Working with an Assistant
A lot of people have asked me over the course of these 30 days. Could you do what you do without an assistant? You know, especially with off camera lighting? The answer is no. I could not do what I do without an assistant. It's not because I'm not capable. It's not because I don't know what I'm doing. It's because having that other person there with me frees me up to just shoot. She parks the car. She brings us peanut butter. Ingelise. She makes sure whenever I put a camera down, it gets picked up. She makes sure that we packed everything up. When we go from one place to another, she holds the light. She shoots a little. There's there's nothing that she really can't do when it comes to handling the wedding day. Could I put a bunch of external flashes on, you know, light stands and move them around all day long? I could, but why would I want to do that like that? Just sounds like no fun whatsoever. So in the early days of my career, I did shoot by myself. But I also did realize that the...
re was a point at which I needed another body to help me do the things that I wanted to dio. So when you're looking for an assistant, what are you looking for? I'm looking for someone who will assist me. I don't want another photographer. I don't want the quickest way to ensure that I will never hire you as an assistant is to email me and say I'm looking to start my own wedding photography business. I want to see how you do what you do. Can I come assist you at a few weddings? No, you cannot. And I'm not saying that to be disrespectful. And I know that it takes a lot to email a photographer that he's never met. And ask them if you can come help them out. But I'm not gonna teach you on my client's time. You can't come watch me work. You can't stand in the background and watch me work. I've had people ask if they could just shadow me at a wedding. And you can't because falling am a photographic educator. I am also a wedding photographer. And when I'm at work with my clients, I'm at work for my clients. I'm not there to teach you. You cannot shadow me. I don't care if you promise you'll be quiet. That's not a learning environment. It's not. So the type of person that I want as an assistant is someone who likes photography but has no interest whatsoever in starting their own career. Because I know that that person is their toe work. You know, you don't have to have a photography background to be a photography assistant. I could teach anybody to do what I need them to do. I would rather have somebody who needs a solid part time job on Saturdays, then somebody who wants to take this as a stepping stone to creating their own business. So when I started looking for an assistant, that's exactly what I was looking for. When I lived in Florida, the woman that worked with me loved photography, occasionally shot but, you know, wanted a job that should provide for her kids. Great. That was perfect. Now she owns her own company, and she's phenomenal. She's doing great. She's very, very, very talented. But that's not what she was doing while she was working with me. And I'm not trying to be rude or take my toys and not let anybody play with um But I need to take care of my clients. I need someone who's sole. Focus is helping me do that. Not trying to figure out what they can get out of that for themselves. So the job any at what is the job anyhow, Before you go look for an assistant, you need to be very clear on what you need them to do for you. I need someone who can drive my car. I need someone who can park my car. I need someone who can think fast on their feet, someone who doesn't stress out when people yell someone who could be quiet and not talk all day long. That's the worst is an assistant who thinks they have toe chat with the clients all day long at a very specific set of requirements before I went out looking for somebody when I moved up to New York. So when you are looking for someone, you need to be able to say these air what I need from you, this is what I need you to be able to dio. I don't need you to understand photography, but I need you to be willing to have me tell you what you need to dio. And how did I find someone? I found Sandra on Twitter. I put out a call on Twitter. I said, I am moved to New York. I'm looking for a Philadelphia based assistant for the weddings that I have out in Philly. If anyone is interested here is my email address hit me up. Sandra was one of the first people that responded, who had a grasp on the English language and how to use grammar and how to spell her words. And if she was applying for a job, most everyone else emailed and wrote to me about what they would get out of working with me. That's not what I'm looking for. I'm hiring help. I'm not looking for someone to mentor, and I'm not trying to be rude, but that's very different. Like I said, it's very different from what I do educationally. So we emailed back and forth. She came to a wedding with me. We got along great. She came to another wedding with me. We got along great. We kept getting along