Is My Assistant Too Young?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by eric_guel, Apr 24, 2013.

  1. My 12 year old son has assisted me on a few small wedding shoots, but so far he hasn't done any big gigs with me. He's very mature and has a good eye for being so young. I'd like him to be my "full time" assistant/second shooter, but I wonder about how I would come across professionally with such a young assistant. What do you guys and gals think?
  2. Definitely a bad idea! Regardless of his theoretical capability, he is too young to handle the pressures of a professional engagement, even if you think otherwise. People do not mature simply by us insisting they do and ANYTHING that goes wrong, not only will you be responsible to the client but also to your son and your family. Childhood is for learning, evolving and experimenting not for attempting to apply that which you do not yet know...
    My view anyway...
  3. No disrespect to your son or your parenting but I agree with Marios.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  4. No disrepsct intended to your son or your parenting, but I agree with Henry.
  5. Eric, I will offer an alternate view from the above comments.
    Child prodigies exist because their natural talents are recognized, nurtured and encouraged. They exist in practically every domain one can imagine from academic, to sports, performance arts, religion, technology, and more. It's a very involved subject, but society has generally gone passed the notion of accelerated early development become a detriment to adulthood.
    The Professional Children's School in NYC, for example, exists to deliver a top notch academic education while supporting the schedules of professional children whose alumni includes Yo-Yo Ma on a list that reads like a Who's Who of greats.
    Whether it's appropriate for your son to assist on a professional gig is between you and your client, and how it comes across to your clients will be in your hands as a parent, a professional, and a nurturer of talent.
    Personally, I would encourage it. If you're feeling apprehensive, I will invite you to view the Thinkr YouTube channel's series on child prodigies:
  6. I'm thinking you guys are right. A bummer since he has taken such an interest in wedding photography, but I do think he may need a few more years of maturity. :-/
  7. You don't have to exclude him from helping you. He could act as a second assistant (if your client doesn't object). That way, he'll still get experience but with a lower level of responsibility.
  8. Childhood is for learning, evolving and experimenting not for attempting to apply that which you do not yet know...​
    Childhood is for learning, evolving, and expirementing... and by learning from your mistakes, and maturing as a response to them. Attempting things is how you learn, whether or not you already 'know' (try to learn calculus without doing a single problem - good luck w/ that). Not giving them the opportunity to broaden their horizons? Total mistake as a parent (IMpersonalO).
    However, overall...
    I'm not sure I completely agree. I think it depends upon the wedding. For an uber-formal affair (especially one in which they've paid extra for you to have a second/assistant) most definetly leave him at home...
    ...but for anything less (especially if they haven't paid you extra to pay for the assistant/second) formal, I can't imagine any rational reason that, by default, especially if he behaves as well as he obviously does (else you wouldn't be considering this), you should bar him merely due to age.
    That said, I think a case by case basis, and a client by client approval is appropriate. For those you have met in person, simply asking if your son can attend (mention he's done several before) as a second/assistant, and point out that this may allow more comprehensive shot selection - and you are only asking because he enjoys doing it so much. If the answer is no, or even a slightly hesitant yes, then absolutely not, but I think you'll find many people who not only don't mind, but enjoy helping foster good, responsible behavior in youngsters. And who are enthusiastic in doing so (especially if they are already parents).
    Of course there certainly is an issue of liability, and increased responsibility, since you are personally & professionally responsible for every breath he takes. Obviously though you already know that.
  9. I think the operative words spoken above are, " (if your client doesn't object)." I agree with all of the prodigy discussion, etc. but think that it would make you look rather unprofessional UNLESS the client is agreeable. So maybe it would be best to ask far enough in advance that if the answer is "no" (or you think they are afraid to say "no") you can make other arrangements.
  10. The fact that you're hesitating is good because while I support you in your encouragement of your son's talent, there will be some situations where his presence just won't fly.
    Giving him a prominent role without the client's prior approval could backfire simply because it gives that client something to latch on to if something goes wrong: "Of course those pictures didn't turn out; you had a grade school kid taking them!" Your son might have had nothing to do with any one particular unacceptable situation, but he'll become the whipping boy nonetheless.
    And, even with client approval, a 12-year-old might not be ready - as has been suggested here - to handle the fallout if something does go wrong.
    I do think he can still accompany you and play a reduced role that includes shooting, but not to the extent that people are whispering and pointing.
  11. Good thoughts from everyone today. Thanks to all.
  12. Simple.
    Take your sons photos and show them to others without giving his age. If you get a better than 60% approval rating put him on staff. If questioned, claim him as your apprentice.
  13. This is a very interesting question. I am leaning toward allowing him to help as long as you are certain that it is fine with the B & G. Kids are what it is all about. I was traveling and performing professionally when I was his age and behaved as professionally as anyone in the industry. I am loathe to hold a kid back.
    Clearly it has to be OK with the B & G. Your insurance has to cover him. (Sigh.) He has to know exactly what is OK and what isn't. Suited up. Tie straight. Yes sir. Yes Ma'am. Pardon me. May I please...... I have this picture forming in my head of positioning him as the 'kid photographer'. His 'job' is to make sure all of the young people at the wedding and reception are photographed and thereby entertained. If this kid is a charmer he could be the best thing that every happened to the sometimes stodgy reception table pictures. The old people ought to really turn on to your son. Making the grandpas and grandmas grin would be a super thing.
    OK. I am talked into it. Your job is to create a part of your sales presentation that introduces the idea of his attending and why it is a real benefit to the bride and groom. Of course if they are paying for two shooters I think he is not one until he can grow a moustache. (You should never have an assistant without a moustache unless she is female and even then.....) I would not be comfortable charging for his services. If they want to give him an envelope.....
    By the way. Why not check with some local charities and see if the two of you might not be able to do some pro bono work.
  14. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    From a business perspective: I believe it would firstly depend upon where you are located – and not (firstly) on other considerations such as the B&G consent or his maturity or ability.
    For example where I mainly work, (AUS) there are different STATE legislations which require various conditions to be met, if I were to employ a 12 year old “Child” (‘Child’ technically until 13 years whereupon “youth” – but still various rules apply for employment).
    These legislations then have a flow on to (business) insurance and worker’s compensation and other matters.
    Note also that ‘employment’ might not necessarily mean money is paid to him.
    On the broader question I don’t see any particular broad case for yea or nay. But I would first consider the value add to the business and not to the child: in this situation one’s primary responsibility is to one’s business not to one’s child. One of my children holds a great interest in Photography and was very skilled at 14 years – skilled enough to actually ‘take a few photos’ and she wanted to: but we had a conversation and I explained “responsibilities” (as per above) and I clearly differentiated my business responsibilities from her adequate abilities - and that was empowering and also educative to and for her. From that point we moved to her assisting me at more controlled shoots, OTHER THAN weddings. For example some relaxed Portrait Shoots and some School Sporting Events. Maybe you could think along those lines?
  15. All sorts of problems legally, OH&S, child employment, indemnity insurance...
    He should be out playing sports and enjoying life until it all gets serious in six years or so. Then see if he's still interested.
  16. Eric, I am not disputing your son's abilities or potential. But if I were a customer and a photographer turned up with their child in tow I would likely view them as unprofessional. I would feel that their attentions are divided, which they would be since you have a responsibility to 'mind' your son at all times, wherever you are. You cannot be both child minder and professional photographer. I would wait until your son is at least 16.
  17. According to the US Department of Labor, Fair Labor Standards Act ... it is illegal.
    Minimum age for non-agricultural employment is 14 years of age. Children 14 and 15 years of age have strict guidelines as to hours.
    Children used in entertainment or commercials are exempt, but also have extremely rigid guidelines as to hours worked, and there must be a non-parent representative present to make sure the guidelines are followed ... plus a teacher present if it is a school day.
    In addition, many States have their own child Labor Laws.
  18. As a kid I began working in my family's grant writing consulting firm, and now I'm a principal. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't hire him (for pay, right?), provided you've got tasks appropriate to his level of skill.

