There are wide and varying opinions on this and ultimately I guess you as an individual have to make this call yourself. I’m sure some people start assisting with the mindset that they’re only going to assist for a certain amount of time say one to three years and that is a great idea of a goal to work towards from day one. My advice would be shoot as much as you can when you aren’t assisting which can be a challenge if you’re an in demand assistant working 60 hours a week but don’t lose sight of the destination, Assisting is part of the journey but not ultimately where you want to end up. The longer you assist for the harder is gets to break out of it. You become an in demand assistant and you’re working a lot but if this isn’t where you want to be in 10 years time start picking up the camera now and start shooting your own work. I’ve been told on more than one occasion to just stop assisting cold turkey and while that is a great idea in theory the practicality of how you will pay the rent once you stop assisting and start shooting becomes a glaring reality in the face of a nice idea. The way I look at it I see your assisting business and your photography business as trees. The assisting one is a lot more developed and larger, generating more income than your photography business if you’re at the stage of shooting the odd job. When comparing these two trees one may look fully developed and the other like a small plant. Trying to stay financially buoyant and on top of all your bills and monthly expenses and through your small plant may not last very long. Getting a part time job to supplement your income is a great idea at this stage, allowing you the time to spend on nurturing your photography business and giving it the necessary time to grow. Over time your assisting tree should shrink while your photography tree should grow and eventually get to the stage that the photography is much larger and stronger than the assisting one
1. Don’t talk too much, listen and pay attention to what’s happening on set always. Put your phone down and don’t answer it unless you have permission or are on a break.
It takes a long time to build up enough work as a photographic assistant but eventually you get to the point where you don’t have to make calls to get work, your name gets around and you’re fielding calls and emails for new work constantly and you start to get comfortable. You’re earning good money and working 5 or more days a week but it’s a trap. It’s ridiculous how many photo assistants and digi operators I’ve spoken to that can’t afford to stop working as an assistant and make the leap to full time shooting. It’s definitely not an easy process its damn hard but if being a photographer is what you want to be it’s a necessary part of the process and for many the next logical step in your progression. Understanding it’s a long drawn out process that takes time and determination and that you have to be prepared to not make a lot of money for the first few years is valuable information to arm yourself with. If it was easy everyone would be doing it
3. Have An Exit Strategy.
Unless you’re planning to assist for the rest of your life put some money away each time you get paid DO IT.
Set a goal for how long you want to assist and always have in mind that assisting is part of the journey but not the destination, always be working towards shooting your own jobs. This means getting out there on your days off when you’re tired and don’t feel like taking photos and creating some new work.
4.Stay on top of your invoicing,
Invoice as soon as you get home after a shoot rather than leaving it for a couple of weeks or a month when you can’t remember the date or any details from the job.
5. Send reminder notices to people that are late paying invoice and maybe consider putting in your terms and conditions that late payment of invoices incur a 5% surcharge per week.
6. Discuss overtime rates with the producer or photographer before the start of the shoot and definitely before you’ve been working for 10 hours.
When asked about the state of editorial photography and advice for aspirants he offered,
“…you don’t shoot editorial to make money, you…
Some great free resources available from Photoshelter
Young Photographers Alliance (www.ypauk.org) Advice Video. Getting Started: Advice on quoting for jobs
Some great advice from veteran photographers on quoting when you’re starting out, “what’s your budget is a great question to ask”
Great advice from some truly great photographer’s and they all touch on the same points.
Don’t go into debt, slash your expenses, don’t be fearful, believe in your skills, stick with it and work hard!!
The perils of taking advice from pros (Sunday, January 23, 2011)Great article on Dan Heller’s blog in which he raises some interesting points about emerging photographers taking advice from existing pro’s. Worth a read
Being a photographer is regarded as one of the coolest jobs on the planet. That said, there’s a lot that goes into running a