great, and eventually I started asking her to come upon the train to help me out in New York, and now she helps me with everything. If she's not busy birthing a child or, you know, attaining, you know, it's some really important family function. She's with me for almost every single wedding. I think. Last year we had 54 weddings. She was with me for 50 of them. I love her. How do you trust someone that's hard? How do you trust someone You're just dating for the first time? You know, you don't the first time you go out on a job and you don't the second time you go out on a job or the third or fourth or fifth, you have to give it time before you really develop our relationship with the And I mean, she's my best friend, you know, besides my husband, she's the person closest to in the entire world, and that is a lovely perk of what happened with us. I'm not saying that's gonna happen to everybody said, For some people, your assistance, just your employees. But that doesn't mean you can't trust them and build a really great relationship with them. And because of what we do because of the nature of how this is trust is incredibly important. What if it doesn't work out? It doesn't work out. It doesn't work out. Find somebody else. Not every employees you hire is going to be a right fit. Whether you find out two months and or two years in, try to improve the relationship. If it doesn't improve, cut your losses and move on. How do I pay her? I write her a check at the end of every single wedding. Usually when I remember sometimes I forget after Writer two checks on another day. She is not an employee with Susan Stripling photography. She is considered casual labour, so I write her a check as needed. And she's 10 99 at the end of the year. And how do I keep her happy? I just try a nice tour. I did not mean I If I give her raises, I give her hazard pay When the day is really hard. I don't yell like we've been together so long now that it is a very symbiotic relationship on a lot of people write and say, Well, how have you kept her with you? for five years. I don't know. I just like to think that if she was really unhappy and her job, she tell me and I try to fix it just like you would with any other employer employee relationship. And as we've talked about for every single thing. Otherwise, it's managing expectations what I need from you. And it's not just what I need from her. What does she need to get out of the job? You know what does she is why she's showing up every single Saturday. So we're gonna talk about setting up the gear. But before we do that, we bring her out. Let's see how to Sandra, I thought, I think this is officially the best creative life ever. Um, so this is Sandra. Very beautiful. This is funny on, and her Children are watching today. The church Children have watched every single one of these creative live episodes on. I know that seeing their mom on TV right now is probably like creating some warped in their universe of like, Oh, my God. Why is my mom and my so hello, little cross Children? Hopefully they will enjoy this. I don't know if they have taken away anything from it other than its Miss Susan on TV for the past 30 days. But hopefully they're enjoying this. So hi. Hi. Hi. Can I just say I want to hide in my husband and my baby's love? You guys all? I miss him. Do you really? To You seem to be having an awful lot of fun just walking around Seattle yesterday. Yeah, no one needed you. And no one said mommy or who? Mommy? No, it was great. We did nothing yesterday. It was gorgeous. So what I thought we should dio kind of to help. Everybody is to sort of talk throughout the day, go from the beginning of the day to the end of the day and talk about how we do things so that you can kind of get a sense. And if you've been watching this the whole way, you've seen her in all of these videos, and you've seen her in all of these days and seeing sort of what she does to help in what she does of, you know, in her own unique self throughout the day. But I figured if we just did a brief recap of the day and you guys ask questions as you went along. Hopefully will enlighten this relationship a little bit more on. We've been doing this for almost six years, almost six years, said She's one of my longest relationships ever. It's true. So first things first. I'm not a seat. Have a seat. Sure, Have a seat. They brought us a chair, so I'm gonna sit on it. Um, the first thing that we do to start every single day is we set up our gear and we do it together, right? And it's because I don't set my gear up and like, put the cameras in the car ready. I go into the bride's room and then I set up my stuff because I just want to roll in there clean. We get there about five minutes early, so we have a couple of seconds to set it up. Say hi and everything, and we do it together. So I give her a camera. She knows I give her the D three us. She knows what lens goes on it to start the day. So we each have our cameras that we set up. I get the d for In the macro, she grabs the D three us and the 24 to 70. She knows which