T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house, I was the only one stirring since I don't have a pet... not even a mouse, Drained of editing and writing, I was itching to get out... So I got a hold of my buddy Clay Cook and he invited me over for a few beers. During the midst of our conversations he mentioned he had an excellent opportunity for me. He offered me a position on his team as an assistant for an upcoming NFocus editorial. He explained to me what all it entailed and what all would be expected of me. Excited and nervous, I gladly accepted. With the acceptance of the job came a flood of questions... What do I exactly do besides being a voice operated light stand? What should I bring? How can I be productive when we have down time? What do I wear? Yes clothing is important... Being professional yet comfortable is essential, You see there is actually a lot. As a strong assistant, one needs to know several key things... The photographer's gear, their lighting style and their objective. Being that I've known Clay for a minute now, even attending his MasterClass Work Shop, I was well acquainted with his gear and lighting styling. Also talking in depth about his approach to this editorial I had a decent idea on how it would be executed.
Now comes the morning of Tuesday January 7th, Call time is 6:30 a.m., Everyone arrives at Clay's house then to head off to the Shakespear & Co. in Lexington for the photoshoot... in below freezing weather I might add. We get there, off load gear and jump right into unpacking... EVERYTHING! We do that so when he needs something it's right there and ready to go, no unpacking and searching. Between myself and his intern, Brandy Fulton, I believe we got it all going pretty darn quickly, around 30 minutes if I'm not mistaking. He explains where the first look will be, the gear and lighting he wants to use... Boom we are on it. This was the core process throughout the day. Once one set was done, it was on to the next... always giving us those two pieces of critical information (gear and lighting). At times we could hear Clay talking out loud to himself, trouble shooting then sometimes either myself or Brandy would suggest a fix. This is another key essential quality to being a strong assistant... having the ability to troubleshoot and suggest fixes. What's even better? Be a step ahead of the photographer and ensuring these issues are taken care of before he even gets to his camera. Albeit this isn't always possible, but if it is, jump on it! Also remember that staying busy and productive is very favorable. You don't want to kill yourself running around finding things to do and there will be down time with hair and make-up doing their work, but just make sure everything is set to roll once the models step on set. In my case during down time I was wondering around covering Behind the Scenes.
The two final elements about working as an assistant, taking direction and knowing your role over all. By taking direction I mean, when the photographer gives you a direction know what he means. For instance, when he/she tells you move up, knowing whether to hold it the light higher up or to move up closer to the camera is critical. If you know what he/she means they can say it once, you adjust and he gets the shot. A photographer not having to explain where he wants the light adjustment saves time in actual shooting which in returns helps gets the models off the set and back to hair and make-up for prep of the next look. The last element, but probably far from least is knowing your role over all. Know when to speak and when to not, know when and what to suggest. Remember you're there to help and assist, not take over creative directions. Be outgoing, have fun, contribute to the energy and make your presence known. It will stick in people's mind and they will remember you. Trust me on this.
I hope this detail of my experience will help someone along the way who is interested in assisting with photoshoots. There is so much to learn, and with every photographer it will be somewhat different, it's good to be versatile in that sense... just remember what your task at hand is and remain Focused.
A personal journal about any given day in my photography career where I will write about anything from portraits and headshots to sharing my educational experiences. Thank you for taking the time to stop by, it's my pleasure to share my stories with you!