Handling “No” Like a Pro

Handling “No” Like a Pro

Sounds exciting, right?  Working for yourself.  Setting your own hours, rates, vacation schedule and of course all of the fantastic assignments that come along as a freelance commercial Photographer.  True, it has been an incredible ride and I can’t imagine doing anything other than this.  However, as many opportunities as this career brings, it also has it’s share of stressful and unpredictable moments.  With so many Photographers trying to make their way into the business, competing for the handful of challenging assignments requires a lot of risk, resourcefulness and of course, there is the rejection.

Over the years, I have put together hundreds of estimates and responded to as many RFP’s that require a dissertation on my skill level, shoe size, favorite color and lists of references that would make the FBI blush.  And maybe, if I am in a groove of sheer luck, I land 50% of what I bid on, but in reality, I would bet it’s more like one out of five.  The loud, resounding “No” that I hear in the virtual world which typically reads “thanks for your time but we have decided to go in another direction” or even worse, complete silence, can be overwhelming but with time and plenty of chances to practice, all of us freelancers that just keep going have learned to constructively deal with rejection by focusing on a few key ideas.

1. Be Gracious and Accomodating

Nobody likes to be the person who has to come back to us with “thanks, but no thanks.”  This certainly can’t be too pleasant of an experience especially when it’s already difficult to choose between a pool of talent that could all most likely exceed expectations.  So, be gracious and accommodating.  Respond in kindness and always let them know that if they need anything in the future, to keep you in mind.  I have had bids rejected only to get a call later that the Photographer they initially hired had dropped out and I was their next choice.  A little karmic kindness goes a long way.

2. Don’t Take it Personally 

Rejection is probably one of the most common things we have to deal with in the Photography industry but the fact that we have been turned down certainly does not mean that our work is lacking.  Probably the easiest way to take it the hardest is when we try to overanalyze.  Most of the reasons as to why our proposals are rejected have nothing to do with us and everything to do with what our clients are looking for.  It could be a budget issue or maybe the style of another Photographer resonated more with the buyer.  It could be any number of reasons as to why we were passed over and typically we never found out exactly why.  Just keep in mind, if you’re not being rejected you’re simply not putting yourself out there enough.

3. Cultivate Your Relationships with Clients

Over the past 15 years I have developed a very solid base of repeat clients who make up the majority of my business, close to 70%.  They are extremely happy with the images produced and comfortable with the rates I offer and I am certainly not the cheapest commercial Photographer in Chicago.  For the new clients, I receive maybe 30-50% of what I bid on and I’m good with that because if I were to be awarded every assignment I ever sent in a proposal for, I’m either too cheap or too charming and most likely it’s not the latter.  So, I make sure to maintain long-term relationships with my repeat clients and always over-deliver on each project, keep them in the loop about the recent assignments I have worked on and drop them a note once in awhile just to say hello.

4. Know that Everyone Gets Rejected and Keep Going

Anytime you put yourself and you’re work out there, you’ll be faced with the risk of rejection.  I can’t think of one person that I admire who hasn’t been in the same boat.  After performing at The Grand Ole Opry, Elvis was told he would be better off going back to his career in Memphis where he was a truck driver.  Albert Einstein was expelled from school.  Socrates was considered an “immoral corrupter of youth” which brought with it his death sentence.  And let’s not forget the first Queen, pre-Beyonce, Oprah Winfrey.  Even she got the boot.  Unable to keep it together as a news reporter when presenting human interest stories, she was eventually fired.

Take a moment, take many moments if needed, breath, and move on because that rejection just brings us closer to where we need to be.

