7 Things to Help Establish Your Foundation as a Photo Assistant

Okay, here I am. Again. Back in sunny Los Angeles, ready once again to start writing up a storm on APhotoAssistant. Speaking of storms, right now I am watching an online webcam feed in Minneapolis on the U of M campus, where there are many students building snowmen and having snowball fights in the freshly fallen snow after the season’s first major snowstorm. It actually looks like they are having fun, but it is a cold reminder of why I travel to more temperate climes when winter rolls around. At least some people can tolerate the snow and cold. Well, I can tolerate it for the most part, since I lived there for most of my life. But, these days I just choose not to have to endure it for the five or six months that one is expected to deal with winter’s wrath in Minnesnowta.

Snow, anyway…

More and more these days, students and newbie photo assistants are asking me how to find work as a photo assistant. It’s usually along the lines of, “What am I doing wrong, because I just can’t find the assisting gigs I expected or want to do?” Or, it’s something like, “I’ve talked with so many photographers but, they all say they don’t have a lot of work right now, or that they already have a list of ten to fifteen assistants that they call when they have a shoot coming up. How will I ever get my foot in the door?”

The answer to these types of questions can be many, and usually a combination of reasons. But, the bottom line is that when you are starting out in the photo industry as a photo assistant, there is going to be a huge learning curve in just about everything you do. So, unless someone in your family, or a close friend is already established as a photographer or other creative in the industry, you will have a great deal of hard work in front of you to build your foundation as a photo assistant. The nice thing about this, though, is that once you’ve begun really digging in, you will build momentum and it will carry you through, and things will become easier and easier once you have really started to get your bearings.

I have taken a few moments to put the following list together to help assistants who have the gumption to put forth the effort that will help you establish your place in the pecking order of photo assisting with the photographers you want to work with. Bear in mind that there is no real secret formula to this process, only that if you do the footwork and approach every situation with common sense and a bit of creative resourcefulness and hard work, you can succeed and begin making progress.

Persistence – when you are beginning to call on photographers to introduce yourself to them, you must be persistent, but without being a pest. Sending an email every two to four weeks is probably a good time frame to work with. Mail promotional postcards to the studio with well produced images, graphics, and copy to help get you noticed even more. Yes, photographers still love print! Pick up the phone and call the studio, from time to time, stating your interest to meet with the photographer in the hopes of assisting them sometime in the near future. Find out if they have been receiving your emails and postcards. The goal is to stay in front of them and on their welcome mat, but never give them any reason to sweep you under the rug.

Attitude – always be positive with a can-do attitude! Be pleasant, calm, and maintain discretion when in the company of those you aspire to work with. You should maintain a professional demeanor at all times. Don’t be over-eager or talk too much. Be confident, honest, and always be teachable. Don’t ever think your way is the only way or the right way. Ultimately, your personality will match, or compliment, the photographer’s personality you wish to work with. Once you have worked with a few studios you will begin to know your place and what is appropriate in those relationships.

Hard Work – you will need to motivate yourself and work hard, keeping your goals in mind. You might spend hours upon hours researching photographers work on their websites. You will undoubtedly need to develop well thought out ways to market yourself with a website/blog, emails, postcards, portfolios, etc. You might have a regular day or night job and pull double-duty in order to get your feet under you, which will allow you to take the photography leap, full-time. Whatever your situation, stay focused, have fun, and make it happen.

Network – join, attend and get involved with your local APA and ASMP chapters. If there is not one close to you, find a camera club that will keep your creative juices flowing in ways other than just taking photos. Look for ways to be helpful and assist other photographers in the camera club. You could even start your own group like The Crew Group to share your time, resources, and gear with others to work on projects and build your portfolio. Get to know the sales and rental people at your local camera store and rental houses. Find online groups on Linkedin and other sites that provide resources and ideas that you can use. Participate in photo workshops and festivals as a volunteer to meet new photographers and expand your mojo. I still do this, and love it!

