2nd shooting or assisting

Joined
May 11, 2011
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SLO,CA
Ok everybody I'm looking for help. I've been seriously looking to 2nd shoot/assist with a photographer for weddings. I'm not having any luck. I dont have experience with weddings and I eventually would like to start doing them. But I dont want to go tackle it until I've assisted for at least a few and 2nd shot for some.

Any advice on how to reach out to other local photographers? It seems pretty difficult to get in with anybody.
 
Joined
May 1, 2005
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1,200
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Warwick, N.Y.
Real Name
John DeSanto
Walter is absolutely correct: The days of pro photographers helping others learn the craft are dead. Dead and gone. Dead and gone and buried.

That's because the old "get a pro to teach you" model is dead and gone and buried as well. In truth, it only worked for years because in the 70's, 80's, and 90's only a very few people ever wanted to be pro photographers.The equipment was big and heavy and dumb and the educational curve was steep. So approaching a professional and becoming an apprentice and spending 5-10 years learning the ropes was a viable plan. The exact same path that carpenters, plumbers, and roofers still travel today, I would point out.

It worked just fine because it scaled correctly: X-amount of pro photographers existed, x-amount retired every year and were replaced by approximately the same amount of apprentices ready to join the ranks. The model was balanced and sustainable.

But these days everybody and their crippled grandmother picks up a camera, takes a pretty picture of a barn and suddenly dreams of becoming a pro photographer. So they grab a URL, fake a bio, print up business cards, steal some online photos and away they go.

Talent? Experience? Knowledge? Equipment? Apparently, that ain't part of the equation anymore.

So, not surprisingly, the apprenticeship model has completely broken down because the scale has broken down. The model is no longer sustainable because the field is now inundated with pretend photographers turning out pure photographic crap while looking to "make a little cash" on the side (wink, wink) because really - you know, how tough can it be?

And since the advent of cellphone cameras, the entire universe has suddenly decided that blurry photos are perfectly acceptable - thanks Facebook - and so we are left with a millions of bad photos flying around the Internet and dumbing down the entire photographic ecosystem.

But after years of complete lunacy, pro photographers are finally - FINALLY! - fighting back. It's too late, of course. But at least the industry is finally fighting back.

Just so you know, I used to help train young photographers all the time. Fact is, I still lecture to camera clubs, community colleges and the occasional high school class. I shoot assignments for local newspapers and magazines seven days a week. I shoot high school and college sports and ad campaigns and house fires and boring politicians. I've photographed presidents, kings and even the Dalai Lama once. Nice guy. (Really.) And as my job as DoP at a regional newspaper, I hire local pro photographers five times a day. Sometimes more - but don't tell my boss that.

But I am absolutely finished helping 20-somethings, moms-with-cameras and laid-off prison guards learn the ropes in wedding photography only to have them second shoot at five weddings and suddenly proclaim themselves to be "pros" and try to take my business away. Five weddings as a second shooter and they're friggin' "pros." (Gimme me a break.) Photography is my job - every day, all the time. No tricks, no gimmicks. No cheesy website music. No hokey Instagram filters. No tilted horizons. No weird color processing. I leave the trickery to the shamateurs.

But I do protect my business like a tiger-momma protecting her cubs. So when I speak to clients and business and students I point out how bad the fake pros are. Believe it or not, my workload has doubled since I've begun educating local clients as to the pitfalls of using shamateurs for anything - not just photography. But I live in a small town and so word-of-mouth has a larger impact around these parts.

Which is not to say that some cheapskate business owner or family doesn't hire the low-ball photographer anyway. They do. (Of course they do.) In fact, every time I turn around someone is out starting a new photography business in my hometown. Generally they last about a year or so and then call it quits, soon to be replaced by another pretender. (Boy I could tell you some stories on this front.)

Let's just make this one point abundantly clear: Faking your way to gain traction in a field - any business field - is not a good model and low-balling the competition in order to gain clients is even worse.

