My pal Mikey from Lighten Up and Shoot was in Austin recently to teach a "tag along" workshop where he takes students around on an interactive photo walk taking flash pictures of total strangers on the streets. It's a cool concept and while I'm not much of a street shooter myself I've admired Mikey's style and techniques. I offered to lend a hand and play photographer's assistant for Mikey and his students. He shares so much information on his website, which helped me greatly when I was first learning flash photography. This was a great chance to give something back.
That's me on the right holding the Apollo Orb. Photo by ATMTX.
I've had a few opportunities to assist other photographers and it's something I enjoy doing from time to time. I always get a lot out of it and it's fun to contribute to the making of great images whether I'm snapping the shutter or just being a voice activated light stand. While I am usually invited to snap a few shots on assistant gigs, I leave my camera at home. What?! Yes, you read right. Why go to the trouble of lugging gear around and adjusting lights for someone else without bringing a camera to grab some images for myself? There are a number of reasons.
- Assisting others lets me think about the creative process of making a photo without any pressure. I'm not the one delivering the shots. I can be relaxed about the situation and provide objective feedback and suggestions to the photographer or model as appropriate.
- The photographer is free to work without feeling any obligation to let me shoot. He or she can concentrate on the job at hand. No pressure, no competition.
- When my camera is not with me, I'm focused on the job at hand. If my camera is there, I guarantee I'll be thinking at least half the time what I'd do for my shot. Admit it, you would be too! Leave your camera and your ego at home. Be the best damn assistant you can be.
- The photographer is counting on me to keep track of his or her equipment. Carrying it around, making sure things don't get knocked over or stolen, etc. I don't want to have to keep track of my gear too.
- I can help give the model and the photographer a break. Instead of jumping in to grab shots while the main photographer makes changes, chimps shots, or whatever, the model can take a break. Sometimes it helps to engage in small talk with the model to keep boredom from setting in during down times. It helps improve my rapport with models and keeps the model engaged.
- When I engage completely in a shoot and concentrate on helping another photographer get shots, I never fail to learn something. Genuinely helping someone else work through a shot will get me thinking in ways that I sometimes miss when I'm under pressure to deliver something.
There's nothing wrong with doing collaborative shoots with other photographers but once in a while I highly recommend serving as a dedicated assistant. It'll do you some good. Make sure you get the other photographer to return the favor sometime.
Here are a few of the shots I had the privilege of helping folks get during Mikey's workshop.
Photo by Jay Guilloty
Photo by Rudy Ximenez
Photo by Sebastian Hernandez
Mr. Lighten Up, Photo by Jay Guilloty
The banner photo is one that I snapped through the window of a bar that we stopped in for a drink at the end of the day. I didn't take any photos of my own during the day but I found this fun shot while enjoying a cold beer with some talented friends.