    One time I was about 13 or so, and an electrician came by to do some work. . . with his 13 year old. At one point we took a break to play video games. I think my Dad was bemused to see another parent teaching his kid the trade.
  19. When my older son was 14, I used to take him with me to help on some afternoon parties such as Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, or
    small simple weddings, anniversaries. But never a late job or full big job, that's not the place for them.
  20. If you have to ask this question then you may want to rethink it. People like to judge by appearance and talk.
  21. My questions to you: you notice during the wedding that your son wandered off and you haven't seen him in maybe half an hour. Do you continue photographing or do you look for your son? Can you guarantee your clients that you'll be their wedding photographer first and foremost and a father second? I think I would have less of a problem with this scenario if you had another assistant [not 2nd shooter] who was at the same time your son's minder.
  22. Not to beat on this, but in every jurisdiction you still have to follow the labor laws strictly or there could be serious
    consequences. So, check them carefully and follow accordingly. We can opinionate all we want but the laws are the laws.
    Also, keep in mind at most weddings alcohol is served, sometimes things get a little risque or there could just be a plain
    clause of liability to adhere to in certain venues.
  23. Katrin, whether he's with me or not, I'm his father first and a wedding photographer second. With that said, he is mature enough to handle himself apart from me for several hours. I don't have a worry about that. However, after thinking this thing through, I think I'm going to pass on having him assist for the next couple of years at least.
  24. I took my second shooter for the first time when he was 16. I think that was very young, and looking back, I would say he was a very capable and relatively mature person by then. He has shot with me for about 8 years off and on and still has some growing to do.
    However, 12 is too young IMO simply because at that age, very few children can handle stress, communication with adults at a level of competence that is appropriate for weddings, and can be "invisible" enough to blend when they are carrying a camera. It just seems too young to me, sorry.

Share This Page