Continue Learning – always remain teachable. I like learning, but I also tend to be slow to change with changing times. Photography has taught me to be flexible and more open to adapting to new techniques and workflows. I find that by keeping my eyes and ears open, and my mouth shut, I can gain the trust of others and learn something from them. Research online for new gear, owners manuals, lighting set-ups, and tricks-of-the-trade. Take a lighting workshop or attend an Assistant Training Workshop.

Patience – is the follow-up to persistence. Allow the proper time for things to fall into place, especially when you are just starting out. When I had trouble getting assisting gigs at first, I took a full-time night job which allowed me the time to continue marketing and meeting photographers, little by little, until I could establish some good rapport with them. Everyone has their own pace. And, in our fast-paced world today, many opportunities are lost in the shuffle, or the right opportunities take longer to be discovered. Stay focused, and don’t be too discouraged when things don’t seem to happen quick enough.

Treat Photo Assisting as Your Business – because it is! When I started out I was pretty excited to be in business! I even started out using an assumed business name. But, as time wore on, I got lazy and a lot of administrative paperwork type stuff piled up on me. Thankfully, I got that worked out with help. Don’t be afraid to use a tax service or accountant. This will save you many headaches later on when you are too busy on set and don’t have the energy to stay on top of some of your administrative tasks. If you like doing this stuff yourself, go ahead and do it. But, remember to manage your time efficiently and balance your priorities. I try to schedule, hour-by-hour, my tasks when I am at my desk, so that I am at least making some progress on all the stuff that’s in the in box.

These are just some of the things that were going on, day-in and day-out, back when I started my photo assisting business. Of course, I still have to do a lot of this, even these days, but it’s second-nature to me, now. But, in the beginning, it can be a bit overwhelming and difficult to know if you are doing all the right things that will lead to getting some good work and starting to make an impression on the photography community. I remember always second-guessing myself and having doubts that would almost paralyze me. Then, I might have a good meeting with a photographer and get some work and things would be good. It can really be a roller-coaster ride, for sure!

The bottom-line is this: Be mindful of all these things, on a consistent basis, and show the photographers you want to work with that you are the real deal and deserve the opportunity you are asking for. Do your best to set your self up to get noticed. There’s a lot of competition, so you better suit up and show up. Otherwise, all your hard work and persistence is for nothing.

So, ask yourself… What would you have to do to walk into a studio for an interview and see one of your postcard mailers on the fridge?


12 Elements Portfolio Show

12 Elements Portfolio ShowLast night, I attended the Industry Preview for the MCTC Photography and Digital Imaging Fall 2011 Portfolio Show. The turnout for the first night of the show was awesome and the mood was quite festive and abuzz! I believe this is perhaps the third portfolio show to take place at Vine Arts Center, which allows the students to show their work in more of a real gallery setting, rather than within the confines of Minneapolis Community and Technical College. It definitely feels more professional, artsy, and fun… rather than the alternative.

I enjoyed visiting with all the students and faculty, and checking out the show. What impressed me the most is how well the students are branding themselves with their business cards, postcards, and nick-knacks used for their promotions and marketing.student branding I just don’t recall this being a big deal when I went to MCTC, but maybe I missed something then, as I was working graveyard hours to put myself through college. At any rate, the Fall 2011 grads had many impressive images framed on the walls and bound in beautiful books. Oh, and the books were sweet! I know we didn’t have these great book printing and binding companies when I was in school. The 12 Elements crew did an awesome job of using some great resources to help show off their work.

I must admit, I have become a big advocate of students and their work in the past few years. The photo industry has always been a tough racket. And especially tough these days, with never-ending technology advances in digital photography, and with the troubled economy. Students really need to be on their A-game to have, perhaps, even a chance at some success in the photography industry. The faculty at MCTC’s Photography and Digital Imaging program, headed by Jack Mader, really do a bang-up job getting these students prepared for the photo world.

The 12 Elements show runs Nov. 29 thru Dec. 3 at Vine Arts Center (Ivy Building for the Arts) in Minneapolis.

