With the internet the small pockets of knowledge that enable an individual to excel at a skill have become just a search and a click away. Everyone has acess to the special skills and years of experience that used to separate the experts in a given field. Instant answers to questions are not always the best way to learn, sometimes hands on experience is better. Art is best learned by doing. Having a mentor can help you learn faster and possibly make you more creative. The place where the most reliable help was tradionally found was in the local camera store.
Most were mom and pop stores or sometimes a photo department of a larger store. The salespeople were always up on the latest models and gadgets and the best would have loyal customers. Even something as simple as loading a roll of film was tricky until you ran lots of film through your camera. Nothing beat the excitement of picking up the latest roll back from the developer. Having poorly exposed or out of focus images just seemed to be par for the course.
It was a ritual to go through the images with the salesperson and have them show you what was right and what was wrong with your images. That instant feedback really help you become a better photographer. Going over each one with an expert helped you to learn faster. It wasn't a formal mentorship but it was training the likes that is not seen today.
Amazon has killed the camera store. They sell cameras for little profit and in many states there is no sales tax. Accessories are there for free shipping. Just wait a day or two and it's on the doorstep. Camera stores turned into showrooms for Amazon. An internet search of your area will back up my claim. Not often will a camera store show up in the results.
But what I miss is talking to the salesman. Post a photo on the internet to be critiqued and it is loved or torn apart but seldom do you learn why a photo does or does not work. Having someone stand next to you and go over your images with you is an experience that is fading away. Not many of us wish to take the time to get a formal education in photography and with the cost of said education skyrocketing this is not often the best path to follow. Or is it a good return on an investment. For a long time education through a local camera was the accepted way to learn photography. That has sadly ended.