Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just the facts Ma'am...

The story you are about to read is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty)...

Recently a photo assistant, let's call him Adam, was contacted by a well known photographer, let's call him Ted. Ted had heard good things about Adam and needed an assistant for several days in an upcoming week. He asked Adam to tentatively pencil it in to his calendar.

Time went by and Adam started getting calls from other photographers requesting those same days. Adam called Ted and asked if the dates had been confirmed. Ted told Adam to hold Tuesday and Wednesday as definites. Adam agreed, and turned down jobs from other photographers for both of the confirmed dates.

Just 24 hours before the first shoot, Adam received an email from Ted that said "Looks like the only day that's confirmed is Wednesday... The other shoot will have to be rescheduled." Adam was not sure what to do. He had turned down work for Tuesday, and felt entitled to a cancellation fee. But, he had not discussed that with Ted. He also figured he would still get the job at a later date. In order to keep a good working relationship with Ted, he decided not to charge him, or even to mention the issue.

Tuesday came around, and Adam had no work. At the end of the day he got a call from a friend and fellow assistant, Pam. Pam told Adam about the cool assisting job she had that day with a guy named Ted. It turned out, Ted's job was not canceled after all. He had just used a different assistant. Adam was understandable very upset.

The next day (Wednesday) Adam assisted Ted. He asked Ted if Tuesday's job had been rescheduled yet, knowing full well that it had actually happened. Ted said, "Oh I ended up shooting it without an assistant, because of security issues." Adam knew that Ted had just lied right to his face.

Adam did not mind that Ted had hired Pam, just that Ted had canceled on him first, and that Ted had lied to him. Moreover, Adam was upset because he had gone out of his way to be nice to Ted, not even charging him a cancellation fee.

The moral of the story: Adam mishandled the situation from the beginning. He should have been clear about his policies. And, he should have charged Ted for the cancellation. It would have been different if Adam had a well established "give and take" relationship with Ted. But, since he did not know Ted and had not worked with him before, he should not have gone out of his way to be nice.

As business people, whether photographers or assistants, we have to stand up for ourselves. Otherwise, our clients will walk all over us.


Tyler said...


I am a new photographer in the DC area trying to get my foot in the door for assisting. I have assisted before and I want to get into the market in the DC area, but as a young man who has moved here fresh from Arizona I have found it hard to find my way in. Do you have any pointers. I have a site that displays my portfolio: Thanks for reading this and I would love to hear back from you.


virginia photographer said...

So are Adam and Pam dating now? After all together they got all the loot.
Ted is a lying bag-o'sh'it as all his friends knew him to be.
Ted also proved himself to be an uptight prick for inflating his own talents and boasting that he gets all the money he ever asks for.

Good ol' Ted - what a wanker.

Washington DC Photographer said...

Hi Tyler, you seem like you're more of a shooter than an assistant. But, if you want to break into the assisting market, you should start going to the meetings of the various local professional organizations (e.g. ASMP, APA). All the big names go, and it's great for networking. Also, put yourself on the ASMP assisting list. A lot of photographers use it as a resource.

Rhea said...

I agree with Virginia Photographer that "Ted" is a wanker. That's the only logical conclusion I could draw from the facts! But, at the risk of sounding like your grandpa or something, I'll say it sounds like you've learned a valuable lesson.