Want To Be A Photographer’s Assistant?; Here’s How To Get Started Page 2
SB: What “being the best assistant tips” can you give for making a good or better impression on a photographer?
Heather Halstead: Always be professional. It may seem like a no-brainer, but many people slip up here. Always ask what you should wear. NEVER assume jeans are okay. And if jeans are okay, never wear ratty ones. Don’t curse; don’t take a break unless the photographer does, and then only after asking if there’s anything you could be doing; and don’t answer your phone (text or voice) in the middle of a shoot. To the client, your professionalism reflects on the photographer and if that reflection is negative, then that photographer won’t hire you again.
Marc Altman: Nothing is as important as attitude. While I was getting started, I was the first to admit that I knew very little about most of what I needed to do. I worked as hard as I could and learned volumes on every shoot, always asking for feedback afterward to make myself better for the next time. Throughout my career, my enthusiasm and love for what I do has consistently left a more lasting impression than how well I knew gear or how quickly I could set up a light.
My other tip is related to attitude: humility. While there’s a tremendous amount about assisting that I love, there are also occasional tasks that are less than ideal. A good assistant does whatever it takes to get the shot, regardless of how mundane the task. When you’re hired as an assistant, you’re there to make the photographer’s shoot be as successful as possible.
Marina Linares: When working as an assistant, treat the wedding as your own. You are working as an assistant, but to the guests you are a photographer. At the same time, make sure the primary photographer has everything they need. When working as an assistant, never give out your own business card. Make sure you have the primary wedding photographer’s cards on hand, because people will ask for a card. During the wedding, don’t stand in close to the primary photographer; instead find fun and unique angles.
John Lewis (www.johnrlewis.com): Arrive a little earlier than your scheduled call time for jobs. Be knowledgeable
about different brands of cameras, backs, and lighting equipment, so you can work quickly and efficiently on a job. Think ahead when you are on a job to anticipate what a photographer will want. This will be easier after you have worked with a photographer many times, but some things are obvious (electrical outlets for running power to lights, setting up lights if you know you will need them, a tripod set up for the camera, and the lens the photographer will want).
Bring a small bag or backpack with you on a job with some items that may come in handy: A-clamps, gaffer and duct tape, multi-tool, Allen wrenches, light meter, sync cord, lens cloth and lens cleaner. Basically, any gear that you think may be necessary to help you do a better job.
Luke Copping (www.lukecopping.com): You need to strike a fine balance of looking at assisting both as a business and as a learning opportunity. You need to expand your skill set over time as well as learn the ins and outs of the business. Not just the photographic aspects of it, but the day-to-day struggles of running a business and being a part of a creative team; everything from billing to catering, sweeping, painting, production, and postproduction. All those ancillary skills will set you apart in the future as well as give you perspective on just how much goes into creating an image and the running of an image-making business. At the same time, you need to be professional and understand that this is a business relationship as well; the photographer needs you there to be a second set of hands, eyes, and ears and they may not always have time to hold your hand through every task you have to undertake.
How To Find Photographers To Assist
All of the assistants interviewed repeated the same information when asked how to research and find photographers to assist. Here are some highlights of their answers:
• Join professional photography associations and network with other photographers.
• Use association resources such as ASMP’s “find a photographer” database (http://asmp.org); APA’s “search for APA talent” database (www.apanational.com); and, for wedding photographers, PPA’s “find a photographer” database (www.ppa.com/findaphotographer).
• Research Workbook, Black Book, and other sourcebook databases.
• Ask photographers to suggest other people to give you an opportunity.
• When happy with your work, ask photographers to recommend you to other photographers.
• Study award publications put out by Photo District News and other industry publications.
• Form a circle of photo assistants you like and trust and recommend each other.
• Check local photo rental houses and do Internet research of local photographers.
• Rely on word of mouth with photographers referring you to other photographers.
For example, Luke Copping told us that it’s very important to meet in person and get a feel for who the photographer is and help them to understand your goals and what you can do to help make their business more efficient. Your main goal should be not to just get hired, but to get hired by the right photographer for you. What skills do you want to learn? What sort of work do you want to specialize in? What sort of personalities are you compatible with? The first place to start would be with the photographer’s work—do you respect it? Does it impress you? A second factor: how established and experienced is the photographer? He or she may be an amazing image-maker, but it’s important to learn many of the secondary business and production skills of photography as well.