Using Assistants?
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Jon DeVaul
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:32 pm    Post subject: Using Assistants? Reply with quote

Just wondering how often you use assistants on jobs...100%, 75%, 50%...how many of you hardly ever use assistants? I'm not talking about stylists or MUA, but photo assistants. Thanks.

Jon
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shanekislack
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think assistants are pretty necessary. There's nothing worse than trying to deal with a client while you lug 400 lbs of gear around all hot and sweaty. Plus they stand in while you get your exposures.
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Tyler Mallory
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hardly ever use them.
I shoot with a lot of available light and minimum gear, so not much need for lugging.
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shanekislack
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Revenue stream? Embarassed
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Leslie
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You should always use at least one assistant when shooting with clients on-set. Even if you can do it all yourself, it makes you look more important and of greater value.

Also, you will find that you will be freed up to make better work when you have someone to take care of the crap. Smile

They get billed to the clients, plus your markup of course, so why not use them?
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Jon DeVaul
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 4:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tyler Mallory wrote:
Hardly ever use them.
I shoot with a lot of available light and minimum gear, so not much need for lugging.


That's what I'm thinking. Even years ago I only used freelance assistants, and that was only a couple of times. When I shot still life, there were times I could have used a spare set of hands, but I even learned how to set up a 4x8 sheet of formica by myself and not look like an idiot Laughing My Speedotron Black Line might as well be bolted to the floor...it's not going anywhere Laughing now it's available light, SB800, and maybe some Alien Bee's when I go outside.

Jon
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Francisco Lubbert
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 1:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It depends totally on the job: I could not use an assistant on most of my architectural work, as that would not let me concentrate on what to shoot and I learned to work light in gears and real quick. But I just dis a 2 days fashion session on which I would not dare work without an assistant. Mostly I have worked much lighter in equipment since the switch to digital, without help.
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Tyler Mallory
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 03, 2009 4:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not opposed to using them, it just doesn't seem to come up that often for the way I shoot.
Case in point recently: I've got a shoot booked in August shooting some street portraits in Cape Cod. It's a travel shoot, and while the budget is reasonable, it doesn't have room to fly an assistant out. I don't know any Boston area assistants well enough to want to use them for the first time on this gig, and the art director and I are used to working together without anyone else.
I get what Leslie is saying, but it just doesn't come up for me that way very often.
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calindustries
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leslie wrote:
You should always use at least one assistant when shooting with clients on-set. Even if you can do it all yourself, it makes you look more important and of greater value.

Also, you will find that you will be freed up to make better work when you have someone to take care of the crap. Smile

They get billed to the clients, plus your markup of course, so why not use them?


Leslie,
I really do love almost everything you say. But as someone who has worked as an assistant for a decade, I really don't like the idea of the mark-up on assistants. They/We make peanuts and surprisingly more often than not, save the day for photographers who aren't on their game for whatever reason. A majority of the photographers don't pay the assistants until they get paid, so it's not like they fronted the money on their own. When budgets get cut, assistants are the first people that are asked to drop their rates (and $50 to $150 dollars a day less is a lot more of percentage drop to someone making $200-$400). Assitants are also the first to get OT cut from a job and are usually the first there/last to leave. Now, if an assistant is more of and intern and is learning on the job I can see your point, but more often than not (at least here in NYC), we are seasoned professionals in our own right.

Thanks for understanding,
Craig
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Leslie
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marking up an assistant has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the assistant's value or rates. An Assistant should set her/his fees, just like a photog. An assistant should INSIST on being paid whenever s/he decides is right for him/her. An assistant can and should say "no" to dropping rates just like a photographer should.

An assistant not running her/his business like a business does not mean that a photographer has to change how s/he does business. The markup issue is not a part of an assistant's business--it is part of the photographer's only.

I LOVE assistants and know that they are vital to the industry. It's time that assistants treat their businesses and themselves with the respect they deserve. It starts with you having and holding to good biz practices no matter what anyone else does.

Best--
Leslie
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calindustries
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leslie wrote:
Marking up an assistant has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the assistant's value or rates. An Assistant should set her/his fees, just like a photog. An assistant should INSIST on being paid whenever s/he decides is right for him/her. An assistant can and should say "no" to dropping rates just like a photographer should.

An assistant not running her/his business like a business does not mean that a photographer has to change how s/he does business. The markup issue is not a part of an assistant's business--it is part of the photographer's only.

I LOVE assistants and know that they are vital to the industry. It's time that assistants treat their businesses and themselves with the respect they deserve. It starts with you having and holding to good biz practices no matter what anyone else does.

Best--
Leslie


Leslie,
You know, you're right. But things have been dictated to us for so long, it's hard habit to break. That habit of giving in I mean...

