I had the unique opportunity this month to speak to a group of photography students about to graduate from the New England School of Photography. It was a small group of students all specializing in portraiture. The topic was assisting professional photographers as an opportunity to learn about the industry and get your foot in the door. This is a topic that is close to my heart as I got my first professional photography opportunities while assisting other photographers. In my early days in the Boston photography scene, I took every opportunity I could to shoot with other professional photographers in Boston. Watching them taught me more about technique, proper etiquette on a job and helped me define my own personal style. It also taught me what I don't want to do with my own business.
I sat in the classroom at NESOP and told some success stories and horror stories about assisting my fellow photographers. I also gave some tips and advice on being a great assistant...
- Confirm the job with the lead photographer so they do not have to worry about getting in touch with you.
- Confirm the appropriate dress for the day.
- Always be on time or early.
- Study the scene and decide proactively what the lead photographer will need on the shoot.
- Be prepared with your own water and snacks. Do not assume they will be provided for you.
- Be honest if you do not know how to do what has been requested.
- Remain positive at all times. Don't ever complain.
- Remember this job belongs to the lead photographer and you are an extension of them. Remain professional and a be a great representative for them.
- Ask questions so you can learn. But be sure to ask them at the appropriate time.
- Follow up after the job to see the finished product.
I was so impressed by the talented students I spoke with. They asked great questions. And they each had a plan for what happened after graduation. If this is representative of the next generation of professional photographers, the industry will surely flourish. I'd like to thank my own assistant Allan Sinclair for providing these great images of the talk and for always being the perfect assistant on my own jobs!