years from the beginning of my photography adventures right up until my last trip to Mustang in Nepal at the beginning of the year before the dreaded lockdown.

During this time I am now very busy with mentoring lots of photographers (over 15 in the last few months!) which has been a wonderful experience with many reaching their photographic goals and developing styles.

Many have been aiming for photographic qualifications and all so far have been successful which is a wonderful achievement and encouraging for me as people are really making the most of this time to do something positive and good for their wellbeing.

If you would like some photographic inspiration at the moment please do make the most of my special photography mentoring deals available whilst we are on lockdown.

I am also planning some amazing photography workshops overseas for when we are aloud to travel! These will most likely start from 2021 and will be in some wonderful locations such as Tanzania, Madagascar and Nicaragua. With some more European based options such as Lake Annecy and Rome. If you are interested in joining me please do show an interest and as soon as I have more information you will be the first to hear!

These will be small groups and to some incredible locations where I know we are able to capture some wonderful images whilst being immersed in the local communities and cultures that I have been lucky enough to experience on my travels over the years.

Whatever you are up to at the moment! Keep well and stay in touch!

Saraya x

On top of the world in Mustang!

For the last 3 weeks I have been lucky enough to have escaped the British stormy season and been basking in Nepali sunshine in the city of Pokhara.

This time of year is generally quite quiet for me as a childrens portrait photographer, so it is my time for travel! And trust me I make the most of it!

Nepal is easily one of my favourite places to travel to in the world, I have been a few times and every time I am overwhelmed with the warmth and generosity of spirit! I f you ever get a chance trust me you will never forget!

It takes effort to get to some of the locations the I like to take images, Nepal generally is 2 flights and long lay overs and a ridiculously over complicated visa system.

That said it is completely worth the tired and weary few days to arrive at a very beautiful and welcoming country.

I have been lucky enough to visit a few times (4 so far) mostly for NGO’s and worthwhile charities, I even had a very long stay of 3 months in 2016 so now every time I arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport I feel like I am at home.

For this particular trip I was training with Photojourney a photography training adventure business as one of their primary leaders for the cultural option, where we visited some of the wonderful local villages and cultural sites around Pokhara.

I was lucky enough to have an amazing group of photographers and together we visited some of the wonderful local villages and cultural sites in and around Pokhara.

We got to experience atmospheric temples, villages, beautiful lakes visit schools all from our base, the luxurious Temple Tree Hotel in Pokhara.

We will be heading back out there again this year for another similar trip if you would like to join us in October.

The trip to Nepal is a long one, so it made sense for me to expand my trip to explore another area that I had never been before, a few of the other ladies on Photojourney also had the same idea and we booked a guide and a couple of porters to carry our gear and headed off up to our first stop Jomsom, Mustang

We had expected a 7-8 hour journey however the reality was gruelling 14 hour bumpy and frankly quite terrifying journey.

I mean look at the timings! Our journey time almost doubled firstly our car overheated 4 times due to it never making out of second gear (this was swiftly repaired with and iPhone charger cable!) The exhaust fell off whilst crossing a bridge and most of this occurred in the dark on a road with a sheer drop to one side! (maybe it was better we did it in the dark?)

We arrived in the dark at around 11:30 and hadn’t even thought of the possibility that there would be nowhere open for us to stay?? Eventually however after some loud door banging we were welcomed by a very friendly family run hostel next to Jomsom airport.

Some hot noodle soup and a cold Everest beer and we all had almost forgotten about the journey.

The flight would have only taken 30 minutes! I think that this might be a good option for next time! And trust me I will be returning! When we awoke after a cold night the views were just breathtaking!

Jomsom, also known as Dzong-Sampa or New Fort, is the centre of Gharpajhong Gaunpalika and former independent village development committee at an altitude of about 2,700 metres in Mustang District, Nepal. It extends over both the banks of the Kali Gandaki River.