One of my favorite editorial Photographers, Joe McNally who works with top brands such as Nikon and Epson, shared his insightful and encouraging advice:

This is a long and winding road, filled with far more valleys than peaks. One of the greatest talents one can have in this business has nothing to do with visual acumen at the lens. It is about the ability to sustain, to weather the storms, to shoot poorly and still survive a job, to fight out of inevitable creative slumps, to live with all manner of risk that lots of folks would find uncomfortable, to make uncertainty your friend, and to thrive despite sudden curves and happenstance. I guess what I’m describing is tenacity. To love doing this so much that you’ll go through 1000 “no’s” just to hear the one ‘yes.’” 

 

The Top 10 Things They Won’t Teach You In Photo School

The Top 10 Things They Won’t Teach You In Photo School

When I was going to school for Photography I already had a bachelors degree, was employed full-time in a completely unrelated field and was taking a few classes to keep myself busy and hopefully out of trouble.  So when I lost my job in the midst of that, I had the bright idea to stay in Photo school and pursue my new and improved career: Tori Soper-Commercial Photographer.  Well, that didn’t last very long as the more time and money I spent on being educated in the classroom the less I felt that I was learning about the practical side of photography.  How many times did I need to answer the question “what does the absence of green in this photograph mean to you?”

When most people are in the midst of cementing their career path, I started off on a new one as a Photographers’ Assistant to anyone who would have me.  The tasks ranged from picking up lunch, running film back and forth to the lab (yes, film), processing in the darkroom and more hours than I care to count that consisted of standing around waiting for something to happen.  But that was the beginning of a real, concrete, oh my-is this what it’s really like? learning curve which I’m still riding 15 years later.

In honor of my brief stay in Photo school and also in support of the many photo students who have come to me with questions as well as Assistants who are in need of advice, I say heads’ up, here’s a few things that they never taught you in school.  Commit this to memory.

1.  Find Your Niche

When I first started moving away from Assisting and into shooting full-time, I was happy to shoot anything and so I did.  From food to fashion, portraits to pets, you name it,  I did it.  And this served me well at the time as I needed the experience and more importantly, the cash.  However, you can’t be everything to everyone and I have yet to find a Photographer who excels in every specialty.  Do one maybe two things and do them well.  If it’s people you want to photograph, excellent!  Then ask yourself: photojournalism, editorial, corporate, advertising?  There are so many options to pick from that specializing should not be seen as limiting yourself but mastering a skill that you can evolve with.

2.  The Language of the Law

One of the things that intimidated more than anything when I first started out was the language of estimates, invoicing, usage terms and copyright.  There are many nuances to creating a rock-solid estimate that can hold up to question and the key is to simply know what you’re talking about, understand what your client is talking about and make sure you have the paperwork to back this up.  This is incredibly important when providing photography on a business to business level as our clients may not know the lingo and it’s our job as their provider to fill them in on the details.  So, never leave anything to question and make sure you get it on paper.  For more information on commercial photography usage terms, check out this out. 

3. Do the Hustle

Especially when first starting out, you’ll have to be ready to move quickly, be somewhat of a Renaissance man and be prepared to hustle because at any given point, you’ll be doing the job of at least ten people at once.  If I had to post a job description to fill my own position it would go something like this: “Currently recruiting for an Administrative Assistant, Web Designer, Marketing Director, Accountant, Digital Tech, Telemarketer, Blogger, Envelope Stuffer, Janitor and Dog-Walker.  The faint of heart need not apply.”  Yes, there are days that are chill and move at a normal pace but then there are days that are filled with a little bit of everything from shooting to post-production, keeping up with invoicing and of course, my little boy Charlie doesn’t understand that I’m on a deadline and he does love and need his afternoon walks.  Just know, it’s not all all about clicking that shutter, in fact that’s just a very small part of this business.  Be ready to wear many hats.

4. Stick With The Tried and True

Photo gear is cool because deep down inside all of us Photographers are technology geeks at heart.  However, stick with what works.  Just because the new camera has all of the bells and whistles doesn’t mean it’s going to make you any better as a Photographer.  It’s you, your work and your sparkling personality (not the camera) that your clients are interested in.  So, instead of checking out the photo items for sale on  Ebay every morning with your cup of jo, check out other peoples’ work that inspires you, replicate it with the tried and true equipment you have and save your money.  Expect more from yourself than you do of your equipment.

