Advice From A Photographer

- - Photography Business

From the comments in the Catalog Photographer post. Solid.

Old Geezer Says:
Old Geezer here. I’m the older brother of Old Yeller. Funny how a post that started about a bad tv show ended up with a bunch of college students asking advice about their future. Well, pull up a chair, boys and girls, and let Old Geezer share some of his hard earned wisdom. I envision a list, of about a hundred items, and we’d have to stop at a hundred, because we’d never remember more than that. Anyone else over the age of forty can chime in too; I’m sure I won’t think of everything.

1. In college, learn as much tech stuff as you can. This will make you more valuable as an assistant. Don’t just be a navel gazer with a 5D.

2. In college, take business classes too. You don’t want to be one of those stoner kids that just reads and ponders life. You want to APPLY what you learned.

3. In college, take as many philosophy classes as you can. Try to think BIG. Try to care about the world. Try to get a grip on the big picture.

4. In college, take a year off and drive across the country, and camp along the way. Do it with good friends that are smart; not dumbasses that just want to get high. Bring some books. Bring some audio books if you can’t read.

5. Make sure and take some acid somewhere along the way. Preferably in Monument Valley or Canyonlands. I know that sounds dumb, but everybody needs to do that once or twice.

6. When you start assisting, consider putting away your cameras entirely for a few years, and concentrate on being a servant. Get into a servant mindspace. Be in a supportive role. Trust me, it helps. This is your time to be a giant sponge and learn as much as you can. It’s not your time to shoot. (Ok, maybe with your iphone, but nothing more serious than that).

7. Think how you can be most useful to a photographer. That will get you hired, and keep you getting hired.

8. Eliminate excess Drama from your life.

9. Live beneath your means. Keep things simple.

10. Be a good conversationalist. Be well read. No one wants to drive five hours with an assistant that doesn’t have anything to add to the conversation. And it better be better than how to make web galleries from Bridge, or something geeky like that.

11. Keep your mouth shut around clients. Just be a good energy, but sure as hell, don’t offer ideas. The photographer has his own agenda, and he needs to work that out with the client.

12. Don’t be late for work. And if you are, call ahead and let the photographer know. Don’t just show up thirty minutes late, especially if it’s on the way to LaGuardia.

13. Be loyal.

14. Go beyond the call of duty.

15. Don’t order expensive drinks after the job, especially if it’s editorial. Be aware of the budget.

16. Turn off your fucking cell phone during the job. Fine to check messages during lunch, when it’s your time, but don’t be sending text messages to your girlfriend, even if nothing is going on in the job. Trust me, even though you’re not aware of it, there is something ALWAYS going on in the job.

17. Reread 16.

18. Be prompt when submitting Invoices. Don’t bitch about photographers always paying late, if you wait twenty days before you Invoice a job.

19. Be a sponge. Notice everything. Notice the way the photographer deals with the client. Notice the issues that the clients have, and be sensitive to these. You, as an assistant, are privy to a ton of valuable unspoken information; make the best use of it. Learn from it.

20. Travel out of the country as much as possible. Learn how other people live. Learn that America is not the center of the universe, and learn that you don’t need your cell phone 24 hours a day. Again, be a sponge, about how other people live.

21. Don’t show up hung over to a job. It’s just not cool. No matter how hard you worked the day before.

22. Dress well. Doesn’t have to be Prada, but try to look competent.

23. Learn your job. Learn the subtleties of a Profoto pack. Learn about the fuses in a Pro 7b. Try to learn CaptureOne, even just the basics of it. You are Support; try to know your craft. Even the geeky details. It’s the geeky details that’ll sometimes save a job. That’s when you’ll be the hero, and you’ll get an extra beer that night at dinner. (But don’t show up the next day hung over).

24. Go to the Times today, and read the Norman Mailer Obit. Try to create your life to be half as interesting as his life. If you do that, you’ll be fine.

25. Always order good Catering. That’s all the client really cares about. And make sure they get put up in a nice hotel.

26. Learn as much technical stuff as you can, because Rule Number One is, the client doesn’t really care about your vision of the world. They care about their vision. If you show one thing in your book, chances are, you’ll be called for something else. So have a good grab bag of tricks, for those days when you walk into a beige conference room, and have to shoot a fat guy on the corner of a desk.

That’s all that Old Geezer knows for now. Maybe someone older can write up another twenty-six.

Good luck with your careers, young people. God knows the world needs another photographer. With SVA and Art Center and the like cranking them out by the hundreds, soon we’ll have enough photographers to handle all those big budget jobs that we all turn down.