My business workload and profits have grown tremendously since I began educating clients about the pitfalls of using pretend photographers. Yes, I am generally acting like a complete photographic jerk here. My pro photographers friends say my diva routine is actually a form of pre-qualifying my wedding clients. And they may be correct on that point because I don't get phone calls from any more bridezillas.

So I'm betting the real pro photographers in the San Luis Obispo area are in the same boat when it comes to protecting their business from intruders.

And while we are on the subject, a "professional" in any field as defined by the IRS (and really, who else matters on the subject) is someone who makes 51 percent or more of their total income in a given field. (Quality of work doesn't come into play.) So you couldn't be both a pro roofer and a pro photographer. Fifty-one percent mandates that it's either one or the other. End of discussion.

In my neck of the woods - Hudson Valley, N.Y. - there are maybe a dozen fulltime pro photographers (and I know them all) and literally hundreds of teachers, cops and housewives running around playing pretend photographer with real websites, fake bios and very little experience and talent. All of them trying grab a slice of the photography pie because - as we all know - there ain't that many jobs out there. But as the pie gets sliced thinner and thinner, you also can't blame the real pros for shouting "ENOUGH - GO AWAY! GO PLAY IN SOMEBODY ELSE'S SANDBOX!"

And that's what you - as a wannabe photographer - are up against.

Look, I've got 41 years in this business and four more to go. I have a nice lifestyle, a good home, three nice cars, I take good vacations and I'm putting one daughter through college now. And 100 percent of my income comes from photography. Always has, always will. But I would have to be absolutely crazy to continue to help people to learn the ropes, only to have them turn around and try to eat my lunch.

Nope. Not doing that no more, no more.

These days the photography equipment is smarter and lighter and automatically does things that it used to take years to learn.That's good because the learning curve is not so steep and more people gain access to the world of photography. But today's uber-cameras can only nail the exposure part of the equation. They do nothing to help if you don't have the experience, knowledge, posing techniques and artistic eye required to actually be a professional photographer. And I haven't even mentioned the emotional aspects of pro photography - which are literally half the battle.

In a way, I feel bad for you. Because you are actually trying to do it right by looking for an apprenticeship first - instead of just jumping into the pond. But the waves of amateur photographers who have come before you have polluted the waters. ("Hey. How hard can it be?" Wink, wink.)

Just last week I had a another mom-with-camera approach me and ask if I would "teach her how to use her studio lights" because I was a real pro and she had no idea how to use them. (Now this has happened three of four times in the last 12 years.) Of course, she already had business cards printed up - why do people always do that first? - and a website and she was out there trolling for business. (My business as it turns out.)

So my answer was very easy: No.

Yes, Walter is absolutely right - but he's a gentleman so he says it nicer than I do. (And quicker)
 
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Joined
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Portage, IN
This was my biggest hurdle when I started shooting weddings. Finally, I realized I would just have to dive in and shoot by myself. Practice your craft! Hone your skills, shoot at family events, put out "model calls" trade some portraits for portfolio shots(be honest that your working on some new stuff etc.). Good luck,

