*The below is one in a chain of replies to an aspiring photographer asking me for advice. I will say that I only aim to help and offer advice and do not see myself as being anything special nor do I think I have achieved anything close to what I want and I have made/make some of the listed mistakes myself! I just felt it was worth posting as an open dialogue concerning advice for people new to the industry...*
Not sure what what you mean by networking. If you mean following others and opening up your channels for seeing great work, that is great. I would again be careful of being too full on with people as a lot of people, especially in this industry are incredibly, lets say shy.
If you are interested in earning from your work, best prepare yourself for some compromises as with 99% of people earning from their camera, they usually don't call all the shots and work as and when it suits. If, and I may be misinterpreting your messages, you are interested in fine-art photography, be careful to expect too much too soon. For every person selling their fine-art work, there are a 100,000 pretenders who regurgitate the same themes (levitation, alice in wonderland, 7 deadly sins etc.) and never move beyond being marginally internet famous. Believe me I am not trying to come across as a dick or discourage you by any means, but realism saves a lot of anger and frustration down the road.
The biggest pieces of advice I can give you are;
-Not everything you do has to go on the internet. Learn to fail at stuff without having to show the world and his wife every frame that comes out of your camera. This is single handedly the biggest mistake made by just about every aspiring creative. Only put your best work out and only put it where you will be seen by people who can actually help your aspirations!
-Narrow your aim. Wanting to be the worlds best everything is all well and good but no-one can do it. Focus on small goals, challenging but achievable. Not, "I wanna be good" as its subjective and flimsy, but something like, "I will master a specific lighting style". Don't try and be portrait, fashion, wedding, sports, events, journalist, street, architecture, travel and every other kind of photographer and expect to get paid for it. Wedding clients are generally put off by anything edgy, fashion people could be put off by seeing you do events/weddings etc. Really focus on what you want to do to get paid. You can do everything else as a hobby, but narrow your potential market or you will be Mr. Jack of all trades!
-Don't involve yourself in photographer/model politics. My biggest mistake is concerning myself with the opinions of people who either don't know me or what I want to achieve, or have a vested interested in seeing me fail. Focus on your work, ask people whose level you aspire to be at for critique and remember to have a thick skin. People will say mean things and when you put your heart into something for some arsehole to tell you you suck, it hurts. Learn whose opinions actually matter!
-Surround yourself with people massively more talented than you. It helps you aspire and try harder. Its all well and good being the big fish in a small pond, but you never progress.
-Learn how to use your gear. Sounds daft, but most people spend thousands on gear and wouldn't know how to use it without needing a long time and a manual to sort it out. Your gear should be an extension of you. It should almost be invisible, rather than the centric part of what you are doing. And buying tons of new equipment isn't going to make you anything. It never does and never will. Some of the worst photographers have the best equipment! Owning a Ferrari means you have a lot of money, not that you know how to drive.
-Lastly, get really damn good at something before you expect to be paid for it! You aren't owed anything just because you own a camera or "want it". Earn peoples business with great work! If you are the person who says how good you are the most, you aren't good enough! People should be demanding your work before you are demanding their money! This is gravely ignore by a lot of newcomer photographers and mostly by newcomer models! Work hard and earn it!
As for shadowing me. I have a few people who I work with on a semi-regular basis. These are people I either have a running mutual agreement with, or people I have done 1-1 tuition with/they have attended a workshop and I feel that them assisting/being present on one of my shoots is beneficial to both me and them. I don't just invite anyone along as it can, and has, come back to bite me in the ass and leave me with a ruined shoot and looking unprofessional.
If you would be interested in some tuition, let me know. Hopefully I haven't come across as rude, I don't want to be. Love your enthusiasm and wish you all the luck with getting into a career you enjoy!
Have a great weekend