And.

Handle your rent; handle your car. Handle your parking tickets. Nobody wants the Sheriff to show up in the middle of a job, with a bunch of parking tickets in his hand, asking to see the assistant. Don’t ask to leave early, “cause you gotta go pay your rent or your phone bill”. Handle all that stuff outside of work. Again, you are Support; you are not the star.

And I forgot the worst one, #27: Don’t approach the client to “show him your work sometime”. It’s the cardinal rule. If you’re there on the job as an assistant, then be in the assistant role. Every client will ask you if you shoot, because they don’t know what else to talk to you about at lunch, but trust me, they really don’t care. They might care a little bit, but they don’t want to see your book. The right way to do it is — Stop Assisting, then become a photographer. Don’t approach a client when you’re on somebody else’s job.

There Are 77 Comments On This Article.

  1. I like this list a lot. It is funny. But the one thing I have learned is there is no right or wrong way to do it. Some things are tried and true, but ultimately, there is no correct way. Be yourself, be true to your vision, and if it is really good, people will recognize you.

  2. So let me get this straight? (Home Alone “aftershave face”)…There’s more to this F*cking business than:

    “passion…show me passion…in a passion that you cannot satisfy because the passion inside of you burns…errr passionately deeper than the passion that she has for him even though his passion is in a darker area of passion…so MODEL with the booby-things…show me THAT kind of passion…that is forbidden passion”

    It gets more technical than that?

    Chocolate Jesus!

    *starts to practice his voice for the drive-up “window one” headset at McDonald’s*

    actually I want to SEE the images begotten from #5.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you Old Geezer. I’m going to print that out and hand it to anyone that comes to see me looking for assisting work.

    You must be pretty old to have acquired that much wisdom. What are you, like 28?

  4. So tell me then…whats the best way TO approach a successful photographer and ask for a “gopher” job? Push it until the guy/or girl puts a restraining order out on you covering 50 states? “Love your work” cards 365 days a year?, Offer free bikini waxes?…Duct-tape my self to his personal SUV hood?

    My days of dodging stray bullet rounds are long past me.

    Aside from obvious starvation and Bambi”Admiration” eyes:

    Whats the “weeding out” process for Helper Elves?

  5. I’m young and don’t claim to know much of anything, except this. You should never put your camera down for any amount of time if photographing is what you want to do. Rule # 6 is the most ridiculous piece of advice I’ve ever heard. I hope he was joking. All the other rules seem to make some kind of sense.

  6. totally rephrasing… “i like 24. but it contradicts all the rest”

    there.

    still quite a fun read and IF one has to be other’s slave, seems like good advice.

    adding:

    -1. plan your life so you don’t have to be other’s slave.

    27. if you REALLY have no option but to be someone else’s slave, make sure you plan your life so you can quickly upgrade.

    28. plan really really nicely how you’re going to invest the slavery money otherwise you’ll keep being a slave for the rest of your life.

  7. Older Geezer...

    Yes I can safely say I’m an older geezer because I know who the older geezer is. Don’t ask me how I know, but I’d lay a gazillion capture pixels on it. His secret is safe with me.

    #28 Shut the fuck up because your job is to listen. The best way to soak up information is to listen. When the client asks you a question the best way to give an answer is to redirect the conversation back to them and make them know that THEY are the star. (Even though the photographer is the star.) If you can prove to the photographer that you are a good listener he/she will talk about their business openly and honestly and you will learn. If you are a talker you’ll find yourself unemployed in a hurry.

    #29 The real definition of a good listener is someone who hears before the words leave the photographers lips. This is called anticipation, learn this golden definition. Your best role model is ‘Radar’ on ‘MASH’ the TV show. Don’t know it? Rent it from the public library. Study the charactter of ‘Radar’ – THAT should be you. If you anticipate you will become invaluable. If you are too busy checking your text messages when you should be anticipating save everyone the trouble and quit assisting because you obviously think it’s time to be a photographer. Then go ahead and be a photographer, and when you do start expecting your assistants to be like ‘Radar’.

    #30 Initiative isn’t something you do when you are told you should do it. Initiative is doing the things that no one wants to ever have to tell you to do, or the things that have little to do with what’s top of mind. Do those things between the top of mind things without having to be asked.