Interview with Chad Holder, Creator of Padport

Padport is in the iTunes App Store

I’ve been hearing for some time now about Padport. A few friends of mine knew who was developing the app (they wouldn’t elaborate) but, kept it very hush-hush, only to say that it was a portfolio app for the iPad, and that it was going to be all the rage. So, when I heard about the release of PadPort in the iTunes App Store last Wednesday afternoon, I decided I would get to the bottom of it. I made a couple calls and found out that a photography colleague of mine, here in Minneapolis, was the brain-child of Padport. I gave him a call and he agreed to this interview.

APhotoAssistant: Today, I’m speaking today with Chad Holder, a successful commercial advertising photographer from Minneapolis, and the creator of Padport. First thing, Chad, please tell us just exactly what Padport is and why did you decide to create it?

Chad Holder: PADPORT is a self contained, customizable portfolio for the iPad. It shows your images, your videos, and your contact information. It has an ABOUT  section where you can tell the viewer a little about yourself. We also tried to think beyond the photographer and planned for Models, Art directors, Stylists, Reps, Illustrators, Architects, Cabinet makers, Jewelry makers, really anyone who wants to show their works through a digital portfolio. [Read more…]

Photographers Value A Photo Assistant’s Mojo

Whenever I meet photo students and new assistants, they will sometimes ask me what it is that they need to know to get the good assisting gigs with all the great photographers. In turn, I will ask them why any photographer should hire them at all. Most students will say something like they love photography or know Photoshop inside-out. New assistants and others might respond with something along the lines of them being a hard worker, a quick learner, or know this-or-that brand of lighting or camera gear. This is all fine and dandy, but, I try to get across to them that in addition to a little knowledge, a good attitude and work ethic, that they need to have something in their arsenal that will make them especially unique to the photographers they work with. To have a skill, ability, network, or service that will uniquely benefit their photographer clients and set them apart from all the other assistants. [Read more…]

Photo Assistants: Follow-Up With Photographers Via Phone

Following-up with a photographer after sending an email goes a long way in building good working relationships.

This is part three in the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series.

A few days after sending out our emails, we will want to follow up with some of the photographers on our list–especially the ones we really want to work with. All we are really trying to do here is to make another form of contact with the photographers that are at the top of our list, to let them know that we are very interested in working with them. These days, photographers are getting many emails from assistants seeking work. By following up with a phone call, you will make another impression on them.

Before we start making any calls, however, let’s take a few minutes and think about what we will say when the photographer or studio manager answers the phone. Determine how you will introduce yourself. What skills of yours will you talk about? What questions will you ask the photographer? What if I get voice mail? These are a few things you need to consider. When I first started making these sort of warm calls, I was almost paralyzed by fear, not knowing what to expect or how to handle myself. I searched for a solution, and I decided it might be helpful to develop a call script. This was something I was a bit familiar with from a previous job working in telemarketing sales. Have a look at the first (and only) call script I made for myself. If you’re totally green, at least it will give you a starting point. Modify it to your own needs.

But, the truth of the matter is, you won’t know exactly what to expect until you’ve had a few conversations with different photographers and studio managers. With a little practice this will get easier. But do your homework first. If you are unprepared, the photographer on the other end of the line will know it, and this won’t exactly help you get a gig working with them. Also, if you are just starting out, I would suggest you make your first calls to photographers that are not on the top of your list, until you get a feel for how you will handle the conversation. Another good idea is to practice with a friend–maybe you know someone who has worked in a call center or done telemarketing and phone sales. Don’t go overboard here and start worrying and becoming fearful, like I did. Just make sure you are on solid ground before you really start in on this process.

Before I call, I make sure I review the photographer’s website a little bit, taking note of any biography info that catches my interest. I also find a few recognizable images they’ve shot, or an interesting tidbit that I can ask them about. It’s always good to do your homework and express your interest in the photographer and their work. Try not to force any of this into your conversation, but if the timing is appropriate, go for it.