Best,
Craig
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shanekislack
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As an assistant, I have no problem with photogs marking up assistant rates. There is admin work done relating to hiring assistants, so it makes sense. But then again, I always pay my assistants before the job pays me...as do most of the photographers I work for.
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Mike
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If an assistant is being paid fairly, and on time what does it matter if the photographer marks up the fee? What do y'all do about taxes and workman's comp?
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Leslie
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike: In CA, every photographer knows (or should) that an assistant is an employee (particularly in this state). However, in most states, assistants are still treated mostly like ind. contractors--so no worker's comp and no taxes.

However, that is a dangerous position to be for the photographer. It can lead to copyright issues (just who made the image? if the asst. is an employee, no problem, if not, you'd better have a good contract!) and, worse in many ways, the IRS and state tax authorities may audit you, say you were wrong, and make you pay, pay, pay.

Better to treat an asst. as an employee for legal purposes. Use a payroll service to make life easier. Pay them asap (definitely no later than 14 days post-shoot--don't string 'em on like your lousy clients do you). And treat them like the important part of the team they are.

And, of course, this is NOT legal advice, just my opinion. Smile

Best--
Leslie
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Mike
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am well aware of the employee/contractor difference and usually use a payroll service. Most people I know do not and some cling to the fallacy that a freelance assistant is an independent contractor. But then again most people I know don't bother with that pesky board of equalization either...and these are folks who should know better.
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Leslie
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike wrote:
I am well aware of the employee/contractor difference and usually use a payroll service. Most people I know do not and some cling to the fallacy that a freelance assistant is an independent contractor. But then again most people I know don't bother with that pesky board of equalization either...and these are folks who should know better.


Whoops, my bad, Mike. I meant to write my previous post in a way to acknowledge that I'm sure you did know this, but that others don't. Now that I read it, I didn't get there. Bad me. Wink
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calindustries
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leslie wrote:
Mike: In CA, every photographer knows (or should) that an assistant is an employee (particularly in this state). However, in most states, assistants are still treated mostly like ind. contractors--so no worker's comp and no taxes.

However, that is a dangerous position to be for the photographer. It can lead to copyright issues (just who made the image? if the asst. is an employee, no problem, if not, you'd better have a good contract!) and, worse in many ways, the IRS and state tax authorities may audit you, say you were wrong, and make you pay, pay, pay.

Better to treat an asst. as an employee for legal purposes. Use a payroll service to make life easier. Pay them asap (definitely no later than 14 days post-shoot--don't string 'em on like your lousy clients do you). And treat them like the important part of the team they are.

And, of course, this is NOT legal advice, just my opinion. Smile

Best--
Leslie


14 days would be a dream! A whole lot of people pay me between 45-60 days... That's where I get mad at the mark up. Why am I as an assistant having my money held interest free? I've had well over $13,000 in outstanding invoices multiple times. I know that is not much for shooting, but for assisting that is almost 3 months of working almost everyday (45-50 shoot days). When I do shoot I pay my assistants THAT DAY. It's the way it should be, but it's not in most cases.

I don't mean to go on a rant here, and this isn't. But I have to just remind people who forgot, or inform those who had no idea, how hard it is to get by as an assistant in a lot of cases (and I'm not small market). It just leave's a burning taste in your mouth when you've had to teach the photographer how to use the gear (happened WAY more than once), how to prep for a job (had to do that a whole bunch too), and then hope to get paid before the next quarter.

Well it's all a moot point for me personally because I've taken less and less assisting gigs as of late and am staying positive with my own creativity instead of letting it burn on the back of the stovetop (thanks to the positive energy from people like Leslie Smile).


best to all,
craig
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Leslie
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So sorry to hear your tale...not atypical, unfortunately. Glad you are getting out of it!

One thing other assistants should remember--if you are being paid as an employee, then there may be labor laws that require you to be paid in a timely manner. If you are doing the ind. contractor thing, then add a late fee or some sort of administration fee (check with your state laws for how to do this legally) to cover the loss of having to wait for payment. You could offer a "discount" (your actual rate w/o the admin fee) for early payment too!

As always, these days, remember I'm not a lawyer. My postings are just personal opinion. Smile

-Leslie
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Richard R. Barron
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would you accuse me of heresy if I told you that my wife and I work commercial jobs together and alternate assisting each other?
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Jon DeVaul
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2009 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Richard R. Barron wrote:
Would you accuse me of heresy if I told you that my wife and I work commercial jobs together and alternate assisting each other?


Sounds like a great situation. My son is 15, the photographer on his high school newspaper and is perfectly capable of holding a reflector or moving a lightstand. I shoot pretty much available light now, so he is qualified to help. I just don't know how certain clients would react...he's certainly a lot cheaper. Very Happy

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