    #31 You may think you know what the photographer is doing or how he does it. So what? You aren’t doing it. Because until you step in the photographers shoes you are not aware of how much he is accountable for. Reread that. Knowing what to do and being accountable for actually doing it in real time are two entirely different things. If you think you know what the photographer is doing and think you could do that that’s OK, but if it reflects in your ability to lighten their load of accountability significantly, it’s time for you to quit or become a photographer and get a taste of accountability for the job and for people like you were on set.

  8. Not a geezer but not a youngster

    “If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.” – Jay Maisel

    Jay Maisel once said, and I will have to paraphrase this, since I have not found the quote.

    “If you are not adding to the shoot, then you are taking away from it” Assistants need to get this one right. If you are difficult, a pain or having to be micro-managed, then your time is going to be limited.

  9. I’m calling bullshit on #6.
    “6. When you start assisting, consider putting away your cameras entirely for a few years, and concentrate on being a servant. Get into a servant mindspace. Be in a supportive role. Trust me, it helps. This is your time to be a giant sponge and learn as much as you can. It’s not your time to shoot. (Ok, maybe with your iphone, but nothing more serious than that).”

    If you put your camera away for a FEW YEARS. You are likely never to break out on your own….. it happens all the time. You start assisting freelance, you become a good assistant, you work regularly for a few shooters and eventually one wants you full time. You end up making a really good living assisting. You get the urge to break out on your own and realize you make too much money to quit assisting and try to shoot. It is simple math. $50-70,000 a year assisting or $????? shooting the few jobs you are gonna get your first couple of years….
    Oh and if you follow number 6, when you are ready to quit assisting you aren’t gonna have any work to show because you put the cameras down for a few years.
    You should always be shooting…….

  10. Older Geezer...

    Not a geezer wrote: “ ‘If you are not adding to the shoot, then you are taking away from it’ Assistants need to get this one right. If you are difficult, a pain or having to be micro-managed, then your time is going to be limited.”

    Yes. And there’s nothing quite so distracting as an assistant who appears to be an inanimate object.
    As an assistant one of the first things they should learn is that they won’t be needing a chair. I know that sounds harsh, but their job is to either be steadily moving things towards completion or to act like they are, by listening, watching and understanding what’s about to happen.

    There are two basic forms of energy. Kinetic energy and potential energy. Sitting on an apple box looking at your iPhone is neither.

  11. Thanks, I’m snagging that.

    I’m printing it large and handing it to every assistant I see.
    Especially the one who at 8.00am on a Sunday morning, spilled out of her cab outside my studio, still in her clubbing clothes.

    At least she wasn’t late!

  12. Redundantly, I have to say that #6 is a lousy piece of advice. It sounds more like a way for a working photographer to try to nip his inevitable assistant spin-off competition in the bud, and slow down the revolving door on his staff. Be a sponge, learn a lot, keep shooting.

    “6. When you start assisting, consider putting away your cameras entirely for a few years, and concentrate on being a servant. Get into a servant mindspace. Be in a supportive role. Trust me, it helps. This is your time to be a giant sponge and learn as much as you can. It’s not your time to shoot. (Ok, maybe with your iphone, but nothing more serious than that).”

  13. Older Geezer...

    I agree with Jason about #6. I may sound even crustier than Old Geezer, but in this respect I want assistants who are shooting something, anything, because it shows that they are passionate about this process and see it as more than just a job.

    And like Jason I feel that when it’s time to start photographing if you haven’t already been building images you can count on a slow and frustrating transition.

    On the other hand, there is some truth to #6, in that assisting is a time to suspend your personal vision long enough to be the best possible sponge, and to recognize that you will learn the most if the vision of the photographer you are studying under is where your utmost loyalty lies.

  14. Hey, it’s me again — the original Old Geezer. I had a feeling that people (young people) would get caught up on Number Six. Here’s what I meant by it, even though it runs contrary to “The Shot”, and all those other reality shows, which tout the mindset of instant success.

    When I was young, I heard several stories about people who would assist for YEARS. I think I heard this one story about Hiro assisting Avedon, and that he worked for him for years. There was a part of me that thought, “Why would he do that, doesn’t he want to SHOOT? I mean, after a couple of years or so, you kinda know how to set up the strobes, so what else is there to learn?”.

    As I got older it began to hit me, that even though he’d probably mastered much of the technical issues, there was the much more important Human Interaction facet of the business that maybe he wanted to keep learning. I do not know exactly why Hiro assisted him for so long, (but you sure see it in his work). Hiro is a true master.