If, when I make the call, I get voice mail, I almost never leave a message. At this point, it is much better to talk with someone directly. When I do get a photographer or studio manager on the line, I simply introduce myself and let them know that I had sent an email recently. I will usually pause here to give them an opportunity to acknowledge the receipt of the email, but if they can’t remember seeing it, I will simply mention that I had sent the email in hopes of learning of any opportunities to work with the photographer. This way, I cut to the chase and let them know right off what my intentions are by calling. This is necessary, because the photographer may be busy with a shoot at that very moment and really doesn’t have time to speak with you at length. If this is the case, they will usually say so. Just simply ask them if you can call back at a better time.

If they have a few minutes, I will usually just tell them a few things about myself and let them know that I am very interested in working with them. Right here, I will usually ask, point blank, if they use freelance assistants. This gives them an opportunity to respond, and then talk a little, and maybe ask you a question or two. You will have started an open dialogue. At this point, I usually just let the conversation go whichever way it flows. But, I will be mindful of making positive points about my work as a photo assistant and how I can help the photographer with their work. I don’t talk about how I want to learn the photographer’s business and the way he or she shoots. My job is to help the photographer look good, and I maintain that attitude throughout the conversation. But do ask them a thing or two about their work, something that lets them know that you are interested in their work, and about them personally, as a photographer. This will also spur further spontaneous shop-talk. This is very important. You express your interest, while at the same time making them to want to know more about you, and then have them invite you in for a face-to-face. This call to action is almost automatic, if you are honest and sincere. This is the purpose of our call–to get a meeting with the photographer.

To be able to look at a photographer’s online portfolio and read a short bio about them, and then let them know that we understand something about them is a huge rapport builder. We are visual story tellers. Start interpreting visual cues in real-word day-to-day interactions. Share your relation to these insights with everyone around you. This is a valuable tool as a photographer. I have found this to be extremely helpful in developing relationships with the people I work with.

Another important thing… be yourself. Don’t inflate yourself into someone you are not in hopes of getting a job. You will end up shooting yourself in the foot… guaranteed. Be honest about your experience and skills and background. You will gain countless experience and many photographers will give you every opportunity to learn. If you don’t have much experience assisting, tell the photographer you are eager, a good multi-tasker, quick-learner, and can work well as part of a team. Whatever fits for you, just be positive and in a position to be helpful.

If the photographer wants to meet you, ask them when it’s a good time for you to come by the studio. Confirm their address and any other contact info for your records. Ask them if you should bring your portfolio. Try to have a printed portfolio if you can–many photographers still like to see these books. Others will be okay with just looking at your website. Some may not care to see any of your work at all, but are more interested in your hands-on abilities and knowledge of equipment, software, and work ethic. At any rate, this is usually just a sit-down for both you and the photographer to get to know one another a little better, and see if your personalities are gelling. We will talk more about this interview process in a future article in the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series, real soon.

If you follow some of the steps here, I’m certain you will get some interviews. Maybe you will even get booked right then and there! As I’ve said before, much of it has to do with timing and just gelling with the right people. Just having a short talk and letting the photographer know that you are available for them is really all you have to do right now. If nothing materializes with some of the top photographers on your list, don’t worry. You will continue to develop your relationship with them and the opportunity will come along with future correspondence.

In the next article in the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series,  we will talk about a simple website you can put together to show your portfolio, post your own bio, and using some other internet tools to help your visibility in the photo community.

How To Email Photographers To Get Assisting Work

Email Campaign example

Email Campaign example

This is the second installment of the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series.

Now that we have some photographers that we want to contact, we can start thinking about HOW we want to get in touch with them. There are many ways to do this, of course–phone calls, snail mail, knocking on doors, working at rental and camera stores–but I have found that sending an email is the best ice-breaker.

There are basically three important reasons to start seeking photo assisting gigs with email.