Micah
 
Joined
Jul 30, 2006
Messages
11,635
Location
Southern California
@John - John, I've heard this from you and other pros before, I know where you are coming from, and I actually agree with most/all of what you said. At the same time, it's that type of attitude from the pros that force those of us ameteurs who honestly desire to learn/improve/make something out of it to do this on our own. Which in turn raises the ire of the same pros who turn us down in the first place! I have no desire at this point in my life to make my sole income from photography. But, I have taken a number of college course in the subject area, read books, spent years trying to improve on my own, when I finally decided a few years ago that I would like to do more. I called every photographer in the area and received either no reply or a turn down. I finally got one studio photog to take me on, but because I am not as interested in that as I am in shooting weddings, and because he was a pompous pig who wouldn't let me actually shoot with him after a year of tutelage, I gave that up. Every spring I call local wedding photogs in the hopes of landing a summer second shooting job, but to no avail. Sigh. I can't blame you, but at the same time, I can. :confused:
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2006
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4,584
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Columbia, Maryland
Real Name
Walter Rowe
This website, http://www.1prophoto.com/blog/, lets you advertise yourself as a potential assistant. I think where you live can impact your ability to find a willing pro who would take you on. Larger population areas always have pros who need assistants on-call for shoots. There are well known pros who still advocate coming up through the ranks as an assistant under someone else before you break out on your own. I think John's advice is accurate for where he lives and areas like his. I also think if you lived in NYC, LA, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, or other major urban areas, you would find plenty of photographers needing help and willing to hire a full or part time assistant. If you really want to be an assistant and learn the ropes of a photo business, embrace that role and pursue it with all gusto. Sell yourself as that role to potential employers. You may end up liking that. There are studios that have studio managers, assistants and image management staff. You just have to be in an area where they live.
 
Joined
May 1, 2005
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Location
Warwick, N.Y.
Real Name
John DeSanto
Thanks Shaun and Walter for what is a NikonCafe rarity these days: A thoughtful response.

The problem, as I know you are aware Shaun, is this - the situation is not reciprocal. For example, I am actually a pretty good teacher but artificial barriers prevent me from moonlighting as a teacher or police officer or firefighter or prison guard or roofer, plumber, carpenter, electrician, insurance agent, lawyer, doctor, hair stylist, yoga instructor, or even massage friggin' therapist.

But anyone can print up a business card and begin calling themselves a pro photographer.

Now, you could say that those artificial barriers exist for good reasons - health and safety among the foremost. But you could also argue that those barriers exist because the unions representing those professions are strong. You could argue that those artificial barriers exist, in some small part, to keep some people in and others out. In the case of professional photography our organization - the Professional Photographers Association - is absolutely useless. A photographer doesn't have to be any good at the craft to be a member in good standing with the PPA. Heck, a photographer doesn't even have to own a camera to be a member in good standing with the PPA. (The only requirement is that the photographer's $350 check doesn't bounce. Sheeesh.)

So mix in a very bad economy and you end up with teachers, police officers, prison guards, etc. looking to make a little extra moola on the side and storming the gates of the pro photography world because, really how tough can it be (wink, wink). These moonlighting "pro" photographers mostly produce non-professional results but who cares, really: Money is money. So you can't blame real photographers from trying to erect artificial barriers on their own in response. The theory: Because the PPA is so weak, pro photographers have to be strong individually and do something to shut the doors.

And that's exactly what's happening.

You could also argue, if you like, that some amateur photographers produce better results than some professional photographers. And, of course, you would be correct. But that dynamic exists in all professions: Some people are better teachers than professional teachers. Some people would be better police officers than real police officers. Really, that situation exists across every profession so let's not even go there. But, more to the point, anyone pretending to be a professional in any field while producing less than professional results is bad - regardless of the task. Specific to photography, as Walter points correctly out, suburban and rural areas have this problem much more than urban areas.

I am literally surrounded by pretend pro photographers producing photographic crap and getting away with it. Add a healthy dose of the "fake it until you make it" world of social media and the whole system breaks down. Really, does anyone think Angie's List is a good idea? How about we start a rating system for plumbers and roofers to rate Angie's clients instead? ("Her legs were hairy, her kids were bratty and her check bounced.") Is it really a good thing to have non-professionals doing the work or even voicing their opinion on any topic without first having some level of expertise in the field?

I think not.

But that's the world we now live in. It doesn't matter what your level of expertise is on any subject - we are all gonna be subjected to your opinion anyway. So when people ask, as they often do, how is the NikonCafe different from 6-7 years ago? Well, that is the reason right there. It used to be that the people with talent and experience would step up and answer questions from the newbies. Nowadays, everybody chimes in with their opinion regardless of whether or not they have a clue. So all the responses become useless because picking and choosing the right answer from all the wrong answers becomes a crapshoot.