    There is an amazing snapshot in the Arbus “Revelations” book — a snapshot, by, I think, Gideon Lewin, of Brodovitch’s classroom. Sitting there, in the classroom, was Arbus, and Aveon, and Hiro. (Imagine the critique for THAT class! Imagine how you’d tighten up before you put YOUR shot up next to theirs, on the chalkboard tray!)

    I guess my point is, there are rewards to being patient. And continuing to learn. And surrounding yourself with valuable mentors. Because what you don’t realize, until it’s too late, is, once you hang out your shingle, that says, “I’m now a photographer, not an assistant any more”, then there’s no going back. You’re on your own then, for the rest of your life. So you’d better be ready.

    And I didn’t mean “servant’ in a negative sense, like a slave or something. I meant it more in a “be in a supportive role”, which I think is really valuable to do for a while. “Be in service” to another human being. It is in no way a negative thing. It’s actually highly honorable.

    Anyway, good luck to everyone.

  15. Not a geezer but not a youngster

    A friend of mine, who passed away recently, was an editor at the Geographic. He gave me an incredible piece of advice when I was starting out.

    “Always surround yourself with people who are better than you, that is how you will be judged.”

    It is true. Work for great people. WORK for great people. I did. I also worked for a coke-addict who destroyed his career. What I learned from him, was, what not to do. A valuable lesson indeed.

    Bust you tail as an assistant, shoot for yourself if you can, keep notes, learn.

    A former assistant of mine use to come into the studio on weekends and shoot up all of my B&W film. It was ok. He was building a book that took him to the next level. He is now a name in the fashion industry. A serious A level shooter who is an incredible talent. When he assisted me and the other photographer who shared the studio, this guy would print all weekend, clean the studio, do what ever it took to make things run smooth. He made it – big time.

    The assistants who were a drag or complained – half of them never left the nest.

  16. From Older Geezer:
    “#30 Initiative isn’t something you do when you are told you should do it. Initiative is doing the things that no one wants to ever have to tell you to do, or the things that have little to do with what’s top of mind. Do those things between the top of mind things without having to be asked.”

    LOVE this!!! This has to be one of the most obvious traits of the assistants that you want to use over and over again. This alone keeps them in constant motion.

  17. What the hell makes you think we can afford a £250 iphone!!! My assisting money goes straight into film and rent………….. occasionaly some food too

  18. a photo assistant

    Valuable advice… might I propose adding.

    When, especially when starting out, you don’t know what you are doing or how to do something correctly quietly ask one of the other assistants to show you the best way to do it. Don’t take unnecessary risks to cover up your lack of knowledge/experience. Very few photographers won’t hire you again because you asked them to check that you’ve loaded the film right (as long as you don’t shout it across the room) but nobody will ever hire you again if you load it wrong.

    Don’t sleep with the models, don’t even try to sleep with the models, even if the photographer isn’t interested he/she won’t appreciate your efforts/lack of professionalism.

    Forget being late, be early. Always be waiting out the front of the studio when the photographer arrives.

    Photographers are not the only people on set you should be learning from. The caterer has probably been on more shoots that you have.

    Until you are the first assistant the first assistant is God, the photographer is God’s God and not someone for you to go around harassing.

    Don’t work for assholes. Its not worth it. Work for photographers who you respect even more as people than you do their photographs.

    I’d like add more but Im working tomorrow so time to tuck into bed and get a good nights sleep.

  19. Boy this is some pretty terrible advise and is an express train to a lifelong career in assisting or as an indentured servant.

    Here is my list:

    -don’t study photography in school. It is truly a waste of time. It will take you at least a decade to learn your craft and you are better off learning it by doing it wrong over and over again. If you have to study photography then study the history of photography. It will serve you far better and longer than learning how to shoot an egg on white.

    -shoot all the time-never stop shooting-this is the only way you are going to become a photographer

    -don’t work for assholes or prima donnas.

  20. Wow. I’m glad there’s finally a forum for photographers to gripe and bitch about how assistants should be.

    That’s right. You heard it here kids. Be a sponge. Soak it up because the next thing you know there’s some photographer that’s going to wring you out and leave you dry.

    Let’s start the list. How should photographers be to their assistants? I’m only going to list 5 because I’m worn out from working for other people, not to mention that Bitter Photographer will make me feel a lot better than old geezer forbidding me to use my cell phone whilst I bend over for him.

    1. Pay on time. Go into your own pocket if you have to. Why should an assistant wait for the client to pay? The client doesn’t hire the assistant.

    2. Don’t be stingy about overtime. Don’t ask the assistant to come down on his overtime after the fact. Instruct your producer to do the same. It’s the only way assistants make any fucking money.