5. It’s Not You, It’s Me

So says our clients.  Humility goes along way.  Yes, self-esteem is a wonderful thing but just remember it’s not about you, it’s about your client.  They hired you because you have work that proves to be consistent with their style and their vision so the key is to marry what you can bring to the table with what your clients need to see in the final product.  It’s a very fine balancing act in that you  have that creative energy that begs to be expressed but always make sure that this drive ultimately illustrates the ideas that your clients came to you to put into a photograph.  Of course experiment and of course offer up ideas, just remember yours is just one of the voices in the room.

6. Staying Creative While in a Slump

This is a toughie.  December rolls around and then here comes January and I haven’t picked up my camera as regularly as I normally do in what seems like forever.  It happens like this every year…I feel like I’m in a slump.  Well, thankfully you don’t have to go far to get motivated.  One of the things that works for me is to go through my portfolio pieces and consider how I may have lit things differently, how I could have enhanced the images more in camera.  This brings me into playing with new lighting concepts which I then start to incorporate as soon as the work does start rolling in.  Over the last several assignments, I have completely altered the way I am lighting my editorial subjects and though I do like the images, being better was not necessarily my first priority….being different from my norm was and in turn I think these past few shoots have resulted in even stronger photographs.

7.  Don’t Get Too Comfortable

If you can drag yourself over to the library for a good chuckle, check out some magazines issued 10 years ago even 5 years ago.  There’s a huge difference in style, in the light, even in the predominant colors.  Way back when, it was crucial to have everything in focus whereas the in thing these days is a very shallow depth of field.  The industry changes so incredibly quickly that although you might find your niche, it’s best not to get too comfortable as what works today won’t necessarily be what’s going to work tomorrow.

8. You’ll Make Mistakes and You’ll Live

Ok, this is so elementary but when you are the one making the mistakes it feels like the world will spin off its’ axis, you will never work in the field of photography again and you’ll probably need to sell your house, car, camera and so on.  But alas, that would be a very limited perspective because if you’re not making mistakes you’re not pushing yourself, you’re just not trying hard enough.  The road to excellence is not paved by perfection.  Instead, that path mostly consists of blunders, screw-ups, rejection, mistakes and a boatload of persistence.  Not to mention aiming for perfection makes you a little bitter and incredibly hard to work with.  So, chill because perfection is not the key here, endurance is.  Which leads me to…

9. Rejection is Way Better than Ambivalence

There are more ups than downs in the field of Photography.  You’ll hear more of “no” than you ever will “yes.”  One of the best things you can do for yourself is learn how to handle, survive and succeed though the valleys as well as you embrace the peaks.  Perspective has a lot to do with it for me.  Consider this, I maybe get every one of five assignments from clients that  I have never worked with before.  That’s about a closing rate of 20%.  Seems pretty shabby.  But what would that mean if I was closing 100%?  Does that mean I’m the cheapest Photographer on the block?  That’s not what I’m shooting for and neither should anyone else in this industry. Besides, at least with rejection we are on the radar, we are relevant…it is ambivalence on the part of the potential audience that should be more of a concern.  So, steady on, the greatest thing you can do for yourself as a freelancer is learn how to ride the waves through patience and persistence.

10. Value Your Work

How can you quantify in a dollar amount the value of what you produce?  Consider this, with the predominance of social media we are seeing a rise in visual content marketing which uses images rather than words to communicate about a businesses’ product and services.  And why are graphics being used more than ever?   Because our brains can process images waaaay faster, actually 60,000 times faster than text.  In creating these images, we are telling stories that our incredibly busy and equally distracted culture can absorb, remember and ultimately be influenced by.

