On any given week, I receive dozens of emails from students and amateur photographers alike asking if they can assist me. Let me say that I try my absolute hardest to respond to every single one, and will continue to in the future. However, with the workflow that has come in 2012, this task has not proved so easy. It is for that reason that I decided to write a post with my advice and opinions on the very crucial roll on set that is the assistant.
First and foremost if there is any advice I could give to someone assisting me it would be to never forget how important you are to the shoot. Whether you are the guy helping move the lights, adjust the camera, or getting coffee for the client, you are important. Think of set as an intricate choreography that when performed well results in an image that had before that day only lived in the mind of the photographer. Go against the preconceived idea of the shoot and you risk a set of chaos reminding me of Shakespeare’s two swimmers clinging together only to choke each others’ art. A progression of the theoretical hierarchy that is my motto, “at the end of the day, all that matters is the client” would surmise that working for oneself would go against the greater good. For Mother Russia!!! (sorry, I had to say that).
So you have read this far and still want to be an assistant, what are some things you should know?
- Never deal with Screamers… What’s a screamer you say? It’s a photographer that has a subtle insecurity of where the shoots going, so they mask it with self-righteous power over the person they perceive to be least important. Some think that in doing so the client will develop some profound sense of respect for the photographer, but at the end of the day the photographer just looks like a complete ass.
- Knowledge of the gear is important, but willingness to learn new gear is better. Two weeks ago in Miami and last week in Chicago, I had a great group of assistants that all had to learn the gear we were using. The problem is that some of the gear I used isn’t publicly available yet, so their ability to take the lead from my first assistant proved crucial.
- Keep a candy bar in your pocket. Perhaps this is just a thing we do for my shoots, but it should be implemented everywhere. I find that I get to mentally wrapped-up on set that I commonly forget to eat, which leads me to be a bit cranky, and worst of all it inhibits creativity. So my first assistant usually has a Snickers on him at all time.
- Do not fall asleep on set. …. Paul, this one’s for you buddy!