Assisting 101

Each year thousands of young budding photographers graduate from their institution of choice across Canada. Set on a long and difficult path of ongoing learning and development. With this rite of passage comes more applications to assist than I know what to do with. I find that there is always a fall term surge in applications for students looking for a co-op and again around August right after diplomas have been received and OSAP gets ready to start harassing you for payments.
With this large number of applications, I can honestly say I’ve seen it all. There are always some which obviously took incredible care in writing, abound with creativity. Then there are those which are quite obviously someone’s attempt at shotgun marketing where they searched Toronto Fashion Photographer in google and emailed everyone before the 40th page with the exact same copy paste email, that usually goes something like this: “Hi (fill name here) love your work, I’d love to assist you. Here is what you need to know about me…”. Life Pro Tip: don’t be that person. If I wanted to hear an empty compliment, I’d show some of my more edgy work to my eldest relatives.
If you are going to email me, be sincere about why. Is it because you want to learn something specific? Are you looking for some quick cash in a short amount of time? Do you want to be a part of our team for the long run? Whatever it is, the more honest and clear on why you’d like to be a part of my studio the better.
If you want to call to discuss an assisting position, that is great, but please do not just call out of the blue. You are a photography student, you should know that when working it is difficult to answer a call. Just e-mail me first to set up a time, so you don’t get lost in my voicemail or accidentally deleted. I want to help anyone looking to advance their skills, I don’t try to be mean and not call back, but when things get busy it’s difficult to get back to someone unless I have a written record.
What do I look for in an assistant? A common question when I am lecturing. I look for qualities that I know are needed for success in this industry. Honesty, passion, the desire to learn, positivity, patience, persistence and someone who works hard. I invest my time to help develop young photographers, I don’t want to see this time go to waste because someone did not have the drive to make it in the industry. I can’t emphasize hard working enough. Do you even lift bruh? Well you will have to, 25-60 pounds worth of gear, to and from the studio, loading dock or for a leisurely stroll around the block. Physical strength and stamina is also a consideration. I know you are probably thinking that this is not a marathon or IronMan competition, it’s photography, but shoot days are often very difficult 14-16 hour days and equipment can be heavy. Particularly on location when we often can’t get the vehicle too close, or if the Toronto parking gods aren’t on our side.
Can you learn quickly? You might not be familiar with some of the equipment we have on set. Being able to pick up the skills to operate the equipment accurately will make me feel more comfortable having you around on set. So what can you expect? A lot of random things. You can expect long difficult days with weird set ups (here we are cleaning fake blood).

cleaning photography studioStanding in for light tests.

white backdropWind machine responsibilities.

wind machineBeing a grey card holder.

grey card light test Intro imageEnthusiasm is important, almost as important as being able to deal with sarcasm, I have found it is a main mode of operation in the industry.
Sometimes you will be documenting the day for us.

behind the sceneSometimes you’ll be responsible getting our Starbucks… I prefer no foam.
Grabbing lunch. Remembering who in fact had the pink blackberry (or Iphone in current times) and who to bring it to when it won’t stop vibrating.

cellphonesThe main idea is that, as random and odd as the day may be, you should be able to still enjoy the fact that you’ve been on set for 14 hours and we still have to load the van. I work with a lot of people who truly love what they do, It is important that everyone has the same focus and enjoyment for being on set and creating images. It makes some of the ridiculously difficult why are we doing this moments much more enjoyable and entertaining.