Wanted: Professional Photographers’ Assistants

In the title above, the word “Professional” refers to the assistant.

In the U.S., photographers’ assistants may be employees of studios, but often times, they are freelancers, working for different photographers on per project basis.

This is a usual path for those aspiring to turn pro at some future date, although some may stay as freelance assistants, especially if they are popular with photographers and are fully-booked. Or, if they are still students or can’t afford the investment in equipment and facilities needed to offer their services as professional photographers.

In the Philippines, independent photographers’ assistants are usually those who shoot at weddings, and are called “second or third shooters.” Those who work in advertising or portrait photography studios are usually regular employees. If they are lucky, they could get trained and mentored by the studio’s main photographers so that someday, they could become photographers themselves.

At Adphoto, we have four photographers. From time to time, when they have simultaneous shoots, they have a short supply of assistants. Often, we bring in even houseboys to help at shoots. But that’s not the ideal situation.

It would be good if we could call on independent photographers’ assistants. However, while there are many whom we could get as temporary assistants– especially with today’s oversupply of aspiring photographers – we are unable to hire them because they are not registered as a business, and cannot give us official receipts for the payment that they would receive from us.

I have been wondering and wishing that those who want to get into professional photography but are not ready to do so would first get into professional assisting. This means that they would register their business – the business title does not have to be as a photographer’s assistant (or assistant photographer, if this is the title that they prefer) – it could be a registered name that they could continue to use when they turn full pro. The easiest way is to register as a sole proprietorship. Unlike corporations that require a minimum of five incorporators, a sole proprietorship means just that – solo, one, alone.

Armed with a business personality, license and official receipts, they could offer their services to studios like ours, or to other photographers. They could get exposed to the work of different photographers – wedding, fashion, portrait, landscape, editorial, aerial and even become known as specialists in the particular genre that they would like to pursue.

Be a professional photographer’s assistant, anyone?

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Five Tips on Sales Prospecting for Photographers

You’ve earned your degree in photography or you’ve just quit your day job to turn pro, but now, you’re panicking and don’t know how to start!

Take a deep breath, and read these five pointers on how to call on prospective clients.

1. If you don’t have connections, you can make them by cold calling.

We often hear that to get started, you must have connections. You probably depend on your or your parents’ lists of influential friends, or you look for potential clients among your relatives. That works, too, but surprisingly, so does cold knocking. Perfect strangers can turn into perfect clients.

Identify your target market – that largely depends on what kind of photography you would like to do. Make sure you have names and titles of the specific people you should connect to.

John and I started with editorial/magazine photography and moved to advertising photography, so this article may be limited to cold-calling magazine editors and advertising clients. (I hope that other photographers who specialize in other genres of photography would write about their own experiences and give their own pointers on this topic).

In the old days, all we had were telephone directories, which were divided into two sections – the white pages and the yellow pages. I looked into the Yellow Pages that sorted listings into different industries. It had, for example, a list of advertising agencies and magazines.

Since information was sketchy – just the name of company, address and telephone number – we often had to call those phone numbers to get names of people we should talk to.

Now, you can Google and get a lot more information on your target market, but at some point, you would still need to call to ask for the name and position of a particular person whom you should contact.

Get that name and title, and please, don’t ever send out a letter or an email that starts with “Dear Sir/Ma’am.”

2. Persist and persevere because prospecting is a numbers game.

My first experience in selling was peddling encyclopedias door to door. You can’t get sales calling any colder than that. We were specifically prohibited from approaching relatives and friends. After a full morning of salesmanship training and a lunch break, our field manager would gather us – about four per field manager – take us to his car, and drive us to our sales territories. He would choose a central part of the district and tell us to walk the streets of this section of town, with each of us lugging our sales kits and a sample volume of the encyclopedia that we were selling. Each of us worked alone. At not earlier than 10pm, he would come back for us.

Often we were thrown into territories that have been seen every newbie encyclopedia salesman, and door after door, gate after gate, I was being rejected. It was easy to get discouraged but I carried in my head the salesmanship lesson of the day – “Prospecting is a numbers game.” We would be extremely lucky if we made a sale on our first sales call, but if we were to persist and persevere, we were sure to make at least one sale between prospects No. 1 and No. 100. I could not give up at any number because my sales prospect may be the next one. Or, the next one.

3. Prepare an impressive and relevant portfolio.

For tips on how to create a portfolio that could win you clients, read Tony Luna’s “Six Elements of an Effective Presentation.” http://photo.net/learn/photography-business/freelance-photography-advice/presentation/

More than impressive, it should be relevant to your audience. There is no sense in wow-ing your prospect, if they cannot see how they can use your talent and expertise.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice.

Write your own presentation script, and practice it many times until it sounds more conversational. Practice your presentation spiel with a friend. It should not sound like it’s memorized. Instead, it should sound like it’s coming from your heart.

5. Be Confident.

A trick that I also learned during my short stint selling encyclopedias was on how to sound and appear confident. I was told to imagine a check pasted on my prospect’s forehead. The check is written out to me, and the amount is the sales commission I would receive. When I was young and money was scarce, that was enough to make me smile. And when I smiled, my prospect smiled back. With us smiling at each other, it was easy to tell myself, “I can do it. I can do this. Yes, this is a sale.” It didn’t always work, but many times, it did. ☺