Newbies and Pros ... let's get it together!

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fotografz, Dec 13, 2009.

  1. I am starting this thread because the subject of assisting or second shooting comes up frequently with-in other threads ... often as a polarizing answer to a specific question.
    Less experienced shooters voice frustration about the lack of mentors or Pros to work with, and Pros lament the seeming lack of knowledge or related sense of responsibility of the part of less experienced "newbies".
    IMO, what we have here is a lack of communication. Here are my thoughts on the subject for consideration and discussion on the part of both ends of the experience spectrum.
    Gaining experience by working with an established professional wedding photographer:
    I almost always use an assistant or a second shooter ... except for my lowest end packages. Every single one of my assistants and second shooters added something valuable for the client ... not always right away, but soon enough to be a value added resource. Every one of my former assistants is now a successful professional photographer. Some more successful than I am. For example, Marcin Harla was one of my former assistants. I don't feel threatened by that, I feel proud I could help them realize their potential. I believe in the "play it forward" idea.
    How do you get to be an assistant or second shooter? Here are a few tips: The squeaky wheel gets the grease, the early bird gets the worm ... , etc., etc., is a good start, but not enough!
    What you need to do is think of ways you can be of value to a Pro. It isn't about what they can do for you (which is obvious) ... it's about how can you help them !!! Approaching a Pro with "I want to learn wedding photography" is about you, not them. Rethink your approach.
    For example, my current second shooter Noel Kelly started as an assistant. She contacted me from this forum! Her enthusiasm and confidence was apparent. I met with her, looked at her work, saw potential, and explained that I would pay her pocket change and she had to carry my heavy bags for up to 8 hours without whining about it ... LOL! The conversation was all about what she could do for me, Noel ALREADY knew what I could do for her.
    Now Noel is my second shooter when the package justifies the cost (which is most of the time) ... otherwise she is quite willing to just assist at lower pay. In return, I have handed off a number of paying jobs to her for newborn photography, family shots and senior photography ... and now engagement sessions ... when I am too expensive for the client's budget. Rather than lose the gig due to budget and lose any subsequent future business from potential referrals ... she does the work. Noel has said to me that if doing an engagement session for free would help me land a gig she would do it. THAT is about what is in it for me!
    As testimony, here are some direct client excerpts about Noel published in Wedding Wire ratings for Fotografz:

    "Marc Williams from Fotografz and his assistant Noel Kelly did an absolutely fabulous job with our wedding photography!"
    "Marc had an assistant with him on the day; she was able to focus on capturing the details, which showed through in the photos that we received."
    "Thank you Marc and Noel for capturing the best day of my life and not leaving a single moment out!"
    And this e-mail I just got from a former client:
    "Looking at our wedding photos again, I love your work. In addition, because Noel was your assistant, now we have beautiful pictures of our (new) daughter."
    So, next time you approach a Pro, think about value added things like that. A light bulb might go off over the Pro's head : -)
    To the other established pros out there ... think about what's going on in this business. A bunch of inexperienced people are grabbing gigs, often without any experience ... which people keep grousing about. We can counter that by taking on people with potential, guide them, and then use them for gigs we can't afford to do ourselves, or are already booked for ... or to expand out sphere of influence.
    When someone calls me for a 7 hour $1,500 wedding gig 8 months in advance, I often can't afford to block that date so far in advance for that kind of money. So I can turn it down, or I can hand it off to someone I have trained.
    For me, every single newborn gig Noel does, every senior shoot, every family portrait, becomes a potential networking wedding referral for friends and family members.
    Additional thoughts or ideas?
  2. This is a good topic and all of Marc's information above is sound advice. I'll preface my comments with this. I enjoy mentoring and sharing my experience, which is also why I participate in this forum as much as I do. Over the past 4 years or so I've taken 8 aspiring young shooters out with me on weddings to give them an opportunity to shoot, learn, and possibly give me some extra images and extra depth of coverage through their second shooting. Four of the eight I met through this forum and at least one still participates here on a frequent basis. Two of them shot with me on more than one occasion and there were cross-referrals between the three of us over the last few years. Side note: none of my assitants have ever "shlepped" any of my gear, I'm completely comfortable shooting solo and can handle my gear. (Course it's nice to have an extra hand and an extra eye to keep watch on some of the gear at times).
    I've offered frequent tips on how to secure some mentorship in previous threads, I'll mention a few here. The last thing I would suggest a young shooter do is to post an "I'm available to 2nd shoot/assist" thread which invites established pros to contact you. Along the same lines, avoid sending emails to area pros with the same message. Why, it appears to be lazy and self-serving. Instead, visit the studio in person (if it's a brick & mortar operation) or at the very least make a phone call requesting a meeting to talk about the field....before making contact, do your homework, be familiar with the studio website, their style, business model, and folio. Don't stress about putting together an impressive folio trying to impress the pro with how much you already know....if you don't have professional experience your folio is likely only impressive to you and probably some family and friends. Instead concentrate on your personal appearance and social skills. BTW, if you've made frequent contacts to local pros and nobody is willing to give you some mentorship it likely has more to do with your people skills than with your photography. I would also suggest that you check your attitude about established professional studios.....on the forum there is a common sentiment that established pros may be threatened by young shooters and afraid of the competition. IMO, they couldn't care less, if they are established and successful it has nothing to do with keeping potential competition down. The belief that a newcomer's shooting is so good that they are afraid of losing business is largely narcissistic thinking on the part of the newcomer.
    Perhaps that other pro that I spoke of who still visits this forum will participate in this discussion and talk about the experience from their about it DC :)
  3. Hi Marc, thanks for the insightful post on a subject that is VERY relevant to me at the moment. Getting started in this business has been a tough nut to crack. I have been very fortunate to find an established wedding pro willing to mentor me beginning in 2010. When we first spoke he explained that he remembered the impact a mentor had on him and his career and wants to do the same for other photographers just starting out. But you bring up a very important point that I needed reminding of - it isn't charity work on the part of the pro. You really got me thinking about how I can make the relationship less lopsided (currently in favor of me) and how I can drive more business towards my mentor.
    David, thanks for your insight and advice as well. What you say makes sense... although I sheepishly admit that I connected with my mentor by first contacting him via email. I did, however, do my homework and specifically approached this pro because I loved his work, his style and the way he seemed to connect with his clients.
  4. "really got me thinking about how I can make the relationship less lopsided (currently in favor of me)........"

