business: photo assistants and mentoring

If you started with prophotolife at the very beginning you might remember that one of the specific reasons I started this blog was to help young photo assistants / aspiring photographers. Some of the earliest entries here were on the subject of starting out as a photo assistant. Tonight I’ve compiled nine of those assisting entries into a downloadable PDF called the Handguide for Beginning Photo Assistants. It’s basic but potentially helpful information for aspiring commercial photo assistants, especially in a market like here in the midwestern U.S.

I highly recommend that photo assistants also check out the definitive resource / community on the internet for photo assistants: They have a larger, more comprehensive pdf guide available for download, also. Yes, the names of our sites (and even the logos) are very similar but there’s no direct association, sometimes things just happen that way. The forums there have been a great help to assistants I’ve known and they do a great service at 1 Pro Photo.

Compiling the downloadable PDF and writing today’s post were inspired by this reader comment from Kenneth Rhem in Indianapolis:

“Thanks for your Blog. I’m an assistant in the Midwest who needs the reminder that making it is possible.”

I don’t know how many photo assistants read this blog but it means a lot to hear from Kenneth. At Daylight Photo we regularly host photo students from area schools and, though she’s traveling in Taiwan at the moment, we also have a summer intern about to head off to New York University in the fall to pursue her photographic dreams. My belief is that photography is still a craft to be learned largely through assisting and mentoring, just like blacksmithing was in the old days.

There are a few reasons I share information on One is that I really enjoy photography and this blog serves to remind me of that. The past few years have changed the photo industry a lot and, I’ll admit, there have been times I’ve been the curmudgeonly photographer, resistant to change. But all industries are changing rapidly, it’s no different than with our various clients, from manufacturers to magazines. The blog keeps me coming back to the reasons I first started out in photography, the joys of photography and of learning.

Another major reason I started this blog is because the mentoring part of photography is vital to the profession, if it is to remain a profession. I wish our studio could give more opportunities to photo assistants but we can’t hire them all. We always at least take the time to talk with them at Daylight Photo and try to help out how we can.

Plus I honestly believe that you meet the same people on the way down that you meet on the way up. That means it’s important to be nice to everybody you meet because, well, everything is just better that way. I tell assistants I want to help them become successful so that someday, when I’m ready to go into semi-retirement, they might give me a job at their studio.

So, Kenneth, I’m taking a few minutes to give you the reminder that, yes, it is possible. I can’t tell you that it will be easy or without sacrifice. But if you want to make it and you’re willing to work hard, you’ll surely make it. And please let me know when you do, just in case I need to call you for some part-time work someday.