    3. Let your loyal assistant use your gear. Pretend it doesn’t bother you. Don’t ask for anything in return for its use. This is for the time they woke up at 4 am to fly somewhere, help you shoot some piece of shit portrait, and not get home until midnight because you booked the last flight out just in case. They didn’t get any extra money because it was editorial and had to eat fast food twice in one day.

    4. Be a mentor. That means do not be competitive with your assistant. When they are trying to “leave the nest”, set up a meeting for them with a photo editor that you know or have your agent do it. Pay it forward. Your assistant is never going to “take you down”. If you don’t want to do that because their work is horrible, tell them, steer them in the right direction. Don’t let their worst nightmare come true. (That nightmare by the way is working for you long term.)

    5. Be cognizant of the fact your ego is a little fragile. Any good assistant will coddle it up to a certain point. They’ll say the work looks good even though its totally retarded. So in return, try to keep your lists to under 10 items instead of 26. Don’t expect servitude. If your assistant has to make a phone call during the shoot, he’ll do it at a responsible time. By the way, the assistant is running a business too. A job runs the risk of disappearing between now and lunch.

  21. newspaper geezer

    here in the low-rent editorial side – our equivalent of assistants are interns: and I would agree with the list- but maybe a clarification on point # 6.
    I would say, shoot shoot shoot, all the time as often as you can- but not on my time. Leave your gear in the bag unless someone tells you different. If you’re running cards or hanging lights I wud apcc you’re focused on my needs and that does mean no pix, including your iPhone IMHO.

  22. Not a youngster but not a GEEZER

    Trip Says:
    November 12th, 2007 at 12:04 pm
    Wow. I’m glad there’s finally a forum for photographers to gripe and bitch about how assistants should be…..

    I buy my assistants breakfast every day. Another shooter on this forum buys lunch everyday. I pay overtime even if I don’t bill it. I treat my assistants fairly and yes, there are long days involved. Get over it,,it is the reality of the business. Don’t blame the photographer for the last flight out….most likely the client and budget were tight with no bucks for hotels. Yes, it gets that tight sometime.

    I don’t know a single photographer who treats his crew badly. I know of one who yells. He has a rep and that is just the way he is. What assistants are not understanding is how much pressure there is on the shooter – from financial to production to crew to final product. If you don’t appreciate it now, you will when you get out on your own.

  23. Dude, I get it. Not all photographers are assholes. If it doesn’t apply to you, get over it. Trust me, there are very few photographers as generous as you to pay overtime when it can’t be billed back. I didn’t get into this business yesterday so you don’t need to make excuses for someone else.

    I have had the luxury to assist friends and generally cool people. In fact, I rarely assist anymore. When I first started I didn’t have that luxury and had to work for whatever jerk that called. I’ve worked for a full range of personalities. If I ever overextended myself for a photographer it was out of respect for them and my own personal work ethic. In any case, the expectations go both ways.

    There’s a lot of things in this business that are fucked up, from top to bottom. Photographers have to bill for their shoelaces just to try and turn a profit. We do it because we want to take pictures and believe there’s a way to make a living doing it. Assistants included.

  24. Seriously, how does one become a ‘pro’ assistant? Is it some sort of fucked up syndrome to want to ‘assist’ in creating great images rather than be the man behind the lens.
    I want this to be my next career, call me crazy…I am a lover not a fighter.

  25. So AGAIN…Whats the best way to approach someone semi-decent for an assistant job?

    Whats the symbiotic pecking order?

    Just show up at the guys door?

  26. I’d say write them a well constructed e-mail telling them who you are, your experience, and your rate. Show them you are enthusiastic, CONFIDENT, and willing to work hard. SPELL CHECK your e-mail to death. It does NOT look good to misspell your photographer’s name.

    Great list up there. I just started assisting and am printing it as I type

    • @ATL Shooter, Follow that email up with a telephone call.
      Most of us like a day off from the Mac/Viewfinder every now and then, and your email can also end up in our Spam box – nag, nag, nag until you get a response (good or bad) from the guy you want to work for.
      And do not, EVER, assist for free.
      An assistant who is willing to work for free isn’t worth employing.
      A photographer who won’t pay you isn’t worth working for.