    I suspect that it's exactly that attitude that was an important element in getting the pro to take you on. Good luck :)
  5. "Newbies and Pros ... let's get it together!"

    I find a valuable way of getting together with fellow professionals is through active participation with our local PPA group. Our group is called, TCPPA and we have 200 plus members working as professionals in the photography industry with some offering services in many areas with others focusing on one, like weddings or two, maybe it's weddings and seniors.
    We also have many vendors/suppliers who attend each of our meetings. They obviously want us to buy from them but they also are a way for us to learn. Our vendors participate in a monetary way as well so as we have a monthly newsletter with hard copy mailed to each member every month, a web site which was recently updated. We also have a roster of national speakers scheduled for 2010.
    We hold our meetings at a local vo-tech school that offers a photography curriculum providing opportunity where students can attend and meet people who may hire them upon graduation.
    If you have an organization in or near your community join. Maybe even consider volunteering & helping out.
    I believe in our organization and serve on the board. We are all working hard to earn & contribute toward a respectable living for our families, our associates and our communities.
    Happy Holidays.
  6. all of you guys have great points!
    I am a newbie and I would love to have a mentor but I just could not figure out a way to make that happen. Now I know that its not just about me getting help, its about helping each other. I actually know a very well, amazing established photographer well, i have spoken to her on the phone asking her for advice and emailing her to say hello and she is great but I have been afraid to even mention anything. Maybe now, I will know how to approach her.
  7. Marc, this is a great post. I did not have the benefit of having a mentor when starting out, but I do mentor one young lady and I can totally see the benefit of a mutually beneficial relationship such as the one you have developed with Noel.
  8. Marc, I appreciate your thoughts and intentions in writing this.
    I have always shot with a second/assistant and often found myself appreciating those whom I have had the pleasure of working with. My most recent second (Murray) has a great eye and often captures images that I wish I had shot. He has been mentioned/praised in emails from clients countless times these past few years.
  9. David Wegwart, I think your response is indicative of what my intentions were.
    I thought if those starting out could see that more established and experienced wedding photographers DID value and appreciate those assisting and shooting for them ... and there is value in it for both parties ... it would inspire more beginners to seek out a working relationship.
    The trick is to help newbies figure out how to be of more value to the Pro, not just tell them they should apprentice while constantly harping on the fact they are not ready to photograph a wedding.
  10. Well said Marc; this is an interesting subject and I'd like to comment.
    One of the first things I do before taking on a second photographer is to make sure they are Not to Experienced! (I want to teach them to shoot the wedding in the way I see it and to learn my thinking regarding a wedding day and it's photographic flow).
    The next thing I do is see if they are willing to learn. I test them and observe their level of willingness to go the extra step. I want to know if they are interested in the wedding day process or is their interest more in the hard payback. Hard Payback to me is money or building portfolio before learning What is needed and wanted for the bride and groom within the framework of my vision of that specific wedding day's photography.
    Not sure I'm being clear but I've found that "agenda" is important. Some second photographers merely want to use the main photographer to attain their goals instead of learning what it is that needs to be done by a second photographer and then doing that job with enthusiasm and creativity. I want them to learn what I "need" photographically and I need them to understand what "type" of exposures give me the look I want for my style. I want them to Want feedback; I want them to want to be critiqued. I want them to learn to request the critique and feedback without defending what they did; I want this until I see that they understand What I Want! I want them to see and honor my agenda for that day. (oh my , I should feel bad about saying that but I don't because I know it's results are sound.)
    When I see they understand what I want and how I want it framed and approached then I smile and see that it's time for them to develop their own style and method. My first goal is to create great image files for the bride and groom and my second goal is to teach a photographer to "understand" and shoot with purpose within a framework of what is needed for the wedding and not what is needed for them or their personal portfolio ... I want the second photographer to "give me" what is needed: this is a great gift to that second photographer as they move onto doing their own weddings, imo. I have so many stunning photos from my second photographers and I merely smile and thank them and they thank me; life is Good.
    This year I've had the absolute pleasure of shooting second for two of my past second photographers! I so enjoy it and I learn a lot doing this too.
    Shooting as a second photographer is a Learned Skill if it's taught to that second photographer as a skill. Shooting as a second photographer is Not the same as being the Main Photographer. I want them to learn the difference. I want them to understand the difference and then give me what is needed to create a great set of photos. I give them more and more responsibility when I see they are ready.
    I delight when they get their own weddings; the best stories I get from my past second photographers are those about how hard it is to find a second photographer to do their weddings! I then have to remind them it's a learned skill and that the Main Photographer has to lead and be clear on what they want and how they want it done. Teach the second photographer to Give You what you need!
    And the circle is then complete; shooting second is not merely "something" it's a special set of skills, IMO. LOL. Thanks for giving so much to this forum over the years Marc; it's recognized and appreciated by many.
  11. It's a little like a marriage. Good chemistry, mutual respect, and humility. Two people can both be great people and good at what they do, but not necessarily together.
    You need to find the right person to work with, and a lot of the issues from this forum (previous posts) are not going to come up.
  12. That is an interesting point Theresa.
    Yet, I would ask if it is a practical one? Obviously it would be ideal ... if there were tons of choices for who to hook up with ... but that isn't always the case. The terms of "Marriage" may be so lofty that one may never get Married, so to speak. Maybe e-Harmony needs a division for photographer mentorships ... LOL!
    Frankly, I've learned a lot from people who were far from humble ... a trait not usually attributed to artists : -) On the other hand, who needs to be subjected to an insufferable personality ... life is too short for that sort of nonsense. It's a balance of give and take.
    While I may kid around about "carrying my bags" (and I do ask for that help), my criteria is first and foremost to work with an independent thinker that is most unlike me as possible. That helps assure the "value added" aspect to what is provided our clients. As the assistant reveals his/her unique perspective, I can apply my technical knowledge to "assist the assistant" achieve their goals. The synergetic reward is that I learn something in the process, while providing an expanded vision of a wedding.
    Here is a tip that has been very successful for my business that made use of a second shooter to achieve the level of client acclaim it has enjoyed to date:
    For almost every wedding now, we produce a 80 to 100 slide show set to music using iPhoto ... I now plan out a lot of coverage with this product in mind.
    Using techniques more appropriate for motion picture filming, we do dual angle coverage ... not just to get a choice of images for a decisive single still application in an album, but to use all of them in the slide show to bring the event to life using Motion Picture editing techniques. It is then provided to the client on a USB-2 jump drive in a high resolution version which can be played on any computer.
    I wish there was some way to share one of these with all of you ... it is so powerful with the modern computer savvy, TV oriented client that it sells our studio upon the first showing to new prospects. It is nothing like a video because it still focuses on frozen decisive moment images to fuel its emotional impact.
    Not only is this NOT possible without a second, it makes them critical to whole process ... thus a valued contributor.
  13. I've been seeing a lot of hypocrisy about assistants or 2nd shooters from posters on this site. If they're really a critical part of the day, than they should be compensated properly, not compensated in the terms of, "future work" or "experience." I think one could justify working for college credit in the form of an internship, but really there is no reason for someone to work for free. In fact, I think it's against the law in some states.
    Why is it that it's ok for people to work for free for you, but not ok for them to take your business away by doing the same job for less? Why is it ok to complain about Craigs-listers rates and then become a cheapie yourself by not paying them? Don't other industries pay for training? My assistants, wether newbies or experienced pros are compensated very well. They're even covered under my disability insurance. Why would you want future professionals going into the field with a value system that expects free labor?
  14. Senor, can you provide a link to any post where someone said they don't pay their assistants? I have had newbies volunteer to work for free, but have always paid them something even then.
    Also, I have never heard of a second shooter that works for free. If there are any in the Detroit area who work for free, please contact me ... LOL!
    Kidding aside, there is a lot of pressure on making income as a wedding photographer. In many cases, the primary photographer can shoot most weddings alone ... and the assistant can have an impact on profitability ... but it is still something many photographers do to help the less experienced person learn.
    Again, if people looking to work with an experienced shooter would just do a bit of thinking from the Pros perspective, it could lead to a more mutually beneficial relationship.
  15. I am not shy about saying that I do offer an interested "person" the opportunity to shoot second and I tell them they will not get paid until I see they can do the job and show the interest and zest that it takes to do the job correctly.