Excellent images are story tellers and consequently money makers.  So, yes, know your competition, know your cost of doing business but also always keep in mind, that a picture is worth 60,000 words.  Once  you have that committed to memory, you will always be compelled to value your work.

Wrapping-Up.  Bring it on 2015!

Wrapping-Up. Bring it on 2015!

This past year was beyond pretty good to Tori Soper Photography.  We (when I say we, I mean everyone that helps me make this possible including my trusted Assistant Whitney, my better half who keeps me caffeinated and of course Charlie Parker, my four-legged companion who is excellent company during the long hours of post-production) managed to stay consistently busy and completely out of trouble which is quite an endeavor.  There were  several larger projects for both new and returning clients that included everything from environmental portrait cover shoots and corporate lifestyle assignments along with a handful of larger conventions over at McCormick Place and I got back to doing some on-location product photography which admittedly I have missed doing.

As the year comes to a close it does get quiet and this brings with it a much appreciated breather and just enough time to consider the invaluable changes made over the past year and how I want to move into and position myself for the following year.  A few key ingredients of this years’ successes evolved from both the actual photography itself as well as what goes on behind the scenes to make sure the phone keeps ringing and the inquiries keep coming.

It can be incredibly easy to fall into and rely on a formulaic approach for creating environmental and corporate portraits and of course it can work for all purposes, cash flow, client satisfaction, etc. but at some point the style needs to evolve.  And I am at that point.  I consider my work to be clean, approachable, somewhat still and almost classic  but I would like to push it and experiment even more.  We started doing this a few months back  with more varied lighting and utilizing available light, incorporating candid portraits with the subjects looking off camera and shooting outdoors.  I want to get those shots that make the viewer feel that they are seeing this person in the photo as they are, not as I want to present them.

One of the keys to approaching this is having the flexibility to shoot in whatever location we want with access to power not being an issue.  I have done many a location scout searching for the best environments to set-up for our assignments and spend as much time looking for outlets as I do scouting the scene.  But not anymore.  I finally found a reliable solution to powering our equipment that does not weigh as much as a small child and packs more than enough power.  These 3.5 lb battery packs from Photogenic have proven to be worth every penny and have completely opened up our options.  Outdoors?  No problem.  Wasting time taping down cords with an excessive amount of gaffers tape?  Not anymore.  Now we have the mobility and the freedom to shoot anyone, anywhere.

Chicago Commercial Photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago Commercial Photographer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course, there is the business end of things.  The joy of my life that is e-mail blasts, marketing calls and postcard mailers that I have been outsourcing is all being brought back in-house as I love devoting my time to this.  As the saying goes “half the money I spend on marketing is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”  So, rather than outsourcing, I may as well give it a go on my own as I have a feeling I may very well know what I am doing at this point.  The e-mail blasts, postcards and PDF portfolios have been given a refresh along with the website which will have several new images to show as of the new year.  The list of potential clients that I believe my work is a solid match for is made and the schpeel is a-go.  Now it’s time to get this all on the schedule so in most cases it’s just a matter of pressing send and making a run to the post office.  The key here is make small blocks of time devoted to the rest: social media, blogging (which I kinda love) and the phone calls and attempt not to overwhelm myself by over-committing.

And finally, whether it is this coming year or 10 years down the line, the commitment that I will always carry along with me from year to year is the objective of never giving my clients a reason to worry and the promise to make my work consistently ambitious.

100 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Commercial Photographer

100 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Commercial Photographer

My little buddy Charlie Parker and I were out for a long walk through the forest preserve today and having had a few days off, a rested mind and some time on my hands, I was remembering when I started off transitioning into Commercial Photography.  Plenty of ambition, just enough naivete and a very rough roadmap of where I wanted to go in this career.

I didn’t walk into this completely blind as I had done plenty of interviews with established Editorial and Corporate Photographers to learn about their take on the industry, the art of Photography and the possibilities for someone just breaking into the field.  It wasn’t very encouraging…..not in the least.  So, as is typical, I ignored the warnings, the opinions and doomsday forecasts and just did my own thing.