card to put in there. We always look at what's on our backup card first, and she turns it to me and she's like, Can I delete this? Always check. Always track always, and I'm like, Delete that or I'm like, Who are those people? It's been a week I've for gotten Andi delete that card. We delete the other reformat both cards and then we sink are dating time because for some reason our cameras between seven and 12 seconds off and I can't figure out what we have no idea why, but it makes a difference. It makes a huge difference on when you're going upload your files when you're 12 seconds off. Exactly, because if I was shooting the ceremony at the same time that I am, cause that's one of the times that she'll have a camera throughout the day. A seven second difference Miss sinks the ceremony on. I don't want to go through and have to re sync all of these things, so the last thing we do before we get started is we sink our date and time always. And then I get out there and I just start working and she hangs in the background during the getting ready. What do you do? Well, I'm shooting getting ready. Dio There now, um, you know, it buries. Um I always know she starts off with her macro to 70. I always try to make sure I have the 85 nearby because some days we don't have a lot of time for details, and we've just gotta snap and go right into portrait sor to the getting ready part of it. So I make sure it's there ready to go, and I make sure I have all my caps that I need And what? Not that we amazingly lose. Still all the time. You know, anybody else loses back capsule time. I don't know where they go. We don't know. Um, so I make sure that I try to clear out the room, especially because you get a lot of bridesmaids with our luggage and a lot of clutter. I try to make sure I go around the room of it. If I realize it's a purse or something very personal, I try to find the person it belongs to explain to them that I'm not going through their stuff. I'm just trying to remove her from the area. Let them know where it's being moved. Teoh, you turn off the lamps, I turn off all the lamps, pull them all down. I pretty much stripped the room of whatever will look ridiculously weird. And that's just something that I've kind of learned over the years from watching you because you started doing that for me in the beginning, and then I just kind of after the third or fourth wedding. It's really OK. She doesn't want lamp shade hats on everybody. Okay, so lamps go down, you know, and it just took a while. But I mean, it's while you're doing all those shots. Find shiny, reflective things that I think will look good. You baby sit the details. I baby sit. Details were worried that we wouldn't lose them. And I've talked about race as how I'm really nervous. The only person that I let touch the wedding ring besides myself when I'm shooting the details is hurt. Yeah, and I'll give it to her, and I know that she's gonna follow my chain of command. If it's not on my hand or her hand, she's gonna give it back to the bride directly on Lee The Bride. Yes, only the bride. And if it does go Teoh, another person's hands geographer. It's directly in front of the bride. Hey, I'm handing off your ring. I'm handing off your mom's diamond bracelet, You know, Please know that it's no longer in my hands. I responsibilities of it whatsoever. After that, and a lot of times you will run interference with coordinators as well, if if the day is tight, if the timeline is crazy, if we have any questions about, if anything, is going to be different transportation, transportation, things like that, Sandra will be the person that I sent to the coordinator. Or I'll say, Will you just go ask this? I know that she can go ask it. I can keep working and she'll go get me the information that I need. In the past year, I've started sending her over to shoot the guys prep on occasion on Lee. If the guys were getting ready in the same hotel or the same venue, and only if I don't have time to do it myself. If all they want is like five minutes of the groom and his guys, you're sort of hanging out in the room and I physically can't do it because we don't have enough time. I'll give her the 24 to and send her into the field and you really good at it. It's fun. I've learned. I'm I'm not a photographer. I love taking pictures of my Children are, but that's not my That's not my job. But she's taught me really well, and I can comfortably go into a groom's room and and know what to do with the camera and how toe just cover it. So it's It's just really, yeah, good coverage for you, so you can use it for for your client Exactly. And I mean, but it's not all the time. It doesn't know I'm not always shooting and she'll do things like if I need to shoot the dress and it's full of stuffing right, like it's got all this stuff in a toddy and she'll fix that. She'll take the stuff out because I couldn't be shooting and I just handed the dress and say, Can you get the stuff out of this? That's for her to do not me to do, because that way I can keep moving. When it's time for the