    It's the great part of the free enterprise system; like Marc, I always end up "giving" them something ... even if it's just my valuable time and feedback on how they did and what they might consider doing the next time to create the skill set necessary for "the job". The most shallow means of payment is cash, imo.

    I'm very clear up front what the deal is and I think this "method" is a great way to weed out the interested from the uninterested which saves everyone time. The first interview I ask them to bring their equipment and after talking we shoot together for an hour or so. I am trying to discover what they know; my time is not "free" and it's valuable and I give it freely towards the interview: hey, maybe I should Charge Them! hmmm.

    Our Country is starting to lean heavily towards a mentality that seems to advocate a system that speaks loudly about Giving people something without that person actually Earning it in some way other than outright cash. This practice, imo, is not only misguided it's dangerous to the recipient in many ways.

    There are many, many ways to be paid and to earn something other than cold hard cash. I may be different than others but I prefer to train a new/interested person how I want the wedding date looked at and treated with a camera: I don't want a polished and finished photographer who "knows" everything... nope, I'd rather take a person with energy and passion and ask them to "Give" me some time to see if they have the right stuff and I, like-wise, give them my valuable time to train them and give them the opportunity to learn a great skill that they are passionate about.

    I can say that those who have worked with me, to this point, are grateful and fulfilled and thriving so I'll not accept the view that I must do something that appears honorable but, IMO, is only an alternative for those who only want to "hire" a set of skills and the relationship part of the "agreement" is based on Money. Frankly, I'm getting tired of hearing the non-human "right" way of doing things that seems to shame those who actually give while asking others to give in a process that is void of monetary exchange at every turn in the road. (yes, I do barter photography sessions if the deal is right!)

    I, for a fact, know that "giving" a person a chance and asking them to "give" something into the deal is much harder on me while being much more meaningful, in a human way, to the second and to myself. I ask them to work for free for a limited time (with No Shame) but I don't tell them I'm working for free when I spend hours and hours with them guiding them into "the art".

    Life is Good ... sometimes compensation is "valuable ether stuff" that endures and creates human value, IMO. It's actually "better" than a cold and impersonal cash exchange.