  27. If this is about becoming a photographer, then I’m quite happy being a teacher…

    If this is about being a slave (aka assistant) I suppose that makes sense. You’ll be lucky if you work for a talented guy, who treats other human beings with respect. This world is so full of jerks…

  28. “And I forgot the worst one, #27: Don’t approach the client to “show him your work sometime”. It’s the cardinal rule. If you’re there on the job as an assistant, then be in the assistant role. Every client will ask you if you shoot, because they don’t know what else to talk to you about at lunch, but trust me, they really don’t care. They might care a little bit, but they don’t want to see your book. The right way to do it is — Stop Assisting, then become a photographer. Don’t approach a client when you’re on somebody else’s job.”

    Seriously… this just happened to me yesterday. You can market yourself on your own time.

  29. Well hello there, chaps and chapettes. Some nice info and discourse here. I know this has been a long dead discussion, but I found it on Google and wanted to ask.

    I have a question… I’ve been shooting for a few years, I’ve done a little bit of work experience here and there (recently enquired at Rankin’s studio about work experience) but most of my own work as been commissioned by record labels (smaller than Sony, Warner, Umusic etc, but big in their niche); I’ve done a number of highish profile shoots; album covers, single record covers, magazine editorial etc etc. But when I approach the big labels, the big magazines, the big agencies etc. They’re all kinda like “Really nice work, but your it’s not right for us as the moment, stay in touch”… Now, I’m a filmmaker as well as photographer and have had many script rejections, I know the above statement is pretty much “not good enough; shoot more, get better and come back to us later”.

    Anyway, my real question is, as I’ve been working for a while now (but most of the time for next to no money, except for the big projects) and built up an awful lot of shooting experience is there any way I can avoid assisting, in order to make the next step up the ladder? Most people I’ve spoken to, in the big companies have said “assisting would be a step back for you”… I’d really like to believe this, but, how else do I make the high profile contacts I need to, in order to progress?

    • @Andrew,
      When I lived in Los Angeles I found it extremely easy to get the contacts I needed in the music business etc by going to venues on Sunset and hanging out with bands, shooting bands (any lame excuse to do it will do, the point is to schmooze with them), going to parties, events, shows, whatever to get them to introduce me to who I needed to know (a lot of local band members were related to big names in Hollywood, some actually were big names in Hollywood)… In my case though, once I got where I needed to be, I wasn’t too thrilled with the working environment so now I’ve got to figure out a new specialty…

  30. In reference to # 6 , when working be focused on the photographers needs when on the job. I think on your time take as many shots as possible document your job at the moment take images of people working around you ,but only on your time and be prepared to go back to assisting . all this with the photographers approval. have a great day of being a sponge then go take an image of it .

  31. hey i would just like to say that your website is awesome it has helped me and my children both so thank you for having this website!!!!!

  32. Jay Beauvais

    This was a nice microcosm of the photo world. you have some people who get and some who don’t. all in all i agree with everyone on most everything they wrote. oh btw, i am old enough to know what it is like to load film into the hasselblad back with one hand while dropping the 2nd, 4th and 5th strobes one click after the 3rd pop to hit the f45. anyway, i am going to try to place my stamp on this conversation.
    Be polite,
    attentive
    energetic
    quiet
    attentive
    sponge-like
    anticipatory
    attentive
    don’t be an ass
    a energy sucker
    a door mat.
    this job can be very rewarding and a hell of a lot of fun, but like most things you need to learn and trust me you don’t know everything on your first gig and sometimes you still don’t know everything when your old like me.
    know your limitations but don’t be limited by them, accept being uncomfortable but don’t let yourself be taken advantage of, your still a human and if you don’t want to work for some asshole then tell them your booked.
    Good Luck.

  33. I agree and disagree with the original post. While I feel that #6 is one of the stupidest pieces of advice I have ever read, I also feel that #11 can be equally stupid!!! Funny how nobody else commented on that. Point is, WHY hire an assistant if you do not want that assistants help? I have worked on huge shoots where I was like, the 5th assistant. OK, I can semi-understand under those circumstances (where you should tell the 1st and not the photog). Or if it is one of your first times working with a shooter. But seriously, besides every other duty, a good assistant is a second set of eyes and this can be crucial. There have been many times where I have seen something blatant that the photographer or art director did not see, and I have pointed it out (discreetly to the photographer) and saved the day. Other times I have (again, discreetly) pointed out an idea or two that contributed greatly to the shot and these ideas were very much welcomed and appreciated. That is part of being a PRO assistant! You should find out what the shot is, and you should already have an idea of how to light/shoot it without the photographers instructions and start setting up the shot before you are told. Always anticipate. If a photographer has a problem with either this, or discreet suggestions, then they are an insecure asshole and you do not want to work for them regardless. I recently worked for someone like this… My “suggestions” were scoffed, scolded, and then implemented 30 minutes later after several pointless “tests”. All that was accomplished was wasting time and annoying the client. Again, insecurity and ego.
    #16 – No, do NOT turn off your cell phone!!!! Put it on vibrate… Trip said it best with this line: “A job runs the risk of disappearing between now and lunch.” Boy is that the truth!!! I have lost big jobs because I called back even 30 minutes later and they simply moved on to the next person on the list. Yes, be respectful and find the right time but you are not a slave and you do not make enough to ignore your next job. Come to think of it, everything Trip said in post #27 is just as good of advice as the original post.