bride to get ready, you will tell her where to stand. I all say, Okay, we're gonna put the bride in front of this curtain. I want her to stand right here. I'm going to stand back and watch the scene. Sanders physically going to be the one that says now, will you stand over here? And she'll also run interference If bridesmaids turn their backs to me, or people sort of wandered out, she'll step in and sort of put people back where they need to go so that I can step back and be shooting and I can see the whole scene. And we also try to be careful that there's not too many cooks in the kitchen that she's not doing it. And I'm doing it too. Yeah, at the same time. And I think one of the biggest things is when we get them ready is you know, we get them in their spot. Once I see a Sooners or they're decent, I move them over and I kind of just like saying, like, I you're fine right here. Just no one stand right here because we're just gonna get your backsides. And unless you want your backsides, you know, fracture. It's not, you know, just as long as your guys air here and try not to move them whenever they start to draft. You know, you kind of go in just slightly, push him along, hold their hand along with it. If you could go in and put them back in place, then that I don't have to put the camera down don't have to walk around the bed. I have to move them back in place. I don't have to go back. I can keep shooting and just pause for two seconds while Sandra moves them and then keep shooting versus having to go do it myself. And I knew that. That sounds like, well, it's just a couple of seconds fries that that big of a deal. But if I can shave a few seconds off here and there of me having to manipulate people, it's more time than I can actually be concentrating on the actual moments of the day. And I've learned to kind of read, Read her face like, Okay, they're starting to drift there. They're getting out of light and I kind of look over and I just move over. So I kind of have learned a one. Just see it myself now, yes, but also be able to read Susan's reaction of just being able to go in and go do it. Mike, that's an excellent point that we have been doing this together for almost six years. I don't have to tell her the bride is drifting out of the light. She sees it now herself and goes and fixes it. And we have been working together so long that I could be shooting and I can just be like and she's like, Oh, somebody's put their but to the camera and goes and fixes it now It took us a long time to get to their in the first days. I'd have to be like you can ask her to move. Yeah, you can't just meet somebody and expect them toe like it's like going on a first date and getting married the next day like that's just not the relationship doesn't go there right away. So it took us some time. It took some time. And if you know, may I mean as a as a person, like just personally, I am not really 100% of people person. So it took a lot for me to be able to go up. Teoh ran them brides or bridesmaid. And I always feel like I'm offending someone if I tell him to move. And eventually I just learned that No, I have to move like I've gotten used to be able to talk to people who generally, I would not talk to me. Oh, it's true And it's This is the sort of thing that you kind of have to have an idea of what you need your assistant to do for you. But you also have to let the relationship evolve on its own a little bit because she brings things to the table. Now that I never thought about asking her to do at the beginning of our relationship, which is I never would have thought to say, you know, hey, can you understand this lighting scenario that I like to work with so that if it starts to change, you can go in and you can move people. Or I can convey to her in two or three words what I need versus, you know, full sentences, air having to do it myself. Yes, sir. Setting up shots like that and making sure breeze word you want them does that for you up to take candids. It does. I mean, it is she's telling the bride where to stand. It gives me a second to shoot the bridesmaids who are like taking pictures in the corner of the room or no, I mean sometimes, yeah, because there's just nothing to dio. But a lot of times I'm just looking around that for other moments, and it's a lot of you do a lot of people hurting there. Yeah, there. Sometimes there's when you have those tiny hotel room and cats. Yeah, and there's, like, 14 bridesmaids that want to help. You've got to figure out like, all right, some of you, they've got to split up and you've got to figure out where they're going to go. But you don't want them standing directly in the way or in the lighter blocking a certain area. It's just you just gotta learn how toe eventually just start breaking them down. It's true and sometimes kind of almost talking the entire time while they're getting ready. Just saying, you know, like you know, who do you want to help you? I know. So I always try to, like, make it seem like the less people the better because it's it just gets so chaotic and