    For those who prefer the less interactive method of pure exchange of Money Stuff I say if it works for you then wonderful but please take a few moments to consider the values of a more interactive method that can lead to something of tremendous value as well; I don't accept the cold hard money exchange combined with the put down on a more personal method that involves giving of time and effort and human interaction in payment.
  16. I always pay a second/assistant too. Sometimes less than others, but always paid.
    Now, if I am providing all kit and all they have to do is show up (most cases), I pay less than for an experienced second who totes their own gear and provides me with finished jpgs.
    I have been asked (many times) to take someone along just for the experience on lots of occasions. I don't normally take them up on these offers as they usually happen to overlap with my current second, and unless its a huge (300 + guests) wedding, I cannot use a third shooter.
    Not sure why this upsets you anyway Senor, after all, it is often a way for a newbie to break into the market with someone who's instruction will be invaluable to their success.
  17. What I'm upset about, is all the hypocritical talk about the financial devaluation of photography. When you ask individuals to work for free, you are perpetuating the (downward) income pressure Marc mentions. Do you want our future artists to grow up thinking that they should work for free or take jobs for less? Without proper monetary compensation, how are they ever going to get past the level of the part-timers that everyone on this forum complains about? Working at Walmart? Help from Mom & Dad? There are plenty of low paying jobs out there already and photography doesn't have to be one of them.
    William, the righteousness you feel from taking advantage of someone's desperation to learn is disgusting. Everyone learns on the job, including yourself. The fact still remains that any individual that you take on is helping you make money, even if they simply carry your bag for a few hours. They should be compensated monetarily, even if it's in the form of minimum wage.
  18. The Fact of the matter is that I get nothing but Gratitude from people I've taken on as second photographers and are now either running their own business or on the verge of doing so.
    How do you explain away the Gratitude towards the relationship senor? I won't personally bash you for choosing to not get involved with newbies: that's a choice you make. You want a finished product and it's not really important to you whether that person "fits" into your style or gets what you need at the wedding. Just pay them and get the image files and slap some money in their hands is good enough. You might enjoy having minimized human interaction and prefer giving money for a product: that's great!
    Well, it's not the way I enjoy operating and I'm not asking anyone to do it that way but I don't like to be demonized for Bartering my skills for a bit of time when the end product is agreeable and human and it actually Grows a person (professionally and personally) in the process. It sounds like what you want is more like Socialized Photography that can be rigidly controlled like it's a Union! That's scary. You have not a clue about the time and effort that goes into it so just keep slapping money in their hands and I'll teach them and trade my time and knowledge with them for their time until they can stand up and proudly take on their first wedding with me as a second shooter (for no fee at all in many cases) ... Life is Good when a person actually Earns and Learns at the same time. Don't forget that we're talking about newbies here and not finished second shooters: that is the threads focus.
    Why is "money" the only trade that a person can be given. People in Welfare states are crippled by "given money" and it's well known to be a way to enslave people: why not interact and teach a trade and allow a person the dignity of working off the time as they learn. No one is Forcing the deal on them and they are filled with Gratitude for the special attention and Opportunity to learn. I am giving of my time: is my time not worth anything? I spend time away from weddings to help them with exposures, lighting and even processing the photos. I talk over the phone and respond to emails and multitudes of questions patiently: is my time worth Nothing? ... I give them inside knowledge on a personal level that just can't be learned in any other way.
    I'm quite satisfied and proud of the process. It's known of as bartering and is win / win and More: it involves a relationship that extends beyond just handing over money and being done with the interaction instead a socialized enforced and controlled "it must be done this way" which is what can be seen in unionized workers in an angry forced process that always seems to be Fighting someone or something to get what they Think they Deserve instead of finding a mentor and learning an art or a trade with caring and responsible human interaction.
  19. Newbies? I've used several, very interested high-school students in the past. Not only did they learn on the job, but guess what? Their mentor wasn't so arrogant as to think his time was the only thing that they should receive as compensation. Actually caring enough about them to pay for hours worked doesn't mean that I, "enjoy having minimized human interaction."
  20. Jeeze, this thread wasn't meant to start a fight. The spirit of it was to bring a bit more clarity to an issue that causes some polarity on this forum.
    That aside, I don't quite follow the logic here.
    If someone wants to learn something they go to someone who teaches.
    Don't teachers get paid for sharing what they know?
    How is this different, other than the teacher is being paid in services rendered?
    Senor, if you don't value your time the same as another, it doesn't make them wrong ... that has nothing to do with being arrogant or not caring. Arrogant would be to outright dismiss the person seeking help, and not caring would be to do nothing to help those just starting out.
  21. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Someone put their cranky pants on this morning . . . some comments here seem not in the spirit of, nor the intention of this thread at all, IMO.
    Just on the point of the view that when starting out, one might be "working for nothing" . . .
    I am familiar with an institution referred to here as "Work Experience". It is usually done in High School, when the Student is about 16 or 17 years. Many Students take this quite seriously and see it as a great opportunity for hands on experience and a credible addition to their very limited résumé. Students are not paid. The "employer" takes on all the responsibility and additional real costs to his business to instruct & guide the "employee" in the trade, skill or profession.
    However, some students do not see this as an opportunity and bemoan the fact that they are just "cheap labour".
    Having worked on and off within this system over the past 20 years, I can categorically attest to the fact that those students who embrace the 4 weeks with open arms and put 100% effort into their "work", reap much more than any "basic wage".
    It is very apparent that: a door opening; an opportunity sought out; a known name or contact in an organization; a credible reference; a telephone call on someone’s behalf; or just being there and doing it, can reap results which are life changing.
    Thinking only, "how much do I get per hour", is very limited and also limiting, IMO.
    In most cases when seeking education and / or experience reckoning the value of that education and experience in the long term view, is the better way of thinking.
    Taking a small minded and limited “how much will you pay me?” attitude, usually renders a person an unhappy wage earner, who watches the clock until the whistle blows at the end of their shift and perhaps, they will be notably quite grumpy most of the time, as well.
    Merry Christmas,