Thankfully, I have learned a few things in the process of 15 years and not only about the techniques and craft behind photography but also about the business and really quite a bit about myself as well.

And here’s the unedited, spontaneous list of 100 things I have learned as a Commercial Photographer:

  1. Never throw sand in the sandbox.
  2. An expensive camera with all the bells and whistles does not make a good Photographer.
  3. Always shoot in RAW.
  4. Only show your best work.
  5. Shoot.  Shoot More.  After that, keep shooting.
  6. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect but it does always make better.
  7. Photoshop is not magic, it’s a tool to enhance an already awesome image.
  8. Don’t try to copy someone else’s style.  Create your own.
  9. Learn how to read your histogram.
  10. Cameras are not toys, they are tools.
  11. Photography is one part vision, one part technique.
  12. Never throw out a price over the phone.  Put it on paper and explain the details.
  13. Don’t ask why. Ask who, what, when, where and how much.
  14. A bad photograph cannot be photoshopped into a good one.
  15. Your subjects will mirror your disposition.  If you’re smiling, they will too!
  16. It’s better to underexpose than to overexpose.
  17. You’re only as good as your last photograph.
  18. Always buy lighting cases with wheels.
  19. Create an inventory of your equipment.
  20. Carry as much insurance as you can afford.
  21. Always require a deposit.
  22. Have a back-up of your images.  One onsite and another in the cloud.  Schedule the back-ups to be performed daily.
  23. Ask and you shall receive.
  24. Saying “I’m a Commercial Photographer” in social settings is pretty cool.
  25. Photography is incredibly physical.  Stay hydrated. Stay strong. Stay healthy.
  26. When shooting an event, don’t be a creepy voyeur, try to blend in the scene and keep smiling.  (See #15)
  27. I don’t miss film.
  28. Prime lenses or zoom lenses?  It’s all subjective.
  29. Take the time to shoot what you love.  Print it big.  Frame it.  Hang it.
  30. Make friends within the photography community.
  31. Critique your own work.
  32. The editing of images is as important as photographing the images.
  33. The definition of Photography is painting with light.  Learn how to read it.  Learn how to use it.  Learn how to manipulate it.
  34. Drag the shutter.
  35. Pay your Assistants asap.
  36. Never say no to a client.  Instead, offer alternative options.
  37. Don’t compare your progress to someone else’s successes.
  38. Be prepared for famines and make the most of the feasts.
  39. When in doubt, embrace the rule of thirds.
  40. Know your camera like the back of your hand.
  41. Things break…always have a back-up camera body and flash.
  42. Composition is key.
  43. Learn to relate.  Whether it’s the guy on the shop floor or the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, you’ve got to be engaging.
  44. Instill your subjects with confidence…let them know that you too are not a fan of having your photograph taken so you can empathize.
  45. Make it painless.
  46. Nikon or Canon?  It’s all a matter of taste.
  47. Do research on your subject and their company before each shoot.  It’s a plus to go in knowing a bit about them.
  48. Keep your sensor clean.
  49. Always ask your clients what they are looking to achieve with their project.  It’s always more than producing great images.
  50. Shoot in manual mode at all times.
  51. Always arrive for a shoot atleast 15-30 minutes prior.  You never know what delays you may face.
  52. Choose a specialty and excel in it.
  53. Put the camera down.  Enjoy the moment.
  54. Be a mentor to your Assistants.
