Set Etiquette Do’s and Dont’s

Today’s post is by guest blogger, assistant/photographer Justin Sullivan.

Set Etiquette

A lot has been said about the technical aspects of photo assisting in the past. But one topic that hasn’t been explored as much as it should be is how to behave on set. There are a lot of things that can be learned over time, after many mistakes. But here are some guidelines that could help you save a little face, and keep you getting hired back for more work (and hey, that’s what we all want).

Things to Do:

Address concerns QUIETLY with the photographer. If you’re the first assistant working with a top photographer, and something is awry (or you THINK it’s awry) get his attention and speak with him about it as soon as possible in low tones. Photographers’ relationships with their clients can take years to build. The last thing they need is to look like a big dummy because you noticed a rookie mistake and blabbed about it loudly. Anyone worth his salt will appreciate your decorum. [Read more…]

How to Strike a Photo Set


Photo courtesy of Flashlight Photo Rental

Usually, when you hear the magic words, “That’s a wrap,” the assistant is eager to strike the set and get all the gear packed up. It’s probably been a long day and everyone is tired. Maybe there is an after party or a flight to catch. But, if you get any result after a strike, like the photo here, you are in too much of a hurry and not using your head. If you are a brand new assistant and it’s your first time on set, there are a few mulligans available for you. But if you’ve been around for a spell, stuff like this is kind of embarrassing… for you. The bottom line is to use some common sense. Safety and planning doesn’t end just because the shoot is over. In fact, the assistant is probably going to be one of the hardest working people on set after the strobes get powered down. Keep your cool and work smart and efficiently.

I usually start striking the set by powering down all the lighting. I will usually leave the camera and computer stuff for the photographer or digital tech, unless the photographer instructs me otherwise. They will probably be doing preliminary edits with the client anyway, so just stay out of their way. Just make sure the camera is attended to and safe from hitting the floor.

After powering down the strobes, I will pull as many power cords as possible. Just get them out of the way so you, or anyone else, can’t trip over them. Coil them properly, and stage them for packing. Coil up the head extensions and hang them on the stand. Remove any flags, V-flats, nets, and other grip that is taking up space. Just get all the cumbersome stuff off the set. Then, lower the light-stand stanchions and move all the light heads, on their stands, off to the side and out of the way. Leave the dirt on the stands, in case they get bumped. Remove power-packs, pocket-wizards, and other items and pack them away if you can. [Read more…]

You Are Not A Dinosaur

Photo © Andrea Cole

As you know, APhotoAssistant is about photo assisting. In this respect, I usually discuss things here in a commercial sense. But, I’ve also been trying to exercise a more artistic muscle, with a non-competitive flair, these days. I recently ran across a friend of mine on Kickstarter who has assembled a group of photographers who have produced an interesting body of work that they will be exhibiting soon. They have drawn on a unique perspective as inspiration for their project, so I thought I would talk with my friend.

Tim White is relatively new to the medium of photography, having spent many years as a painter. He is an occasional contributor to B&W Magazine, and lives and works in Minneapolis, MN. His current images can be seen here.

APhotoAssistant (APA): Tim, please tell us about the exhibit you are helping to put together… “You Are Not A Dinosaur.” I was immediately curious when I saw the name.

Tim White (TW): It’s a quote from a short story entitled Dinosaur by Bruce Holland Rogers. In two paragraphs a man lives out his entire life. He starts as a kid rattling the house with dinosaur antics, then his imagination fades away as he makes practical, adult choices until senility lets him become a dinosaur again. So our show has these core themes of responsibility and loss, but the ambiguity works too–that maybe it compels people to look further into “what is this show, and why is it rebuking me?” [Read more…]

Chris Hollo: The Door Project

My friend and colleague, Chris Hollo, a photographer from Nashville, has been featured in aCurator, an online photo magazine which features large full-screen images showing the works of photographers from all over. Chris is a commercial shooter who does advertising, editorial, people, and music. He has worked with many Nashville acts, and is the official photographer for the Grand Ole Opry.