so many people in the room. So I tried it in a nice way, convinced the bride's that, like, I only want my mom and my sister in there. Not I want all 14 bridesmaids. Yes, and we try to say, Well, why don't while you're getting dressed, why don't we? Why don't you let your bridesmaids get dressed, but have your mom and sister ready for when you're when you're ready to get in? And that kind of clears out the herd? And these were things like we try to talk about logistics and schedules before the wedding, but there are things that you have to discuss sometimes on the wedding day. And if she can take the bride for 30 seconds to a minute and talk her through something that's about to happen while I can be documenting something else. It's just splitting up our talents and that it's very helpful, especially in the form of parts of the day, especially if things start to run late. We need to start getting the coordinators to move it. We need to go get like, the venue coordinators and tell them like we got to get this thing moving. I don't have to leave the room and find somebody. I don't have to be doing the behind the scenes stuff. I know that she can take care of it. Yeah, I will. I will hunt down the coordinators and say, like, Look, she's got 15 minutes to get in the stress and the front door. We're running really behind. She's still in makeup like we need toe meat. Like filter some of these people out. Get him another room. It's distracting her with skater energy to try to get going. But if it's still gonna run late, I mean, we tried way we've talked about. It's a coordinators or anybody else we tried. Looks you? Yeah, and during the getting ready shall also do things like sort of help me set up shots. If you're reading the case studies, you'll see this picture where we absconded with three mirrors and a light box to shoot an invitation or if I'm shooting the shoes or the rings or something that's her hand holding the lace up so that I could get the picture. Or, if you look really closely in this one, she's actually hiding behind the curtain, holding it open these air e even less up. It's even better close up. It's even funnier because she looks like a small child hiding back there. But these were These were sort of the things that she'll do. She's an extra pair of hands that I can trust to help me in sort of those getting ready times after we do the getting ready, we're either gonna go one of two directions. We're either going to go to a first look. We're going to go to a ceremony and either way, usually at the end of the getting ready, wherever we're going, it involves finding everything that we've left in the room and packing it all up so that no matter where we go, it goes with us, and she does that because I'm does each photographing the bride. If she's running around trying to get ready to go out of the room. But you gather everything. I gather everything I try toe. I mean, we both do. It was just kind of, like place things down and then I try to just remember, like as I'm going just picking up and I throw things a lot my talking way. You mean I Well, now because I leave things I've left things. She didn't leave the lens in Louisiana one time you have to lend really not public shaming. But I felt like, you know, what was it your Your Mac way? We have been through good times together. Really? It's what I mean, like you make mistakes. If you're an assistant, own up to it like I've I've not things. I've not the whole centerpiece off a table in a reception. Look, it was during a it was not set up, right? So part of it was the decorators fall. I'm going to call them out on that one. But you make mistakes. They happen. I mean, I love the lens I've for gotten, but I mean, this isn't a weekly occurrence, so it's maybe once a year I have an issue and it's just a flake. I mean, sometimes you're just in the Russian, you're going, going, going, and and it's a really good point that you can't expect your assistant to be perfect. Like just like you make mistakes and you forget things. You know, I've turned around at the end of the ceremony and needed a camera, and she's been shooting something from the corner. And I'm like, Oh, my God, where are you? You It's not gonna be flawless the whole entire time. There are a human being as well. We're gonna make mistakes. They're gonna leave your limbs somewhere. They're gonna forget a camera somewhere like it's going to be a big deal sometimes. But just as you make big mistakes, if you're gonna trust somebody into your business, they're gonna make big mistakes to You can't crucify them for that. That's not fair. Most of the time, it's also funny. You also put together the light I dio. Once we leave the room, we get to where we were going to go. Make sure the gear's packed up usually right after the first look or right after we pack up. I know we're gonna be doing formals of something or whether it's just the bride of the groom or the whole family. I go and I know my first thing to do is to get that light ready because there's just not enough time to waste for me to sit