Commercial Photography

Getting Down and Dirty: Thoughts from “The Assistant”

2016 marks my four year anniversary at Coyle Studios. Below, you’ll see a photo taken on my first day of work and a more recent photo from a shoot in March.

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I look so happy in 2012. Why do I look so disenfranchised in 2016? Because of crap like this:

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Being part of the photography process is hardly ever glamorous and sexy. There are long days, and we’re usually moving on a mission. Coming into this role was a baptism by fire, so I want to share a few observations I’ve had about assisting with you.

You need to be willing to get down and dirty.

See that above picture? Assisting with John means lying on floors and hiding in corners stabilizing three light stands. It means holding flashes for minutes that drag on for hours. You have to keep one eye on the shot that’s happening and one eye on the next shot. So if we’re on a shoot and I looked slightly harassed, it’s because I am.

“Assistant” is often synonymous with “amateur model.”

In four years, I’ve been a breathalyzer tester, dental patient, legal client, and a hospital patient for multiple doctors. My hands have appeared in a number of photos. I’m a professional “lighting tester.” If you need an extra body in front of a camera quick, pull the photography assistant.

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Hone your people skills, and hone them quick.

We photographed a law firm last year and one of the shots was taken in the lobby of the building our client was renting. Right after setup, the property manager came out and told us we had to shut it down. John said to me, “I need you to handle this.” I apologized to the manager, said that I had no idea we were violating policy, and could we please have 5 minutes to get the shot as this was a big client for BOTH of us. He walked away for 5 minutes, and we were gone when he came back. Being diplomatic and having a strict “ask for forgiveness” policy goes a long way in photography.

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Car rides with John are some of the best times I’ve had on the job.

John spots some of the funniest signs on trucks and gas station boards. He’ll talk about Big Foot while driving through two states, and he’s always up for a post-shoot beer. I get to simultaneously live out my dream of having a chauffeur and hanging out with my friend.

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If the opportunity strikes, get a funny photo.

We like to tease people. I sent this to my mom with a caption that said, “So this is how my day went.” She was mildly amused after I told her I was fine.

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Being a professional lighting tester requires a certain amount of creative genius.

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This guy doesn’t get it…

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J.M. Barrie said, “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” While I would rather do anything than lie on a foyer floor of an apartment complex, I truly enjoy working on these shoots.