Chris’ recent The Door Project took about six months to complete principal photography, but, then nearly another six months to complete the post. Chris said it was a lot of fun, but was a good deal of work with props, styling, and wardrobe, too. After really soaking it up on his website, I think the best part about it is the way it illustrates all the various human interactions we can have, just at the front door of our homes. His humorous peek, and sometimes stark reality, has captured the quirky human element which we all come into contact with, from time-to-time.

Chris has also jumped into the blogosphere recently, and you can follow his progress here. Chris has a lot of experience in the photo industry and a great personality. It comes through in his writing.

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…]

Reasons to Take Photographs

As photographers, we might say we take photographs to earn a living… to make money. Others might say that we communicate or illustrate our client’s product in a way they want it presented. And, still other shooters may argue that photography is to document an event, news, or some special occasion.

But, what about all the other reasons to take a photograph? Think back to when you first picked up a camera and discovered the magic of freezing time and getting your film back from the lab. Or, maybe you processed the film and printed the negative yourself, and saw the image materialize in the developer. What was the motivation you discovered about taking the shot in the first place? What captured your love-affair with photography?

Here’s some of my early recollections of why I took photographs.

1.    To remember what the clouds in the sky looked like just before that big storm.
2.    To show my friends the first northern pike I caught.
3.    To show mom where we went on our summer boy scout trip.
4.    To show how crazy me and my brother were when we stuck grapes in our nostrils.
5.    To show grandma and grandpa where we went on our family vacation to the Black Hills.
6.    To show friends how enormous the road-side dinosaur was at the rest stop.
7.    To capture the warmth of a sandy beach with palm trees.
8.    To illustrate the rocky hike up the mountain in the heat of the desert.
9.    To show friends and family back home how insane the traffic is on Los Angeles freeways.
10.  To capture the magic of a beautiful sunset in the Boundary Waters.

Of course! We tell stories with our photography… whether we are working for a client, snapping graduating sons and daughters at commencement, or taking vacation photos of wild bears in Yellowstone. But, sometimes, we get caught up in the frantic craziness of everyday life and our passions, as professional photographers and creatives, get clouded a bit by all the deadlines, budgets, layouts, and last minute art direction changes. Take a few moments and travel back in your mind to when you first snapped the shutter….

Why do you take a picture? What are some of your special memories of photography, before you shot for money?

WordCamp MSP

First crappy snow in Minneapolis

I ventured out into the snow early this morning to make my way to WordCamp MSP at the Best Buy HQ. Roads were pretty bad already at 8AM with lots of sloppy slush being thrown up onto everyone’s windshield’s from passing cars. Be careful out there Minnesnowta!

This is my first ever WordCamp and I believe it’s the first-ever WordCamp in the Twin Cities. WordCamp is a day of workshops for bloggers who use WordPress. After a few sessions this morning I am swimming with new ideas for content and delivery. Lunch was pretty good, catered in from Buca. Looking forward to the afternoon sessions.

If you’re a WordPress user and can brave the roads I recommend that you come check it out. Registration is open all day, I think.

WordCamp MSP

How To Make Traveling as a Photo Assistant A Snap

Working as a photo assistant and traveling to a location shoot can be a lot of fun. I’ve had many, many opportunities to travel and work on location, and one thing that each has in common is that every one is different. Working with different photographers will inevitably lead to traveling to many different locations, working on various types of shoots, with many different types of people. So, I guess the other thing that all location shoots have in common is that they are hardly ever boring. But, it can also be a lot of work. If you like lugging gear, working your butt off from sunrise to sunset, overcoming adversity, dealing with weather and other uncertainties of the road–then assisting on location might be the life for you.

There is both an art and a business to traveling and photography. The photographer must know what the client expects from them. As a photo assistant, you must know what the photographer expects from you. If there is a producer, they will handle many of the minute details. But the photographer and assistant will need to be on the same page with concern to ad layouts, gear to bring or rent when arriving, job roles of everyone on the production, and catering to the client. Sometimes, the assistant will double as a mini-producer and handle, or assist, with such things as car rentals, hotel reservations, getting lunch, pulling permits, scouting, and scheduling. Making it all work takes resourcefulness, creativity, hard work, and many times, a lot of overtime.

[Read more…]