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Helping the Helpers Help the Overly Helped.

by Robb Davidson

July 24, 2012

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One of my first purely personal blog posts…Like I said I would do some day.

 

 

A photographer I know posted about this (Zach Arias, he is ridiculous and amazing), and I figured I would share my two cents on the topic as well since most of you may not follow him…and it IS a fairly reoccurring deal with most photographers. Remember, I said MY two cents which means it is opinions and not really something that works for everyone. Believe me, I am not the end all be all……….though that would be awesome.

 

“Can I just carry your bags around on shoots?” 

“Do you need another shooter?”

“Can I just follow you on shoots?”

“Any shoots you have that people don’t want to pay as much for?”

 

These are some of the things I have gotten from friends, friends of friends, guests at weddings, even down at the ol fishing hole pretty dang often.  First off, it IS a great compliment and it is very humbling to think that I can be some type of role model.  Really it is.  I super dig the enthusiasm.  Good news! There is absolutely plenty of opportunities for that!  So first, let me list a few reasons why it is difficult for photographers to just pick up people left and right, and then I will try and see if I can remedy the predicament.

 

1. The people chosen to work with on shoots have been screened from either past experiences, current work (as a second shooter), and general personality.  Especially when it comes to having another shooter with me, I really need that person to be on the same page as me in terms of the flow of a shoot, the atmosphere I like to create, and quality of work.  When you are first starting out, say your parents bought you a nice camera and you want to learn more, you are still in the learning stage of how the camera works.  I need my shooters that are on location to know their gear forwards and backwards. Yes, backwards too because I tend to get weird.  This way, there is no technical distractions on the shooters end, it’s all about worrying what the client needs.  Even after that, you need to understand how light works, how to manipulate it, and use the crap out of it.  With weddings, you are thrown a lot of wrenches throughout the day that you can’t always choose where to shoot based on conditions that will limit your abilities.  And of course, you are also a part of the event.  Lots of people don’t really like getting their picture taken.  I’ve been around too many people to not call it a fact.  As a photographer, it is our job/duty to make this experience as enjoyable as possible.  Whether that be getting a lot of laughs or just moving it along efficiently. 

 

2. I am responsible for what you do and what you say.  As I am the one who was hired for the shoot, anyone I bring along is under my wing.  So if something was said to the bride or even a guest that could be taken wrong, I am held responsible for it and not you.  It’s basically playing with my liability insurance. :)

 

3. The time it takes to bring someone to a professional level is taxing on the photographer.  I’ve heard this from quite a few fellow photographer buddies that the time spent teaching either their style or just photography basics in general takes up so much time.  And in this business, time is way more directly linked to profit than in any bigger company or corporation.  As far as I’m aware, there are PLENTY of photography gigs to go around, and then some.  It has nothing to do with “training the competition” because that is certainly not the case.   I would love to open a classroom and teach during the week, as a matter of fact.  Instead of getting client images done sooner, responding to emails quicker, or organizing the business in general…the time is spent on someone you teach to someday shoot for you, and to really apply what you taught. And then on top of that, no one likes to work for free, right? So then the person that was taught needs to get paid when they go on a shoot, and hopefully those images are good to use as well.  OR, even as an assistant on the shoot, you still need to learn how to pack the lighting, gear bag, all those shenanigans.  Remember, the whole point of having an assistant is to make life easier. Plain and simple.

 

 

 

So now what the heck do I do?

 

 

Well, with all those things posted above, first and foremost make yourself a valuable asset that would catch a photographer’s eye.  Learn your gear. Become obsessed with it. Geek out on light…sun, flashes, strobes, whatever. Utilize what you have to the MAX. Photograph friends! Try out new lighting conditions, make it a game. How fast can you get 50 successful shots that are completely different looks, scenes, and lighting? Shoot impatient friends, ones that hate getting their picture taken.  Because if you can get great shots out of them and they don’t kill you, you can handle just about anything.  If you can make it even a positive experience, you’re well on your way to conquering the world. Whew, one obstacle removed.

 

Get to know the person that you are trying to learn from, whether it’s personality, the actual body of work, and what their goals may be.  If I wanted to be a product photographer, I sure wouldn’t want to talk to me.  Also, I’m really weird. Yes yes, most of us photographers are a little unique and quirky, but yeah I’m fairly out there.  Know what you’re getting yourself into.  THEN, after you do that, it should come easy as to how to appeal to their personality.  Instead of asking to follow on shoots, go out for some coffee, pizza, italian beef…whatever they dig.  At least that way it’s not a 100% time rendered to teaching and soul sucking.  Seriously, going on shoots will hardly ever help you learn.  As any photographer SHOULD do, the client is the focus {what up photo pun}, and you won’t really get any attention on education.  Build a friendship first, and go from there. We’re human, we need social interaction just as much as anyone else.  

 

**Be teachable.**  Oh my goodness, can I bold that more? Probably, but I won’t be obnoxious.  If at some point you are trusted…remember that by learning from someone you are openly proclaiming that you don’t know either something technical, business related, etc…big or small. And that’s fine! You can know plenty for sure and still easily admit to not knowing about something. You should really learn every day of your life. There is a TON I don’t know about photography, let alone basic human conditions.  All I am saying is leave your ego behind.  There’s no time for excuses. When a suggestion is given, keep track of your first response. Does it start with “Oh! Okay cool!” or “Well, I was doing this and this and this…”  Just a great life lesson that I’m still working on. And of course, actually learn, strive to get better, and PROVE you are totally not wasting anyone’s time.  That’s always nice. :)

 

 

How’s that for starters? I really hope this comes off as something helpful, and not at all something to discourage anyone from contacting myself or anyone else that inspires you.  Whether you are the CEO of a huge corp, or a recent graduate with no clue what to do, we still have a common bond: being a human with human needs and wants.  Follow the golden rule, be as thoughtful as grossly possible, serve others, promote individual improvement…and just enjoy LIFE.

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