Call me crazy, but I am personally offended when a stay-at-home mom gets a camera as a gift and two years later opens up a children's photography business pretending to be a professional and has no idea how to properly light or pose the child. (Three of 'em in my town.) I am personally offended when a firefighter starts moonlighting as a portrait photographer and has no idea of proper lighting ratios or posing techniques. (Five of those around me.) And I am personally offended when a college student graduates with a degree in Anthropology and can't find a job (imagine that) and so decides to be a wedding photographer because she just "luvs, luvs, luvs" photography. And she only shoots "natural" images because she has no friggin' idea how to use her one flash unit. (Dozens of these in my neck of the woods.)

Of course, the floodgates are already open and there is no going back. Photography as a career is dead and never coming back. That's because the waters are so muddied that clients can no longer discern the difference between good photos and bad. Professional posing is a lost art. Professional lighting is lost on the potential client. Yup, the war is over and bad photography has won the battle.

While all this may sound a little disjointed, it isn't. My overall view has been the same for the past 50 years or so: 1) If you don't know what you are doing - don't do it. 2) If you don't know what you are talking about - shut up. (But of course that would leave the Internet with no content whatsoever.)

You should know that the people at work call me John Quixote and it's certainly appropriate. (Somebody please explain that reference to the 20-somethings. Thanks.)
 
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Well I waited a few days to reply to get the majority of responses in. And I pretty much learned what I expected. "The days of pro photographers helping others learn the craft are dead." And thats understandable considering the saturation the field has seen with the digital age. I took photography back in high school right when digital cameras were coming around. They hadn't reached 12 megapixels yet and I remember my teacher telling me they wouldn't take over film until they got there. Well 12 years later and they're over 20 with some even up to 40 megapixels.

But back to the subject. The best thing I've learned from this is "your on your own". I'm not one to go print my own cards now and charge someone $3000 for a weddding. I've been learning photography on my own for the past 5 years and I think I've done pretty well. I think I'll invest some more $$$ in photography courses and education since its pretty obvious that..."I'm on my own." Who knows, maybe when I've been doing it for 50 years I'll have the same view points as John. Maybe not. I beleive that you get what you put out. But it must be frustrating to see people popping up out of the woodwork and charging people when they have no talent or know how. But I feel like that still makes it hard when there's a person that comes around that has lagitimately put in the effort to learn the trade and know what and how composition, the rule of thirds, inverse square law and so many other things work to bring together an image. I guess perseverance is key
 
Joined
Jul 30, 2006
Messages
11,635
Location
Southern California
Thanks Shaun and Walter for what is a NikonCafe rarity these days: A thoughtful response.

1. The problem, as I know you are aware Shaun, is this - the situation is not reciprocal. For example, I am actually a pretty good teacher but artificial barriers prevent me from moonlighting as a teacher or police officer or firefighter or prison guard or roofer, plumber, carpenter, electrician, insurance agent, lawyer, doctor, hair stylist, yoga instructor, or even massage friggin' therapist.

But anyone can print up a business card and begin calling themselves a pro photographer.

Now, you could say that those artificial barriers exist for good reasons - health and safety among the foremost. But you could also argue that those barriers exist because the unions representing those professions are strong. You could argue that those artificial barriers exist, in some small part, to keep some people in and others out. In the case of professional photography our organization - the Professional Photographers Association - is absolutely useless. A photographer doesn't have to be any good at the craft to be a member in good standing with the PPA. Heck, a photographer doesn't even have to own a camera to be a member in good standing with the PPA. (The only requirement is that the photographer's $350 check doesn't bounce. Sheeesh.)





2. I am literally surrounded by pretend pro photographers producing photographic crap and getting away with it. Add a healthy dose of the "fake it until you make it" world of social media and the whole system breaks down. Really, does anyone think Angie's List is a good idea? How about we start a rating system for plumbers and roofers to rate Angie's clients instead? ("Her legs were hairy, her kids were bratty and her check bounced.") Is it really a good thing to have non-professionals doing the work or even voicing their opinion on any topic without first having some level of expertise in the field?