First, by sending an email, you are introducing yourself to the photographers you are trying to get to know. You are showing some initiative to the photographer that you are interested in working for them in a way that the photographer can handle with their schedule. It’s easy for them to read your email whenever they have time. Photographers are usually very busy, and some may find it distracting when, assistant after assistant, is calling on the phone or knocking on the door without an appointment. Obviously, this won’t help you. I find that an email gives the proper amount of “urgent discretion” that most photographers find agreeable. Also, once you’ve established some rapport with a photographer or studio, by continuing to send occasional emails helps you to stay on their radar. Many times, it’s the most recent assistant who has contacted a photographer who gets the job.

Second, is that it gives you total freedom to express yourself. You have total control over what you send, who you send it to, and when you send it. You can send out the same layout to zillions of photographers, or just a few. You might customize your template for a few special photographers you really want to focus on. You can attach a few shots of recent work. You can link to your blog and your website. You can just send out a letter with a resume. It doesn’t matter, just do it, but do it well. I started out just sending text emails, illustrating my skills and experience in a sort of advertorial. Then I started adding some images. Now, I use a program called Email Campaign, which allows me to create an HTML page with color and image and text options.

The third reason email is so appealing is that it’s basically free! If your ISP limits the amount of outgoing messages you can send each day, just send out 20 less per day than your limit, and send out all your bulk email over the course of a week or so. Otherwise, you can pay an inexpensive monthly fee ($2 or so) to increase your daily outgoing limits. The purchase of Email Campaign, or other software, will help you in designing and managing your emails, and is just a one time purchase (about $50-100). Or, you might use an email marketing service like Constant Contact or MailChimp, which will also incur some expense, but at least you won’t be licking or sticking postage stamps! The point is, that, sending emails can be free, or at least very inexpensive, and give you ultimate control.

As I began accumulating photographers in my address book, I would send out a simple text email to five studios at a time. My email was essentially a mini bio, highlighting some of my skills and background. Resume writing skills come in handy here, as you want to make yourself shine and be the star that will really help the photographer. Be honest, positive, and resourceful. Make your message unique and stand out from all the other emails that will also be in the photographer’s in-basket. Keep it simple, easy to read, and to the point. Give the photographer or studio manager a call-to-action. You want them to call you and find out more about you and have you come in for an interview and then hire you! Make it happen with an awesome email that will illustrate your character, skills, and passion for photography.

Add a photo of your own work into your email. It doesn’t have to be anything pertaining to working as an assistant, but it could be a shot of you working on-set or on-location somewhere. A shot of your own best work, which shows your own abilities as a shooter is great. It shows the photographer that you are serious, knowledgeable, and able-bodied. These days, I am creating assignments for myself, which work into a design or layout with a particular art direction or brand that I am creating for myself. Ultimately, this is what you will be doing as a shooter for your clients. So why not start practicing now? Look at the emails you get for ideas. Research what other photographers’ are using for their own publicity and marketing materials and try to emulate them with your own style and flair.

If you want to take this a step further, design an email campaign, which will encompass multiple emails over a period of time. A photographer does this to show a body of work on a particular subject matter, or previous ad campaign, to art buyers and ad agencies. You can choose a subject to explore photographically from different approaches, and incorporate a creative art direction using text, graphics, and color.

Send out your emails regularly–maybe every three to eight weeks. There is no right or wrong time-frame, but you ultimately want to stay on everyone’s radar without being like the kid in grade-school who is always raising his hand, squirming in his seat, and begging to be the one to get called on. Perhaps the best way to accomplish sending out your emails regularly is to make a schedule and stick to it. This will create a sense of urgency and help you keep creating new content for your emails.

Here’s a few other things to consider while creating your emails:

•    Use the words “photo assistant” in the subject line.
•    Personalize “Dear Photographer,” so that you insert the photographers first name into the greeting.
•    Illustrate at least one of your skill sets with an example of how you achieved a task or solved a problem.
•    Include links to your website or blog, and always include your phone number in your signature so it can be found easily. I have designed and built different text signatures, as well as graphical banners in Photoshop, then include them at the end of my emails. Many times I’ve gotten jobs because a photographer found my recent email with my phone number on it.

