Photo Assistant

A lot of people sneer at the notion of assisting at photo shoots for free. I know, time is money, but:

Seriously, assisting is invaluable, priceless, even. Ok, I wouldn’t exactly pay to be asked to hold the reflector, move the lights or boil the kettle for endless cups tea. But there is a huge benefit in assisting other photographers with their work: You pick up their tricks – or you learn from their mistakes. The latter is what I experienced on a recent bout as an assistant at a commercial shoot. There were a few things that were what I surreptitiously would call “sub-optimal” – but I wonder whether I have the wrong end of the stick, here. So I would appreciate your opinion on the issues we experienced. Please comment, if you have one (opinion, that is).

Corporate headshots was what was on the cards at the shoot. After a few testshots, the photographer concluded that there was not enough light coming from the brolli light – despite the light flashing at highest setting. We were in a really bright room with lots of south-facing windows around noon in early spring. Light was streaming into the room. How come she had to go up to ISO 400 and shoot at 1/80? Presumably a really small aperture?

The set up was a grey backdrop from which the subjects were going to sit about 1,5 m away. I assume the photographer wanted them so far away to avoid shadows on the backdrop. Also, the backdrop was a bit creased, so the photographer didn’t want those creases to show. However, the light was 2m away from the sitters. I suggested moving the light closer to the subjects working on the assumption that the further away you move the light, the less intense it is. Therefore, if you moved it closer, it would get brighter. The photographer didn’t try that, though… Instead she decided to put a diffuser on a speedlight and I was to hold it up and illuminate the subjects with that. And in place of the reflector the brolli lamp was used to cancel out shadows on the other side of the sitter. What do you think about that kind of set-up?? This was not particularly effective – as I found it difficult to hold the speedlight up and direct it properly at the sitters. Nonetheless – my ridiculous enactment of a 21st century version of the Statue of Liberty probably worked well for putting a continuous smile on the sitters’ faces… (not on mine, though…)

Anyway, if you have any comments, I’d love to hear what you think about this?

2 thoughts on “Photo Assistant

  1. Danuta

    Hi Sonja! I am recently assistning photographer from time to time for free- and as you say, nothing wrong with that ifyou could learn and get some experience:) What I noticed thought, our college education was invaluable – I think that I do know about lighting more than my professional, who did not get formal education.Good for us:)


  2. Sonja

    Thanks for your comment, Danu, and yes, I agree: I think we did learn a lot! And it seems we do not have to put our light under the bushel at all.



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