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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Potential customers and respect.

Respect is important no matter where you are. The professional photographic community is
a small world when it comes to reputations. In most cases, attitudes cost jobs and money.
A client is a customer and by that very aspect they get treated like they have a million dollar
job and they want you to shoot it for them. Its the same going down the ladder. An assistant
builds their reputation by serving the photographer. An experienced assistant can just about
anticipate the photographer's needs, if not at the very least listens and gets the job done. An
experienced assistant never forgets who their client is.

I'll tell you about three assistants I've had some kind of experience with over the years. I wont be mentioning names or gender because I'm not out there to hurt anybody. One of them I have
no idea as to their status nor do I care (As you'll understand why in the next paragraph), one is actively involved in the local industry, quite good at their job but dismissive of those whom are not well established in their eyes., and one who has gone on to be a highly competent
professional shooter who has built a great reputation and portfolio.

The first one was an angry know-it-all. I was at a social gathering for photographers and assistants a few years ago and was sitting at a table involved in a conversation with a few of each. One of the assistants was talking about how their studio strobe equipment was just sitting in a closet gathering dust from not being used. This assistant also was talking rather poorly of the market, the people in it in general. Some of us were talking about our favorite lighting equipment and I mentioned one particular piece I had and how happy I was with it. The bitter one commented to me "Well, that look is overrated." in an extremely condescending and arrogant tone to which I inquired how they knew exactly what I was shooting with it and the conclusion they had drawn. Instead of realizing their mistake they continued to speak like they had far greater experience than they actually had. This was when I noticed quite a few eyes at the table starting roll up. I then chose to tell this person that maybe there was another reason as to why that fancy strobe equipment of theirs was never getting used. This didn't stop them one bit- They were on a roll. I then asked for a business card and as it was handed me I was asked if I wanted to know their rates. I told this person that I wasn't interested in the rate. I just wanted to have their card so I'd remember who NOT to hire.

The second one is the perfect example of how to not treat a potential client. To an assistant, the photographer is the client. I got the impression from this assistant that I was not well established enough to want to work for and having my name on their resume would mean nothing. Almost every time I encountered this one I would eventually be treated to a dismissive attitude. If I was talking to other people and this assistant was present I would sooner or later see an eye roll. I had invited this assistant to come check out my studio (An invitation I extend to almost all I meet) and was usually treated to a negative response regarding how far away my studio was. At a recent gathering I bought this assistant a drink and they couldn't be troubled to even say thank you, along with appearing to forget that I had a studio in the first place. The final straw for me was a recent online conversation where I was treated to a rather arrogant explanation of something they did and that was enough for me. One more I will never hire.

The last one? I met him while working as an assistant for another photographer about 6 years ago. This one was diligent, attentive, never contradicted or argued and had a great attitude. Three years later when I had a shoot where I needed an assistant this one was the first to come to mind. The shoot went very well because of how my needs were anticipated and met at every turn. This particular assistant has since gone on to be a highly accomplished photographer and each year their client list and professional portfolio grows. I'm always happy to run into this particular shooter and hear that they are doing well.

Going up that ladder, those above you are potential clients. Be it an assistant working for a photographer or a photographer shooting for a client. Customer service and respect never changes.