  55. Persistence and patience in this industry are essential.
  56. Even when you think you got the shot, shoot a few more as insurance.
  57. Calibrate your monitor.  An inaccurate display is like dating a pathological liar….it can be very deceiving.
  58. Learn how to market yourself.
  59. Always have extra gaffers tape on hand.
  60. When a clients’ first question is “how much”, their primary concern is not quality.
  61. Of these three: quality, service, price, you can only offer two of these at one time.
  62. Respond to your clients or potential clients e-mail and phone calls right away…even if just to say “I’m on a shoot but will get back to you as soon as possible”.
  63. The best equipment is what you have.
  64. Only put it on a credit card when you have the funds to immediately pay it off.
  65. Always stay calm.  If it’s not working, just remember Occam’s Razor and check to see if there are batteries in it.
  66. Wear comfortable shoes.
  67. If you don’t like your website, no one else will either.
  68. Never give your clients a reason to worry.
  69. Critique your skills.
  70. Join your local Chamber of Commerce.  It’s great for Networking and may teach you a thing or two about running your business.
  71. Never shoot a person who doesn’t want to be photographed.
  72. Don’t be a hack….practice White-Hat SEO.
  73. Re-check your camera settings.  Lock them in before shooting.
  74. If a client wants to try something on set that you know will not work, do not just say no, shoot it and show them why it won’t work, then be a rock-star and offer up a different idea.
  75. There will be people who are not fond of your style, whether it’s your personality or your portfolio.  Be pleasant.  Move on.
  76. You select your clients as much as they select you.
  77. If you are awarded every job you bid on, you might be undermining the whole industry with prices that remove the value of what we as commercial photographers provide.
  78. A little HDR goes a long way.  Don’t overdue it.
  79. Shooting for free makes you the photographer who is cheap, not good.
  80. Be prepared, even when the shoot is planned for 2 hours, they tend to run long….pack an apple, some almonds, a banana.
  81. Take your camera off that tripod.
  82. Shoot what it feels like.
  83. Be bold.  Be Assertive.  Take charge.  Take Direction.
  84. Ask each client what their target budget is.  Yes, they will tell you.
  85. Estimate according to the complexity of the shoot, the time required, the value given and your clients’ budget.
  86. Study, understand and employ the value of usage terms.
  87. Candid moments hold more emotion than posed photographs.
  88. Shoot beyond eye level.  Bend, crouch, get on the floor, have a step stool.  Try every angle.
  89. Black and White doesn’t automatically mean “Art”.
  90. It’s better to be flexible on estimating and keep your clients then try to search out new ones.
  91. Always carry a polarizing filter.
  92. Embrace Fibonacci’s Ratio.
  93. Do yourself a favor and do not use direct flash.
  94. Smaller capacity CF cards always.  It’s better to lose 4 gigs than 32.
  95. Always send a thank you card.
  96. Take the time to educate your clients on what is needed for a successful shoot.  Whether it is what to wear or how to schedule and always be there to offer your help in conceptualizing the project.
  97. Keep in touch with your mentors as with time they will become your colleagues and close friends.
  98. Understand that 90% of your function is to serve as a business-owner.  The other 10% is to take photographs.  Do them both with excellence.
  99. Remember that Dr. John says “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits”.