    Everything else I agree with for the most part. Never-less, photographers need to remember one thing; at the end of the day it is just a f#@&ing picture! Yes, there are budgets, sometimes HUGE budgets, or tight time frames. And the pressure/stress that goes with it. Maybe I am getting burnt out on the superficiality of the industry but I think many photographers have huge egos and take themselves WAY too seriously. The only people who should take there jobs this seriously are those who have there own or others lives on the line (military, emt’s, police, etc). Funny though that many of those people do not stress themselves out so much and are cool under pressure. Yet, here we have photographers and there clients stressing themselves out over a photo that 99% of the intended viewers glance over without a second thought or even a care! What percentage of advertising photography is thrown away without a second thought or glance?

  34. So the question who needs an assistant on the Island of Oahu ~Im kind smart & talented ~you need me ~ trust me I know these things lol

  35. kristian thacker

    I really enjoyed reading this post and all of the replies. I’ve been working as an assistant for a few people now for the past couple of years and it has certainly been a positive experience. Every photographer I have worked with has shown me something new and that is what I enjoy the most.

    The first thing that I would add to this list is as an assistant you absolutely must stay in good physical shape. I am in relatively decent shape but even I still get sore after a day of humping gear all over creation. Also, be smart about lifting and moving heavy objects. My last bit of advice would be if you smoke then quit now. There is nothing worse than working on location and jonesing for a cigarette. Cigarettes are just another distraction you don’t need occupying your mind while working.

  36. Pay freakin’ attention! Turn off your phone! Nothing says I am not really into your job, or your client’s job, like checking your email, or texting.

    Commercial photographers get paid to pay attention on a shoot…done. end of story. We do not work in an office, we have no water cooler, and we have no time on a shoot to “check in” with our people…… leave that crap for lunch time, or after work. I had a hard enough time finding good assistants before the whole texting craze… now, it’s a joke. Leave the shit alone, and look around, check the gear, pay freakin’ attention!

    I feel that the personal connections will take you very far in this business.
    You cannot connect with people in work or conversation while thumbing your iphone. It comes off as rude, and I am tired of having my clients think that my assistant is bored with what we are doing!

    If I seem pissed, I am…

  37. My personal experience vindicates Old Geezer’s #6 advice for assistants. The Bible states that “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” In order to be a good assistant and get the most out of the experience, a photographer really must put his own personal work temporarily on hold. There’s really no way to devote 100% effort on personal work while simultaneously getting the most out of an assisting or apprenticeship experience without one of them suffering from the dual loyalty arrangement.

  38. I got out of assisting because it was too much BS with not enough payoff. I don’t want to end up 45 with a hatred for photography and looking at a $50K year as average. I got super tired of the assistant/photographer dynamic, especially around the relationships of everyone on set, and everyone you meet in the industry. People just want to know how to get the next job, because everybody’s either broke, or close to broke.

    13. Be Loyal. Why? Studios aren’t loyal, they go down a list and the first to call back gets the job. Unless you’re first, and that only goes so far. I’ve seen plenty of firsts replaced simply because they took another job when their usual guy was busy.

    14. Go beyond the call of duty. Not for less than $250 bucks a day. And not after haggling about my rate.

    16. Turn off your fucking cell phone… No. Stop being annoyed and suck it. I’m not missing that 2 week job for a cruise line by 5 minutes. I’m not going to be obnoxious. This is the real world during a recession and I’m going to actually take work calls (I won’t be calling my friends, obviously). I have rent to pay.

    I had to get out. There are too many photographers out there, and too few jobs. I don’t love my job and it’s not glamourous (retail photo), but I make more now than my best years assisting, with insurance, and I can finally afford to take all the pictures I want, of what I want. I think the photography as a good career ship, if it ever was, has sailed.