  22. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Senor, if you don't value your time...​

    "Senor's" posted photos and web site tell you everything you need to know about his time.
  23. I like visiting my grandmother's house. She is remarried and her husband grew up on a farm. I would like to learn more about gardening and basic farming principles. I volunteer to go help work in the garden so I can learn from experienced folks. I don't expect any cash payment because learning is payment in itself. But, my grandma's husband always pays me about minimum wage. I don't even consider it compensation, it's more like a gift on top of a gift... You guys are splitting hairs over carrying a camera bag.. how bout 12 hours of grueling manual labor in the heat of summer.
    I agree with William, and though senor has a valid point he goes about it all wrong. I am a newb. I am dreading my first wedding coming up next spring. If I could be a second shooter I would be so grateful to the main photog that I WOULD PAY HIM FOR HIS VALUABLE TIME!
  24. "For me, every single newborn gig Noel does, every senior shoot, every family portrait, becomes a potential networking wedding referral for friends and family members."
    Hi Marc, can you provide a little more information on the above statement? Do you mean if you are approached and asked to shoot a newborn, senior or family portrait gig you pass those along to Noel and thus satisfy the client while making a new contact?
    Or do you mean that those are jobs generated by Noel on her own? If the latter how does that turn into a potential wedding referral for you? Does she talk you up and/or pass along your card for future reference?
    I'm trying to come up with additional value-added services I can provide to my mentor.
    Also, not to embroil myself in the ongoing debate, but I am also willing to provide my services to my mentor for no payment other than the experience I gain. And I consider my time a very valuable resource. That's just me though...
  25. The above exchange is one of the reasons I currently limit my postings on PN. I don't mind disagreement but the attack mode seems to pervade a lot of productive posts like this one. This detracts from the very valuable information being exchanged in a civil way. I recognize the names of the above posters and they have all added a lot in their very helpful posts to PN. I respect them for their success in business. I am very interested in how they handle second shooters. I never used any in my own business, probably much to my distress of being overburdened with cameras, bags, and backs, pursuing my former method of shooting weddings. I recently, after after a hiatus from the business of some seven years took on a good paying job. I made a simple post on PN asking about current rates and immediately was attacked as not being professional for having to ask. Two working professionals ultimately gave me the info I needed, only after I was insulted a few times, oddly, by those who had never done what I was talking about. Senor, I respectfully think there is a better way to make your points without the rancor that would be more effective. Having said that, barring the unpleasantness, this is the kind of forum, sharing among working professionals, that I think this site is all about, IMHO. I am here to learn not to fight, I have had enough of that in my lifetime. > Dick Arnold
  26. Slightly off topic but I too come here when I'm looking for meaningful dialogue, critique and information. The regulars here give an amazing amount of themselves. If I want petty arguments and immaturity there are a couple other well-known forums that more than fill that need (and I admit are fun to look at when in need of some entertainment). In general this particular forum takes the high road, which I appreciate. Hoping it stays that way.
  27. Marc, I'd shoot second (or third) behind you for travel expenses alone, meaning a cheapo flight and a ride to location. Meaning: I'd love to work with/for you one of these days. Contact me if you ever think it could happen.
  28. And to address the point of discussion: Yes, more folks helping folks. Attitudes like Marc's are healthy and positive and lead to strong ties, community, learning, growth.
    I've had a helluva time here in NW Arkansas as there is little opportunity to shoot second and even less (it seems) chance to engage other pros or those aspiring-to-be. While I'm fully-capable of shooting my own gigs, I have to admit I find the idea of shooting second or otherwise assisting to be of infinite value at this point in my career and wish more opportunity existed.
    Money is important, but it isn't everything, and my future value as a first improves with every second/assisting gig I can land. So far, slim pickings, and I'm beginning to think I need to just bite the bullet for push forward solo, else, leave this fly-over region and move to a better market where I can be of good use to seasoned pros and continue to develop my chops.
  29. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I am here to learn not to fight, I have had enough of that in my lifetime." . . .
    and ensure you keep that Butterfly Technique up to par, Dick, the water is very therapeutic.
    Merry Christmas,

