If you work with me on location, there’s pretty much a constant refrain of me shouting, “Alan!”
“Alan, can I get my 1.4x extender?” “Alan, I need the power cable for the laptop.” “Alan, can we get a head with an umbrella out that window, and then flag it so the reflection doesn’t show in the glass tile behind the stove?”
A good Photo Assistant (“PA”) can absolutely make or break a shoot, so today we’re going to hear from mine: Alan Vance. I get emails every week from people offering to assist me for free, but they don’t always realize just what a skilled position they’re asking for. Carrying gear around is only a tiny, tiny piece of the puzzle. A good PA can work very closely with the photographer, and handle complex technical tasks with a huge variety of equipment.
You wanna be a photo assistant? You’d better be intimately familiar with equipment from Broncolor, Elinchrom, ProPhoto, Dynalite, Arri, Lowell, Photek, Matthews, Manfrotto, Arca, Westcott, Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, Phase One, Lee, and more. You’d better be able to troubleshoot Capture One, Lightroom, or Canon Digital Photo Pro. You’d better be able to use a light meter – preferably your own. You’d better know how to assemble any model of softbox, and in a hurry. You’d better know what I mean when I say, “Get two Inkies with baby plates and light this to f/13, and gel them with a half cut of minus green. Then get a head with a shoot-through and put it down at the end of that hallway. Have some CTO ready for that one. Might have to flag it off the ceiling. And we’re going to put some SB-80s over the valence, there. See that little shadow? I want you to kill it.” And then make it all happen. Yeah, it’s a big job, and not just anyone can do it.