I think not.



3. Call me crazy, but I am personally offended when a stay-at-home mom gets a camera as a gift and two years later opens up a children's photography business pretending to be a professional and has no idea how to properly light or pose the child. (Three of 'em in my town.) I am personally offended when a firefighter starts moonlighting as a portrait photographer and has no idea of proper lighting ratios or posing techniques. (Five of those around me.) And I am personally offended when a college student graduates with a degree in Anthropology and can't find a job (imagine that) and so decides to be a wedding photographer because she just "luvs, luvs, luvs" photography. And she only shoots "natural" images because she has no friggin' idea how to use her one flash unit. (Dozens of these in my neck of the woods.)



While all this may sound a little disjointed, it isn't. My overall view has been the same for the past 50 years or so: 1) If you don't know what you are doing - don't do it. 2) If you don't know what you are talking about - shut up. (But of course that would leave the Internet with no content whatsoever.)

You should know that the people at work call me John Quixote and it's certainly appropriate. (Somebody please explain that reference to the 20-somethings. Thanks.)
Please, John Quixote, tilt at all the photographic windmills you want, it may actually do some good! :tongue:

I just wanted to respond to a couple of your points that I found interesting to discuss. I added numbers into the quotation of your post, so I hope you don't mind :smile:.

1. While I'm not ready to discuss those artificial barriers themselves, nor their merits/negatives, I do have to say that they are there in certain fields, for better or worse. I would not want to place a 911 call and have an untrained officer respond. I would not want to send my children to a school where the teachers are not trained or certified. But the major difference between the examples you give and the field of photography is that photography falls into the category of the arts, and historically "the arts" are not treated under the same umbrella as those other professional fields. One does not need a degree in order to be a true artist. Talent yes, degree no. My main beef with those of us (I am a teacher) moonlighting as photographers comes from the business aspect. Actually several beefs. First, most of those desiring to or actually photographing weddings, portraits, etc. on the side never bother to legalize what they do, from a business, tax, or insurance point of view. And in light of this, they can exist not due to any business acumen, but rather due to having very little overhead costs, as well as not feeling the pressure to make a real living off of the work. Even as a part-timer, I hold business licenses, and FBN, and IRS tax ID, etc. And I'm certainly not going to undercut a pro's pricing simply because I can. I am certainly cheaper than a pro for the simple fact that I don't have the experience nor am I as good, therefore I charge based on what I think is my merit. Each year the prices go up! :wink:

2. 3. You say, on one hand, as a pro you see no point nor benefit in teaching/training a wannabe photog, but on the other hand, you constantly are irritated by and complain about those wannabes without proper training. Have you considered continuing to do some training with wannabe photogs that show actual promise... in this way you could stand confident that at least one of those MWACs, one of those firefighters, and one of those college students actually know what they are doing, trained by your professional hand...??? I understand the fear of training the competition, but quite honestly, most of us who do photography on the side are quite happy with our full-time jobs. Photography is a hobby that we happen to enjoy, have a passion for, hopefully have a talent for, but will never replace our regular jobs, therefore minimalizing how much work we are realistically able to "steal" from the pro...

Just a few things to consider from the other side of the fence.
 
Joined
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Warwick, N.Y.
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John DeSanto
Hey Shaun:

Thanks once again for your intelligent response.

Truth be known, I do train aspiring news photographers all the time.

As DoP of a regional newspaper I hire photographers every day and so I am constantly looking for new talent and training that talent. Because to be a photojournalist these days, you have to be good at a lot of different things. However, I am also subjected to a dailly dose of emails saying "I tired of working at Wal-Mart and so would you hire me as a photographer?" Most of these people don't even own the most basic equipment or even have enough knowledge to know that they don't have the most basic equipment.

So that certainly taints my thinking.
 
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