    Crikey! my shoulder hurts, I must be getting too old for this s . . . :)
  30. Hey, WW, I swam in the New England Masters at Boston U. last weekend among some 500 swimmers. I got stuck, because of my age, doing the 50M fly in the IM relay. No one else wanted that leg. I have to say, I acquitted myself very well. Water is soothing and all my aches and pains go away in the pool. Swam a couple of thousand meters last night. 1200 of that was six 200 IMs. Merry Xmas WW.
  31. I call like it is. If you can't handle the truth about your own hypocrisy then you shouldn't read my posts. Not paying assistants, no matter what their experience, encourages the degradation of professional photography, monetarily and culturally. If you want to be a professional or own a business, then act like one. Like any other business, pay your employees. Read my posts again and you'll see that this has never been about how I value my time. It's about how I value the time of our future professionals. Get your act(s) together.
    Need some examples of people being paid for their training time? My cousin was recently hired by a pharmaceutical company as a rep. Did they ask him to work for free until he was trained? No, they paid him to study at home for three weeks. My wife's company pays for her to take classes in her field. Seems to me that if you're being specific enough to train someone, " to shoot the wedding in the way I see it," they should be paid for it.
  32. Marc, WW., Dick and anybody else who took the time to see both sides of the coin and posted well written and well thought out responses without resorting to personal insults/derogatory comments: a tremendous thank you for your contributions to the art of photography and this forum!
    I think of it this way: if I had the chance to work with somebody whose work I admired (Bert Stern comes to mind), somebody to learn the tricks of the trade from ... it would be an honor and I'd be more than happy to pay them for the experience and the opportunity.
    We can all agree to disagree but could possibly attempt to do so in a civil manner - which is what I believe the point of this thread was.
  33. The truth? Hmmm?
    A Pharmaceutical Corporation is hardly a solo photographer just eking out a decent living. Your wife works for a company, not a solo, mostly seasonal sub-contractor.
    Fact is, many big companies have cut back on much of this activity due to the horrible economy ... the net result is that new people now don't have any chance. I live in Michigan ... of all the people unemployed in the United States, about 50% of them are in Michigan. People here are cutting wedding expenses to the bone. The alternative to training someone for a cut of the reduced income is to not take on anyone at all. I personally have chosen to continue with an assistant and accept the reduced income. But my kids are already through college, and my wife works in marketing. So far it works ... but if things got worse, I just don't know ...
    Back to some more constructive info ...
    Mitch, yes, I pass some work to Noel when it is clear the client can't afford my services. She has done Senior work and some engagement assignments that way. Likewise, if someone inquires about a wedding Noel will refer them to my website ... unless it's a small budget. When Noel does family portraits or newborn work it brings that client into our collective sphere of influence ... so if some family member or friend of that client is getting married we may have a shot at it. It's just a form of networking. When Noel shoots second for me she's free to post pics on her Facebook page and Blog ... in return she always mentions it was work done for Fotografz.
  34. One last thing: where's Nadine?
  35. SD--I'm here.
  36. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I call it as it is, also.

    I received three unsolicited CV's last month. Two were Photography related; one was related to my other business. In my other business we have downsized in July '09, letting two casual employees go.

    We have no positions to fill, in either enterprise we own. We are all working harder and longer for the same pay.

    I told these facts to the three, seemingly eager young prospects: two just left with a shrug of the shoulder – one very politely extended the conversation, inviting me for a coffee. I accepted. She was an ex-student of an High School with which I had previously been associated – I did not know that when she first arrived, it came out over coffee. She mentioned my previous teaching and my workshops . . .

    Long story short: she talked me into accepting her time (free) to help me out on some gigs I will be doing over Christmas just so she can get some Practical Hours, some Portfolio shots with Studio Name on her CV.

    So that’s the real world, that’s the day to day human interaction on the ground floor.

    And note this mine is a Private Company with two different two income streams and just fewer than 15 employees –

    MOST WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESSES are a single sole trader – ONE Owner/employee, and not the shelter of Insurance and other associated benefits a Private Company provides, which makes it easier (and safer) to take on “staff” for a few hours here and there . . .

    What should I have said to this young woman? Do I do say: “No way, I will not allow you the opportunity learning something for a few hours of your time?” . . . I think not.

    Am I obligated to say: “Oh I respect that you want to give your time to do these charity gigs with me, but I could not stand for that, it is too demeaning for you and the “Profession” of Photography . . . I cannot stand for that, romp up and help me out for a three hours – we might only use 35% of your output and I will arrive 1 hour before I normally would to ensure you are good to go and I will give the lowdown on the logistics that will take another 30 minutes extra for me, and by the way I will pay you $115 an hour, even though I have did not employ my second Photographer, (who has been with me for about 8 years) on the last two Weddings I did, because on the Packages those two B&G chose, to have two Photographers, would have resulted in a net-loss for me . . .

    Get real.

    That’s the real world of small business, and most Wedding Photographers are a small business – I think mine is a just a little bigger, and a bit more diverse than most.

    I just call it as I see it, but I actually do work in it, each day, and have done so for a while.

    Comparing a newbie Photographer asking for an opportunity to learn some to the ropes as an “helper” to the training that a Large Pharmaceutical Company would provide to a (most likely indentured) employee is ridiculous, in the extreme.

  37. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    No one ever wants the 'fly leg - never tell them you can swim 'fly . . . that's the trick, unless of course there is a beer or two in it after the meet - then remember the 'fly leg is the one which always puts the IM team out in front . . . and the 'fly swimmer always needs the most beers . . .
    (Hey it's Christmas - I hope I am allowed a small off topic comment or two - it kinda lightens the load a bit, because for "let's get to gether and have a gab feast topic" . . . some folk seem to want to tear it all apart)
  38. WW. They all know I can swim the fly. I can't get away with anything. In masters they handicap by the total age of the relay team. I am very popular because I am the oldest guy they know who can swim the fly. After all I practice with them. I hold a lot of club age group records because very few have ever swum in my rarified age group. They didn't live that long. WW it is always a pleasure to deal with a gentleman. BTW I ordered a pair of technical jammers tonight. I think they are the only thing that will be legal next year. My Xmas present to myself. Cheers for the holiday.
  39. Folks with less experience ... try forwarding some ideas here on how to increase your value to someone besides working for free. Don't be shy ... and ignore the biting comments if any come ... can't learn without making some mistakes or false starts. Getting started doing this type of thinking is the hardest part ... once the ball is rolling, it gains momentum.
    When I started in advertising I read a quote from a very famous ad agency "personality" ... one of the Guru's ... he said ... "Creative people are like baby birds waiting for Mom to stuff a worm down their throats". Well this cheesed me off no end, and I approached my career with the notion of proving him dead wrong. I innovated ideas for my employers to make more from what they already had ... some were rejected, but I learned from those flops and kept at it. Suffice it to say it paid off.
    Assess your strengths and weaknesses ... for example, Noel is a young mother with 2 little ones. She has a real tangible maternal connection for newborn photography and it shows in her work at which she excels ... that in turn has lead to family portraits. As a Mom, she networks with other moms which leads to more work. All of this effort has impacted Noel's over-all photographic skills and pointed up things she wants to improve ... which is where I can help. I fact, we are meeting next week to do exactly that. In that case, I'm the one who will be "working" for free ... LOL!
  40. If you're struggling, have you ever stopped to think why you're barely making a living?

