Friday, December 28, 2007

Assisting A Professional Photographer

Yesterday at 8am, I got woken up by my photographer friend, Ken. He said he was assisting an architectural photographer that day. He asked if I wanted to sub in for the second assistant because the guy had bruised ribs and might not last out the day. I jumped on the opportunity.

Ken had told me about this particular architectural photographer. He mentioned the guy was really good, had over 10 years experience, but he was too finicky with his shots. 15-20 hour shoots were not uncommon for this guy.

The location was a fancy apartment in Newport Beach. The client was the interior designer.

I jumped right in and began helping out any way I could. One thing I've learned about assisting is: keep asking the photographer what you can do to help. Don't always wait for him to ask for your help. Oftentimes he is too busy thinking about something else.

I watched intently, making mental notes. This photographer was a master at lighting. Every shot was a work of art. He kept adding accents, tweaking this or that. The shot taken in the afternoon was done with strobes. The other two in the evening were shot with tungsten lights. It was awesome seeing both methods. His lighting was very directional, hardly ever broad, except for occasional fill. He used grid spots, snoots, barn doors... It was truly painting with light.

All in all, the photographer shot 3 images in 12 hours with 3 assistants. The client would get impatient, but he was adamant about being satisfied with the shot before moving on to the next one. As great as the images are, that is not a way to run a profitable business.

So what I want to do is incorporate some of his lighting techniques for my own architectural photography, and take twice as many shots in one day. I want to be shooting 6 to 8 images in one day. Anything less would not be satisfactory for the majority of clients.

One way to speed up the process this photographer employed is to shoot in digital format. He used a studio 4x5 view camera which is the traditional way to shoot architecture. It's much slower than using digital cameras because you have to shoot Polaroid to preview the image. View cameras are also much heavier, large and cumbersome. Image quality is superior, and you can correct perspective, but it's way more costly because of Polaroid (he went through over 2 boxes), film, processing, and scanning.

Apparently this guy does not work full time as a photographer. This does not surprise me in the least because he is not efficient. He is too meticulous. His approach is closer to fine art photography. Another problem is his marketing is not ongoing.

In the end, the injured assistant ended up working the whole day, using painkillers. I made the mistake of not establishing beforehand if I was going to be paid even if I was not subbing the other guy. When I broached the subject at the end of the day, it was too late. The photographer said there was only budget for 2 assistants, therefore I would not be paid. He said that was clear from the beginning. It was, but I figured he would pay me anyway since I had contributed for a full ten hours on his shoot.

Well I managed to scrounge $45, lunch and dinner out of him. The mistake was mine. I was hesitant about broaching the topic of money with him at the beginning of the day because I was not so confident in my assisting skills. I learned my lesson: always establish my salary beforehand. This is purely business.

It was a great day! I learned sooo much it's amazing. Assisting is the best way to figure out what to do and also what not to do! If you do it right, you can get paid to learn from the best lol. Not a bad deal.

I shot this image of Il Duomo in Florence, Italy. It is a giant dome built atop the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore by Brunelleschi in 1436. It spans 40 yards, took 16 years to build with a design that was deemed to be 'unfeasible.' It was the first octogonal dome built in history and still stands as the largest masonry dome in the world today. I laid down on the floor to capture it (trying not to get trampled by the massive crowd of tourists) and used my digital point and shoot.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

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