Keep in mind that sending an email to a photographer that you want to work with is just the beginning of the process. As the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series continues, we will look at more ways to begin, develop, and continue relationships with the great photographers we want to work with.

Find and Build Your Photographer’s Contact List

Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community

Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community

This is part 0.5 of 10 in the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series

To start things off in the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series, I thought we should jump right in with the one of the easiest, cheapest, and most useful tools available to us. Email! But then, it occurs to me, that before we can send any email, we have to have photographers to send our email to. So I will start with a little background for finding photographers that you want to work with, and then how you might want to build them into your contact list.

Okay, we need to assemble our contacts. Sounds easy, right? Hmmmmm…. we’ll see.

My sources are numerous… ASMP and APA memberships (online listings), workbook.com, PDN PhotoServe, forums like ASMPproAdvice and APAnet, magazines, books, and even just plain old Google search (unfortunately, I haven’t found any photographer lists that I can just purchase, yet). The trick is just to stay mindful and aware. You can find photographers everywhere. When I go to the bookstore, I always write down five, or so, photographers that I find from magazines or books to look up on the internet when I get home. I also subscribe to a lot of podcasts and listen for guest photographers, who are interviewed, or their names get dropped by the show hosts.

I assemble my database with Mac Address Book. I can customize, export, and import with a few mouse clicks. It integrates with Mac Mail and other software. No brainer, guys. Use whatever you like, but keep it simple and as painless as possible for yourself. Think workflow, just like concept –> pre-pro/lay-out –> production/design –> post –> delivery.

I will usually work at least one day a week, when I spend at least a morning or afternoon exclusively on building my contacts list. If you’re just starting out, you may have to work many days like this, but unless you’re at the studio, what else are you gonna do? It’s easy to get burned out doing the database work, so make sure you get fresh air and exercise. When I first started this process, I would spend hours at a coffee shop searching, perusing websites, entering data, back and forth between applications, yada, yada, yada. Working at the coffee shop, though was nice because there were other distractions when I needed it, like the bookstore next door, restaurants, people-watching, etc. Many times, I’d ask someone to watch my stuff and just go for a brisk walk.

Basically I sit down at the computer, open workbook.com (for example), determine a geographic area, hit search, and start at the top of the results list. By entering more specialty search criteria like advertising, lifestyle, fashion, or corporate, I will get back results from photographers who list these specialties in their profile. I can do this, if I only want to work on fashion shoots or only with product photographers, but I find this very limiting. Sometimes, I will use this feature if I’m looking for someone specifically, but don’t know their name and hope to come across an image I’ve seen. But, I want to see a photographers images and website for myself, rather than letting some assigned label (error-prone) and some SEO algorithm filter out whether or not I will add them to my contact list. I make my living as an assistant, so I want expose myself as much as humanly possible, and attract lots of work. I can pick and choose later, if necessary. But, maybe you won’t want to work with every type of photographer… your call. Anyway, many photographers are specializing less and generalizing more these days. I find a general search works well for me.

Back at my search results, I will confirm a photographer’s web presence and their work by visiting their website directly. Sometimes, I will research a photographer’s images and blog at this point, but normally just enough to remind myself that I need to come back and study in greater detail later (we need to focus on amassing the contacts right now). If the website is old school, or just has nature/travel shots, I usually move on to the next… what we’re looking for are high-end, cutting-edge advertising photographers that are keeping busy, have images we dig, and will hire assistants. Use your own discretion here, but I’ve learned from experience which photographers might kick-back a MAILER-DAEMON ERROR from my email, just because the website is so outdated and the photographer is perhaps not even in business anymore. On the other hand, some commercial advertising photographers are shooting weddings too, especially these days, so make sure you’re not passing up these photographers who have diversified. I used to not list wedding shooters in my database because I didn’t want to work weekends, but many times wedding shooters get requests for other work that they will either hire me to assist, or often times re-direct the job to me, depending on my relationship with the photographer. I will work an occasional wedding too, at my discretion. Hey, variety is the spice of life! The bottom line is that work can come from anywhere and any type of photographer. Just do every little bit you can to keep your foot in the door.

