Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Secret Thursday: How to get work as an Assistant Photographer

I thought it would be a good idea to write a post this thursday on becoming a photographers assistant.  Although this isn't an entirely necessary way to become a photographer and more of a traditional approach it is something I really wanted to do to improve my own knowledge of the industry.  Becoming an assistant  is often harder than you think it's going to be.

While I studied photography I took every opportunity to assist which was fairly easy because photographers often posted on our notice board asking for assistants and most of the time I was assisting for free.  You have to put in a lot of work for free in the beginning, I will still occasionally assist for free if it's for an amazing photographer.  If you don't have access to a student notice board for assisting work people will often tell you it's not what you know it's who you know.  I agree to this to a certain extent however I came to live in Sydney from knowing literally noone and looking for assisting work.

My approach:
Initially I was quite shy and tried emailing photographers, but from my experience note that emailing does not work.  Yes emails are great follow ups but photographers tend to be very busy people and emails just seem to go into a hole of nothingness and get forgotten about.  One of the photographers I assisted said he easily gets about 100 emails a week from wannabe assistants!

So I tried cold calling, I bought a bunch of magazines that I admired because I didn't really know who the fashion photographers were that worked in Sydney.  I went through those magazines and made a list of the photographers I really really liked.  I had a list of about 30 photographers.  One by one I researched the photographer like crazy, and searched the internet high and low for their phone numbers.  This was the scary part, and the first phone call is definitely the worst.  I offered to assist for free for work experience and still I was getting "no's", they were polite and very nicely put "no", usually they had a close team that they liked to work with and weren't looking for anyone else but I kept persisting and eventually a photographer very nicely suggested meeting for coffee.

I also tried calling agencies, this has to be the most successful way I've found of gaining assistant work.  And if you happen to get asked to assist a good photographer you pretty much have to drop everything and go.  The hours are long, you have to put on your 'I'm not tired' face and remain enthusiastic 'til the end and you will still get plenty of knock backs.  But it's pretty exciting seeing the way a shoot is lit, getting to see behind the scenes of high fashion magazine shoots and even more exciting having your name printed as the assistant in the magazine.  In my opinion it's an invaluable experience and worth it all.