Blog007: The photo assistant, the secret weapon of any commercial shoot.
Photo assistant. Not just another line on the invoice.
With it being the 007 blog I had to talk about my secret weapon on set. A good photo assistant. Overlooked so often as simply another hand on set, a walking,talking light stand or someone to lug gear like professional sherpa.
To teach is to learn something twice.
The first thing that’s awesome about having an assistant is often you’re forced to train on the spot for a specific task. It might be as minor as “make sure the model release is signed here and here”, or as crucial as “give me more fill and feather the key light”. Teaching on the spot can elicit some really interesting insights into how you do things, it’ll force you to systematize your processes that you did “because you just did it like that”, this will in turn make you aware of anything that needs attention or work.
Being an assistant is the best way to learn.
If you are a budding artist wanting to build into your craft it’s worth noting that working in the business will give you a true sense of what the work entails. I learnt from baby photographers, wedding photographers, commercial photographers and realty photographers before I finally launched into my own work. The time spent with them taught me set etiquette, how to talk to clients and what clients need from you as the assistant.
If it can be built, build it, if not Macgyver the shit out of it.
The best trait an assistant brings is flexibility and creativity in the problem solving realm. Reason we don’t have every little gadget sold in the camera store is that Phil is a wizard and gaffer tape is his wand. He’ll know what I need, and how to make it happen.
That’s the life of a photo assistant, making the crazy thing the photographer said a reality, or at least hand the reality to the photographer if need be. Phil has been trained up in the mystical arts of photoshop too, so when he’s on set and I proclaim “we’ll fix that in post”, he quickly finds out a solution that doesn’t involve him, a few scotches and 4hrs in front of the screen.
Photo assistants are genuinely a key part of the commercial set, without them the day can become days onset. On a pure economic standpoint having someone on set to keep things on a technical level makes sense. You’re hiring the photographer to capture a specific look, and if you can reduce the time or add images within the same timeframe it just makes sense.