there and put that together while we're forming everybody. It's just you can't. So if we're going to a first look, that's going to then lead into formals. She puts the light together before we even leave the room. Yes, and if we're doing family formals after the ceremony to put the light together during the ceremony, Yes, I try to step out of the church because the Velcro from the bags and in their videoing you don't want to make that extra noxious anyway, So I go out in another room, I set it up. I have it already, and then I sneak up upon her. Sometime during the ceremony, I slide on her pocket wizards or whatever winner transmitters used at that time. Um, and I I just set it up so we're ready to go as soon as as soon as the moments writing and then the only thing that I have to tell her is what power to put the flash on. That's it. And nine times out of 10 now, because we've been doing this so long, she's usually within, you know, one setting from being exactly where it needs to be. She'll come to me and be like, half or full or quarter or eight. She she knows based on these scenarios and you can teach your assistant. It doesn't have to be. We figure this out over time. It could be. Let me show you these scenarios and show you where you need to start. I've had a lot of questions over the 30 days about how this light actually happens through switch seats. You do it so it it is easy. It is very easy. Um, you've talked a lot about the photo exes. Yeah. Thes air. Awesome. Their way bound ones. We used tohave. Yes, the brand that will remain nameless. They're Listen, everybody has a different way. They go about off camera flash. There's radio poppers. There's Pocket wizards. Everybody's got some sort of proprietary something. So it's It's just whatever works for you, right? And we stumbled upon these. My friend Jeffrey Mosher, who is a photographer in New York, recommended these to me when we were having some issues with kind of the system we've been using before. And he was like, Oh, faux ticks. Is there really great? Um, and I started using them and yeah, we haven't had any problems with them at all. I've had a bunch of people ask me, um, why don't I use the faux ticks? Oden's And they're the ones where you can. Actually, when you put it on your camera, you can control the settings for your off camera flash. It's great my husband uses the pocket lizards where you can actually just reach up into a click and change your off camera flash. We've got a system. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Why would I start controlling my off camera flash when she could do it perfectly fine for me? So so as ago receiver, It's got the little screw on the bottom handy. Manny, What is this? Manfredo Bob? Yeah, it's easy. I like this one. We had an older one with the twists this e G. This one's easy, because if I have to slide down, I can just kind of go down like I just like it happened. Really? Um, screw it on super super using. It takes, like, two seconds. Flash always goes on top slides right in. Lock it. Now, if we're doing family for if we're doing family formals, the first thing I'll dio um, well, first thing I'll do is let me have an assistant who's never worked with me before. I'll do this for them. Yeah. I can't expect them to know how this goes for her. I don't wear about like belts, so you could probably strap this around your bill. But then you're really restricted to how far up you can lift up your thing. Your pull. Um, Welker's right on. We do it really nice and tight. It's a battery. Pack it just battery talk. What is? It's the pst. Nine plugs right into the front. And then if it's family formals, a little last flash bender. Usually I don't while to figure out how toe mount it. Yeah, usual. Excuse me for a minute because I usually have somewhere to lean on to do this. Yeah. You late. You basically flash into it, and then we'll you'll see what it looks like when it's all wrapped around. I want this wrapped on usually have someone to lay it on, and that's just wrapped on. And I usually lift it up just just enough so I could get access to the back. And this is the set up for the family formals and I have it go all the way. Who up? And you're not me. We'll see that high. But I mean, it's just up and like this the entire time. And you just once, this one actually should get back. This goes on Susan's camera. It does. You know I test it. I always wear it on its first test. This goes on. I click it like 56 times in the back of another room that is not in the middle of a ceremony or where we're at, because that is just a distraction. Everyone and then we should be good to go. I mean, this is it. And then one, um, once we do dancing or anything else, the road flash bender comes off, Mr Goes back and that's it. That's it. It's if we have to travel with one place or another, we just telescope down the monitor that I was right in the front of bag. I don't I don't take it apart until the very end of the night. Once it's once it together, it's together for the day. That's it and that's it. It's dirty.