From Jomson our trek took us upto 3750 meters to one of the highest Vishnu temples in the world Muktinath. When we arrived at our tea house the temperature had dropped considerably and the snow was falling heavily, making the view even more magical.

The colourful prayer flags and blessing bells where coated in a dusting of white which was wonderful to capture. The temple itself is considered one of the holiest and a symbolic pilgrimage for both Hindus and Budhists, and stands majestically looking over the Muktinath Valley.

Famous for the 108 water spring taps that bless its visitors the temple is thought to be the only one where all 5 elements are represented, Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Sky.

From here we trekked down through small villages and teahouses towards the beautiful town of Kagbeni, where we spent an enjoyable evening learning Nepali filk songs and dances with our hosts. (thankfully there is no evidence of this as after a few Nepali Beers I am sure we weren’t particularly good!).

From Kagbeni we headed then to Marpha which was our last stop! With our very tired feet we rested before the 8 hour long drive back down into to Pokhara!

After such big adventure it was a real culture shock to come back to the UK especially now we are unable to leave the country I feel very luck to have been on such an adventure at the beginning of the year with such fantastic people!

I will hopefully be returning to Nepal at the end of the year if we are able!

If you would like to come along to any of my new Travel Photography Workshops do please let me know if you are interested! :)And I will let you know as soon as I am able to give you more details!

At the moment we have Tanzania, Nepal (Mustang), and Cambodia in the planning with dates to be confirmed! Ready to Launch in 2021!

Saraya x

Madagascar in the Frame!

“Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.”
– Peter Adams

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to the private view and book launch at the wonderful new exhibition ‘Madagascar in the Frame’ a collaboration between Fujifilm UK and their charity partner Wateraid.

Having returned from Madagascar late last year, my work in the country left me with a real insight to the importance of images and in particular the printed image.

I have been a photographer and specifically a portrait photographer for the last 20 years, I have always believed in the importance of the record of the family portrait and how images are wonderful mementoes of our lives and precious times to pass down through the generations. I have made a living from this.

They ground us, make us remember where we belong and help us celebrate what wonderful lives we lead , the connections and memories we have made with each other.

Recently however with the emergence of social media I find images are even more contrived and controlled, less meaningful and emotionally disconnected as they have ever been.

My latest commission could not have taken this idea of photography further from what we in the Internet world use it for.

My brief for Fujifilm and Wateraid was to document the work of an amazing photographer named Ernest. 

“I see little kids in these villages with no access to clean water and it reminds me of my own childhood. I used to be sick all the time, just like these kids. For me this is not just a job, it’s a personal fight – to make sure that everyone, everywhere gets safe, clean water.”

Ernest Randriarimalala

Based in central Madagascar Ernest is a Water aid Voice from the field. His goal not to take family portraits or precious moments. His brief is to document and tell stories of the reality of the people living without access to safe water and sanitary hygiene.

Ernest’s work involves, educating the communities that Water aid are involved in and to integrate and encourage the community to become engaged with what is changing in their communities and encourage them to make changes in their everyday lives with the knowledge that the impact that Water aid can make immeasurable changes to their health, wellbeing and lives as a whole.

To achieve this Earnest runs photography workshops using Fujifilm instax cameras with the children, the aim to spread awareness and knowledge at base level.

Watching the way Ernest works was truly magical, it really was a privileged to see him engage and inspire.

Portrait photography for me is all about communication and how we relate to our clients. Ernest is a master at this! His energy, enthusiasm and the way he draws people to him is infectious. 

We all need to be more Ernest in our approach to portrait photography.

The children were hanging off of his every word and were engaged implicitly for hours, it was beautiful to see.

One of the most wonderful things I witnessed was when Ernest handed out the cameras to the “students” and how they treated them as if they were a new born baby, with such care and attention they looked after these pieces like they were so precious!

Something again I feel our children have lost with the western advances in technology. Our children are used to gadgets and the magic they may bring every day and as such it has become the norm, we really have become a throw away society, with phone and tablet upgrades every few months.