    Maybe a big part of it is that you've helped perpetuate the downward spiral of rates you complain about. Another photographer at a wedding should translate into extra cost to who is paying, no? Another assistant should cost more money, no? I don't care if your working in Michigan, NYC, or overseas, extra services cost money. When you provide these services to Clients at no additional cost, you create unrealistic financial expectations not only for your client, but to anyone looking for a photographer. Expectations that aren't likely to go away and that can't reasonably continue to be met by the industry and that I'm certain aren't a part of those precious, "business plans" that you're always hankering on about to newbies on this forum. You're not just hurting yourself, but anyone else trying to earn a decent rate.

    In addition, when you ask others to work for free, you lose any legal right to the images they create. Potentially creating scenarios like this:
    Think you can fight it in court? You can't, at least not in NY, because they aren't an employee until you pay them. There is no work-for-hire contract if they don't get paid. I'd be willing to bet that other states are the same. But who cares, right? There are lots of newbies wanting to get into the business ( 3 CVs in a month!), so why not take advantage of their eagerness to learn by working them for free? Keep them off the books so your disability and liability insurance doesn't go up...
    My wife and cousin work for businesses. Businesses that pay their employees. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than this: Businesses pay their employees. You own a business. You should pay your employees.
  41. Senor, we get it. We aren't thick sculled. You made your point and nothing's changed. Some don't agree. Get it?
    BTW, this thread IS NOT about wether people are paid correctly in your opinion.
    You have derailed an honest attempt to get an exchange of ideas going between people at different levels of experience and skill so you can to go on-and-on about your own agenda ... an agenda that added absolutely nothing to any collective knowledge base at either end of the spectrum, and serves to further stir the pot rather than build accord.
    Why not just start your own thread rather than hijacking this one?
  42. I have a couple of people that I regularly use as assistants and 2nds. And yes I pay them.
    I have had brides specifically tell me that they didn't want 2nd's due to the additional expense associated with it. Not a problem, it's their wedding - not mine.
    But if the bride pays and wants a second - I've got them lined up and ready to go.
  43. Honest? I think it's dishonest and unethical not to bring these issues up, especially when educating anyone new to the profession. An educated photographer is your best competition.
    Marc, I didn't address any issue that wasn't in your own open-ended words:
    To the other established pros out there ... think about what's going on in this business. A bunch of inexperienced people are grabbing gigs, often without any experience ... which people keep grousing about. We can counter that by taking on people with potential, guide them, and then use them for gigs we can't afford to do ourselves, or are already booked for ... or to expand out sphere of influence.
  44. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "There are lots of newbies wanting to get into the business ( 3 CVs in a month!), so why not take advantage of their eagerness to learn by working them for free? Keep them off the books so your disability and liability insurance doesn't go up... "
    FWIW, but mostly to document as fact for this archival record: in each case of "Work Experience" and in the case of someone wanting to spend time with me to learn on the job - these folk ARE covered under our Worker's Compensation Act. That is what I alluded to by it being easier for a Private Company allowing these people access to some time at real experience, than what it would be for a Sole Trader. Legal requirements varying across the globe.
    I think also a clear line has to be drawn between those folk who ask to come along for a few hours to get their feet wet, and have very little if no experience and a Second Photographer or Photograph's Assistant.
    There is a vast difference.
    Also, whilst I appreciate the kind-hearted intent to offer assistance and suggestions apropos the mechanisms a business might use to battle through this global economic downturn, I will, with respect decline the advice . . . and: it is off this topic, anyway.
    More on the topic is assessing the "strengths and weakness" one has.
    Often a sheet of blank paper and a list is a good way to begin. But as well as listing strengths and weaknesses list also all connections and associations.
    People from all walks of life get Married and most want Photography.
    At College I initially did a two year Course - during the second year of that Course I began with an established W&P studio. But for the first year I was shooting Football Games on speculation for the local Newspaper . . . it was not until a couple of years later that I realized that my presence on the football field each week established me as "a photographer" and that I could leverage that by constantly mentioning I worked for a Wedding & Portrait studio also . . . that might appear so obvious to many reading this now, but it is not necessarily obvious for the novice.
    So I suggest that a list comprising all your associations is a good idea.
    Like the Mother who is now skilled at Child Portraiture, your entre to Wedding Photography might come through being creative enough to take the Widget Photos at the Light Engineering Shop where your work - or where your Husband works.
    Think laterally, start with a blank sheet and just make a list and then work backwards and ask how each of theses associations could lead you to your goal of meeting with a Photographer or doing Wedding Photography, in some manner or another . . .
  45. Let's bring some clarity to this issue that has come to dominate this thread.
    Assistants and second shooters are usually NOT employees unless they enter into an actual employment contract like with a big studio. Instead, they are independent sub-contractors. If they were "employees" there would be a whole other set of requirements "by law".
    Senor is confusing the two.
    Subcontractors are free to accept or deny any job, they are free to work for other people or for themselves ... They decide the threshold of payment they are willing to work for or not. If they decide to work for free to gain experience that is their decision.
    The photographer hiring a subcontractor is free to set conditions on the business relationship, and the subcontractor is free to take it or leave it.
    I do not subscribe to the notion of non-payment, but fully grasp where some others would take on an assistant for no-pay depending on how much the person has to learn before actually contributing to the photographer's business.
    Which circles back around to the idea of less experienced people assessing their abilities and focusing on how they can be of value to an established photographer ... which was the intent of this thread in the first place.
  46. Excellent suggestions William!
  47. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I do not subscribe to the notion of non-payment, but fully grasp where some others would take on an assistant for no-pay depending on how much the person has to learn before actually contributing to the photographer's business."
    Personally, over the years of reading Photonet, (since about 2000) I have taken a wealth of information and adapted it to my local situation. has been very useful to the business reforming I have accomplished over the past 8 years.
    Because Photonet is USA centric, often I feel I am a viewer looking in on it. That for me has advantage. In many areas the USA's market has been a trend setter for my market, and as I have been capable of picking up on the nuances of styles, trends and customer's "wants" in cities such as NY, Chicago, LA and San Francisco, I feel I have often been one step ahead here, whilst also adapting these nuances to my local market and our (the Studio's) base clientele.
    There are many good minds here at Photonet, it behoves all those who wish to learn and improve to read . . . and to read carefully.
    Read beyond the text . . . and read the ideas.
    Embrace the institutions and the cultures and the ways of other systems; and think how they might be adapted to your own needs and to your own situations . . .
    There are many great ideas to be found.
    "Work Experience" was the brainchild of a Public Educator. A man who saw a need to better equip School Leavers with Practical input and experience well before they decide on College or University course and subjects. It is fully integrated onto most of the Schools here and has the support of many large and small businesses: and at a real cost to the businesses involved.
    But I think most businesses which take on a Work Experience Student for four, six or eight weeks, view it as "giving back" to the local community. We do and that’s why we are involved.