And probably the most significant lesson that has come from these years of learning, shooting, making mistakes, perfecting my craft and adapting to the ups and downs of this business is that you don’t go into Photography to be a rock star, to become rich, or to simplify your wardrobe with cargo pants and black t-shirts.  You do it because you love it and cannot imagine doing anything else.

 

 

 

Why I Charge What I Charge: Photography as an Investment

Why I Charge What I Charge: Photography as an Investment

It happens very frequently.  I receive an inquiry to provide event photography for a not-for-profit who is trying to put as much money towards their program and has a minimal budget for photography.  Or the start-up with limited funds that would like to get corporate portraits of their staff as quickly and as inexpensively as possible.

I recently estimated an assignment that would require me to photograph two environmental portraits just outside of Chicago for a client that I have worked with a few times over the last several months doing portraits, corporate lifestyle and event photography.

When I submitted the numbers the response I received was: “but it’s only an hour so can you adjust the total to reflect this as we would like to continue to work with you but need to ensure that this is cost-effective for the company?”

I do my best to understand the financial position of the companies that seek me out to help them with their visual content yet it is imperative to consistently educate my clients about the value of what I do and the cost of doing business as a commercial photographer.  So, in this instance I felt compelled to explain why I charge what I charge which goes like this:

“Although this is just a matter of one hour shooting on site, it is an hour commute one way, at least one hour of post-production and an Assistant is necessary whose rates are either a full-day or half-day.

In addition, for every day that I am shooting, I spend just as much time negotiating the assignments, replying to e-mails, writing up contracts, editing and enhancing images, archiving photos, invoicing and the list goes on.  I also have extremely expensive equipment that is state-of-the-art for the industry and which has to continually be maintained and upgraded.  The same applies to the computers, laptops and software.

I fund my own health insurance, retirement and sick days, have business insurance to pay for while also maintaing the vehicles that get me to each job site.  And finally, there is the marketing, from SEO optimization to mailers, e-mail blasts and the myriad of other expenses that come together to make my business visible and equally valuable.

All of these factors in conjunction with the 15 years of experience I bring to each shoot ensure that you receive high quality work that not only meets but exceeds your company’s needs and proves to be of value.

Photography can be expensive.  But excellent photography is an investment that proves its’ value over time.”

My business has been built over the years and sustained successfully through mutually beneficial relationships with my clients, a transparent approach when discussing budgets and of course, by creating those images that best illustrate the message that my clients are trying to convey.

And sometimes one of the ways that I help to maintain this is through education as we often fail to recognize the value of what others can do.

To The Irreplaceable Photo Assistant

To The Irreplaceable Photo Assistant

When I was about 28 years old and struggling in a career where the most exciting part of my day was what was for lunch, I decided to distract myself with a few photography classes at Columbia College in Chicago. Soon after I was just getting into school, I lost my job.  Actually, I was fired and I do wear this like a badge of honor because it was a life changer.  After just a few days of footie pajamas and uninterrupted daytime TV, I made the executive and totally uninformed decision to become a Commercial Photographer. It seemed do-able and going in somewhat blindly but with plenty of optimism to keep me going, I started assisting.

I remember that first day like it was yesterday. Brian Hall.  Architectural shoot.  Longest day ever especially considering I was used to an 8 hour day, ergo-dynamic chairs and an hour lunch. This was definitely an eye-opener and I knew that to be able to do this, I was going to have to work fast, work hard and work smart.

One of my first Assisting Promos…the tagline read, “I know how to support my Photographers!”

I stuck with assisting for a few years before I started moving into my own commercial photo jobs and it was the best experience I could have asked for. Granted, the days were always long, the physical demands were intense and having a degree in Psychology could have been a bonus but what I learned from working with some of Chicago’s best shooters was indispensable, their mentoring gracious and their continued friendship so appreciated.

So, with this, I say thank you to my most irreplaceable Photography Assistants. Without them, I could not do what I do.

The Irreplaceable Are:

1. Skillful luggers of equipment and heroes of traversing small hallways and freight elevators.

2. Guardians of exposure and protectors of memory cards.

3. Professional smilers and astute providers of calm when technology won’t play nice.

4. Exceptional mind readers as they know what their Photographer needs even before they need it.

5. Fabulous magicians that can make anything work with just a bit of Gaffers tape and a clamp.

6. Consistently in tune with the lighting, the camera, the subjects and the boss.

7. Discerning Psychologists and excellent readers of personalities.

8. Incredible navigators as sometimes getting to that loading dock on Lower Wacker Drive can cause panic in some Photographers.

9. Astute keepers of time, shrewd defenders of the Cliff Bars.

10. Fabulous companions, crack ’em-up comedians and really awesome friends.

My buddy and Assistant Whitney Hsieh.  He really should run for President but he’s too busy being the Photo guy.

Again, to all those emerging Photo Assistants out there: be on your game, keep hydrated, learn as much as you can and stay focused because your Photographer is only half as good without you!