  39. what is with #5? no one needs to “take some acid”. there must be something better than acid. that shit can do some majorly fucked up things to your body and if you take too much than you can die. coming from a girl that lost her daddy because he took acid.
    thank you so much you idiot, i love the advice (sarcasm). that makes me want to be a photographer so much more.

  40. I’m impressed, I have to say. Really not often do I encounter a weblog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your concept is outstanding; the problem is something that not enough people are talking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled throughout this in my seek for something referring to this.

  41. My personal experience vindicates Old Geezer’s #6 advice for assistants. The Bible states that “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” In order to be a good assistant and get the most out of the experience, a photographer really must put his own personal work temporarily on hold. There’s really no way to devote 100% effort on personal work while simultaneously getting the most out of an assisting or apprenticeship experience without one of them suffering from the dual loyalty arrangement.Commercial photographers get paid to pay attention on a shoot…done. end of story. We do not work in an office, we have no water cooler, and we have no time on a shoot to “check in” with our people…… leave that crap for lunch time, or after work. I had a hard enough time finding good assistants before the whole texting craze… now, it’s a joke. Leave the shit alone, and look around, check the gear, pay freakin’ attention!
    I feel that the personal connections will take you very far in this business.
    You cannot connect with people in work or conversation while thumbing your iphone. It comes off as rude, and I am tired of having my clients think that my assistant is bored with what we are doing!Everything else I agree with for the most part. Never-less, photographers need to remember one thing; at the end of the day it is just a f#@&ing picture! Yes, there are budgets, sometimes HUGE budgets, or tight time frames. And the pressure/stress that goes with it. Maybe I am getting burnt out on the superficiality of the industry but I think many photographers have huge egos and take themselves WAY too seriously. The only people who should take there jobs this seriously are those who have there own or others lives on the line (military, emt’s, police, etc). Funny though that many of those people do not stress themselves out so much and are cool under pressure. Yet, here we have photographers and there clients stressing themselves out over a photo that 99% of the intended viewers glance over without a second thought or even a care! What percentage of advertising photography is thrown away without a second thought or glance?Never assume unless you are sure about the outcome of your working project.
    Travel out of the country as much as possible. Learn how other people live. Learn that America is not the center of the universe, and learn that you don’t need your cell phone 24 hours a day. Again, be a sponge, about how other people live.

  42. Well, since everyone else is chiming in on #16, I think I will too. I’ve only recently made the jump from assistant/tech to shooter, so I think I’m well positioned to speak to both viewpoints. And I have to say, you’re wrong. In #13, you say to be loyal, this is good advice to an assistant, and just as good advice to a photographer. You should look out for your assistants if you want them to look out for you.
    I don’t want an assistant on their phone all day, but when one of my guys tells me they need to step outside and take a quick work call, I tell them to go ahead. I want them to do well, the last thing I want is my favorite assistant quitting the business because he wasn’t getting enough work.

  43. Hello : ) and what can you suggest to those that would like to become a photographer? I’m talking about the people that have been assisting for more than 6 – 7 years out of college. I find that many of my friends are stuck… I personally am not looking to be a photographer but I work in the field and I went to college for photography.. so i know a LOT of photographers/assistants. The agency I work with took on a few new talents. One of them is 24 yrs old. I know this is an exception to the rule but I worry that many people get stuck. The money gets good when you assist for top notch people – you get used to the free lunches and dinners, the free travel and all of a sudden.. you realize you are almost 30 and you don’t have a completed portfolio book. Your website has material that is from college, and you can’t turn down the assisting days because if you do, you risk not getting booked again.
    Could you feature an article on this chapter that many people find themselves in?
    I want to give decent advice…and its tough. People get sensitive to having to spend money out of pocket in order to make it. And Reps don’t look for someone who has NO clients.

    Thoughts?

  44. Perfect list of advice. I especially appreciate that you are telling people they need to know and have knowledge of business. A career and money doesn’t fall onto someone’s lap. It is hard work and good business sense, as well as a creative eye with good technique, that separate the top pros from everyone else.

    Great-Photography Tips

  45. Anonymous Intern/Assistant

    kristian thacker:

    I have something to add about cigarettes.

    Definitely quit smoking them regularly, but don’t quit carrying them. Never know when the Producer/AD/Model wants to bum one.

  46. Don’t text, tweet or send a message via Facebook that you are running late or can’t make the assignment. A master printer I know fired an assistant who sent a message via Facebook that she was sick. He demoted her to an unpaid intern position.

    If you can’t make it or if something comes up call and leave a message if there is no answer. Then call the next number in the telephone call list to make sure the photographer or producer knows about the change and can adapt.