  48. Marc, I'm not confusing anything. My arguments work for both employees and independent contractors. As you can see, it's an issue that I'm very passionate about. I won't continue to beat you over the head about it...
    As a separate issue... Most individuals under the employ of a photographer are not independent contractors, even if the industry continues to treat them so. It can get a bit cloudy, but the IRS has guidelines and laws vary from state to state. But in general, most assistants and second-shooters don't qualify as independent contractors.
    I have a lot of experience in this area, part of it including a close encounter of the third kind with the IRS. Another part involving letters from the state, who were more interested in employee classification for their workers' comp. laws. I pay assistants, tech.s, and 2nd shooters by using a payroll company, which takes care of all the proper withholding, etc. If you or anyone else would like to know more about why your newbies and seasoned shooters are probably classified as employees, I can post more.
    I don't hire anyone without a sense of humor or that doesn't have a driver's license. They need to be interesting. They need to have a calm personality. They need a good set of hands and a strong enough back. For weddings, they need to keep a neat enough appearance and dress accordingly.
  49. Hi Senor. I'm relatively new to this forum so I haven't really learned the personalities here and who is a regular, valuable contributor and who is, well, not. I have to say your earlier posts in this thread had me thinking you were in the latter group. Not so much because of the subject matter but because of the delivery. I should have been cheering you on because you clearly have the up and coming photographer as well as the industry in your best interest. But the antagonistic, confrontational and condescending tone of your posts immediately had me labeling you as one of those trolls you always see stirring stuff up on the other forums. So it was hard to get past that abrasiveness to see your message and that you were indeed passionate about this issue.
    I almost don't believe the above post is by the same person as the previous posts because it is completely opposite in tone, respect and emotion. And because of that it was infinitely more thought provoking for me.
    Obviously I am not suggesting you change just because I respond to 'Senor A' more than 'Senor B.' In fact now that I realize that there is a 'Senor A' I think I will be more able to keep an open mind to 'Senor B' (if that makes sense).
    Of course this is just my own unsolicited personal take and opinion. And who am I but another anonymous person on the internet! Thanks for your passion on this important subject. Happy holidays to you, Senor.
  50. My advice to anyone hiring "freelancers" is to consult your CPA, and not to rely on internet banter regardless of tone, manner, or level of passion.
    But as usual, an off topic poster has rudely hijacked and dominated the thread and effectively killed any tenuous dialog we may have been able to build here. I have received more private e-mails exchanging on-topic ideas than has been posted on this thread where many could benefit from it. Unfortunate.
    Thanks Senor.
  51. Marc,
    I really appreciate this thread. Is there anyway you can start a new thread? I have been asked by multiple people how I got into photography and how I learned so extremely fast. I had friends' eyes bug out when they found out I purchased my first SLR camera only 2 years ago. I told them I had found a mentor and a crash course in photography by reading everything I could to understand. I literally went to Marc with no professional photography experience (no camera either) and a desire to learn.
    Maybe Marc didn't directly say this, but I was paid for every event. My first wedding when I just carried a few bag I was in the way more than anything he still compassionate me for my time. I know a few times I had an issue with a photo and Marc would advise me how to fix it. There was one photo that he took the time to help me with, and the client "Absolutely loved that one!" A photo I would have had to toss if Marc hadn't helped me.
    I did recently do an engagement session for Marc's wedding client, I sold the couple Christmas cards that I created and on the cards I placed on the back. This is one way that I can be a value add for Marc's business.
    Thanks so much Marc for your insight. I am sure many new photogs will love this post!
  52. OT:
    Marc, does Senor remind you of Timber? (if you remember him yourself).
  53. Mark Williams,
    I'd love to work as an assistant to learn the art of wedding and can even try as second shooter if any established Pros letting me to do.
    Before, TONS of appreciations for the vision you have for new emerging photographers.
    I wish everyone should be lucky like you to work with a pro like Marc. I didn't get a chance to see your work yet. But with Marc's appreciation about you shows the dedication of your work. Wish you GOOD LUCK and Keep Going...
  54. I started another thread to explore these ideas further ... without the off-topic diversion into payments.
    There are new ideas that you may want to add your personal insight to.
    Scroll down to "Pros and Newbies: Part 2

Share This Page