When I find a keeper, I enter the photographer’s name, phone, email, website url, address, and other studio staff (manager, other shooters, assistant). I will also enter the type of photography they generally shoot, in the notes, as a guide. I like to get ALL this info entered, because when the photographer calls to book me for the first time, and I can confirm their address and other info because its all right in front of me, I’ve just scored some bonus points… they know that I’m on the ball! THIS is what they are looking for! I also keep basic notes and other pertinent info in the file. It’s all right there, in one place. Keep it simple! NOTE: Back-up your database files at least once a week!

That’s really all there is to it. It will take some thought, and trial and error to find a system that you can develop and work on from day-to-day. You will learn what does and doesn’t work for you. You will find new resources and ways of entering your data. And, it will take some time to amass a body of photographers in your database. I still work at it a little bit, everyday. It takes discipline. But this discipline will teach patience and good habits. Doing just a little bit each day will add to the database, more and more. Before too long, you’ll see your list and go, “Whoa, cool!” Also, by working on it this way, the editing and updating will be easier to digest. You will become familiar with the photographers who use and don’t use assistants regularly. Their contact info might change and studio personnel come-and-go. Sometimes the photographers even disappear. You will get to know your contact list well if you work on it a little bit each day, or each week.

Next in the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series, we will look at designing a simple email that we can send out to the photographers in our list.

10 Ways to Attract Work and Stay Visible in the Photo Community

Hire Me!

A few weeks ago, Brian, a photo assistant in Minneapolis, emailed me and asked how I had been keeping so busy with work over the summer. He mentioned how slow things had been for him and how frustrated he was getting because the phone wasn’t ringing. He was besides himself, worried he was doing something wrong.

All I can really say, right off, is just hang in there. It probably has little to do with anything you’re doing. It could be something you’re NOT doing, but, I believe the biggest issue affecting Brian, and many of us in the photo industry these days, is the recession. It has definitely upset the scales, as far as supply and demand goes, so you just need to be patient, but stay disciplined and diligent in seeking work. You still have to go through the motions to let the photo gods know that you’re still available, willing, and able. Until there is more work, we all just have to weather the storm.

Now, I don’t know what Brian, or anyone else, is exactly doing to attract work. There are many things that a resourceful and proactive photo assistant can do to stay visible and communicate their availability. But, at the same time, if you’re just listing yourself on the ASMP and APA websites, and making a couple calls and sending a few emails, here and there, you can’t really expect everyone to be busting down your door with job offers… especially in a recession. At any rate, I figure this is a good opportunity to share with everyone some of my techniques for seeking work. They aren’t that revolutionary, but I do believe them to be tried-and-true. My methods are simple and require just a little creativity and resourcefulness. So, over the course of the next few weeks, I will share my thoughts, ideas, and techniques for attracting work for photo assisting, through a series of blog posts titled Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community.

The following is an approximate list of topics I will cover in this series, so you can perhaps do a little pre-pro of your own. If you don’t see something you think I’ve omitted, and want to see covered, let me know in the comments.

Phone calls.
Online networking (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, etc.).
ASMP, APA meetings, networking, and membership.
Flyers, post cards, and biz cards at professional camera stores and lighting rental stores.
Classifieds in PDN and workbook.com.
Online Forums — prophotoforums, ASMPproAdvice, APAnet, APAdigital.
More online resources like Photocrew.com, 1ProPhoto.com.
Even more online resources such as Craigslist, OMP, model mayhem (to find models for trade, stay active shooting, keep visible).

As the Attracting Work series unravels, you will begin to understand how every action supports all the other actions, creating a sort of a universal magnet. If you work just a little bit of each technique into your daily or weekly routine, over time you will expose yourself to many photographers, studio managers, producers, and other industry professionals which will eventually lead to more work.

Until then, happy shooting!