The Malagasy children are not used to such technology, however basic, here you can quite often see a queue for the TV at the local Barbour’s, with the children waiting patiently in line for their chance to see a snippet of some cartoon that may be airing at that time.

These cameras were a chance for them to experience something new and beyond their means, and they treasured the chance like you wouldn’t believe.

To see their reactions when the print came out of the camera was something so magical I could never honestly put it into words.  Quite often they looked worried when it first came out as I think they were expecting to see the image immediately, and they would turn it over to see a blank side and almost wondered if they had done something wrong! However over time they saw the images develop and their smiles began to widen at the emerging pictures.

It was just pure heart rending beauty how proud they were of their creations. They took images of themselves to begin with as this was quite often the first time that they had seen a printed image of themselves. they then turned the lenses to their friends and gifted them those images. This act of kindness gives you an idea of the generosity and honesty of the Malagasy culture.

They treasured the prints like precious objects and proudly mounted them on windowsills and bedside tables.

When did we lose this? Are we are so wrapped up in Face Book or Instagramme likes that we have lost this pure raw appreciation of the image and the print?

Watching the way the children proudly showed their parents at the end of the day what they had captured was heartwarming. And a few of them at the end of the sessions would say that rather than the expectation of their normal lives  wanted to be photographers.

For me this was the trip of my year, so inspiring and invigorating! To see photography and prints again affect people at the rawest level was the reason why I became a photographer.

I know I am certainly inspired to be more ‘Ernest’! In my endeavours.

And here is a small film of the man himself and his amazing work 🙂

If you would like a copy of the book visit The House of Photography store in Covent Garden, London copies are £25 each with proceeds going to Wateraid.

Saraya xx

The Amazing Lene and Marnie!

A few weeks ago I met the beautiful Lene and Marnie! I have photographed these two little ones every couple of years for the last few years, and what a pleasure it is to see them growing up!

We met at a local park with a beautiful bandstand and gorgeous Autumn colours!

We couldn’t fail to capture some natural and personal images of these two lovely sisters.

With Christmas fast approaching we have now completed all of our shoots for this year!

I have gift vouchers starting from £50 which can be used from anything from a shoot through to my beautiful fine art prints or any one of my new training courses! The perfect gift for all you photography needs!

And on a last note, thank you once again to all of my lovely clients for another wonderful year! I can wait to see you all again next year!

Christmas photography vouchers available! The perfect gift!

Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Saraya x

Amazing Autumn colours at the Arboretum.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to take two of my little students over to the beautiful Westonbirt Arboretum down in Tetbury.

I haven’t been there for years and thought that during half term we should make a trip to this colourful and magical place.

One of my students is currently studying for her Levels and is also doing a Duke of Edinburgh Gold award in the skills section. With her skill being the art of photography and understanding her camera and the settings.

We have weekly/monthly sessions where we learn new skills and I set projects to develop and guide her photographic learning. To complete the award she must complete a certain amount of hours and set herself targets to achieve.

This month we went for our little trip to the Arboretum as I felt we needed to explore different lenses and how they can change the images that you shoot. So we took along a few different lenses and experimented taking a variety of shots of the impressive Acer trees around the park.

We also decided to look for abstract shapes colours and textures. The Aboretum was the prefect location for this and we got some incredible images.

The colours were just breathtaking as you can see a complete rainbow! I would urge anyone to go and visit at this time of year to see nature at its best!

Its was lovely to see the late Autumn sun shining through the leaves and creating depth and movement.

I love it when I see that my students are pleased with the results they achieve with just a little guidance and more understanding of the camera and the way the various settings can affect the outcome of the final image.

Saraya x

A cheeky little podcast!

A few weeks ago I met the wonderful team Talking Shot Photography Podcast. Hosted by Esther Ling, Ross Grieve, Jim Cossey, ​and Matt Jacobs I was made to feel very welcome!

I always love meeting other creative minds and talking photography so it was a really enjoyable morning! If you have twenty minutes and would like to hear some stories from my travels please give it a listen!

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