Yesterday Marcus Jackson assisted me for two executive head shots in the San Jose Japantown studio. He was just perfect as an assistant, partly from his personality but also his extensive work as a top flight photographer. We always do test shots, so please meet Marcus:
This got me thinking about what really makes a good assistant, specifically what I am looking for in the studio.
1. On time, be prompt. Actually as the saying goes if your on the set on time, your late. Show up a few minutes early, plan for traffic, etc.
2. Leave your drama at the curb. When you step in to the studio come with a happy face from a happy place. It shows in your work, makes it easy to work with you and most critically the client picks up on the studio vibe instantly.
3. Dress like a photo professional. Dress like your the main photographer. Doesn't have to be expensive or over the top, but clean and cool. When in doubt go with black. No logos, wacky outfits, etc. Just low key cool as your there to be in a support mode.
4. My main need is for the assistant to handle the lights and background changes. Specifically I shoot each client on white and grey background. Marcus moved seamlessly making these changes letting me stay in the flow with the client.
5. Help with changing cameras and lens. Often we will shoot a couple of looks in the studio that requires going from the medium format to the Nikon, a good assistant will be right there with the set up when needed. They will also double check the settings prior to handing me the camera.
6. They will also watch the tethering to make sure all is working. They don't need to be a digital tech (another position) but sharp enough to call out if there is an issue with the import as we always shoot tethered.
7. A great assistant will watch to make sure all the lights are firing and as we move set ups making sure the lights are all dialed in. Again Marcus really helped here.
8. Making a genuine, authentic compliment to the client on how they look can go a long way in making the subject confident and relaxed. Genuine, authentic.
9. Checking to make sure the hair is not distracting. Checking to make sure there is no lipstick on the teeth. Checking to make sure there are no labels or straps showing. Never touch the client with out permission.
10. A good assistant with help with shutting down and securing the studio. It takes only a few minutes if we do it together.
Two last points:
1. Assistants get paid. Period. If I get paid you get paid. Rate depends on the gig, location and time needed. If I get paid, everyone gets paid. My personal approach is to pay that day even if I need to invoice client.
3. There is a delicate balance of providing creative guidance to the main photographer. I like it when there is a short conversation as the client is changing or checking make up. I will often ask the assistant is there anything else we need to shoot. But be clear, there is only one director on set.
And of course taking some behind the scenes shots on iPhones. We had a client ask for this yesterday and we should do this all the time. Fun!
Thanks Marcus, your a real pro and a delight to work with.