Make Do Suzie: A “make do Susie” is one that always makes do with whatever is easiest (and sometimes most affordable out of necessity or laziness). GUILTY as charged. The 3 days I worked as a photographer’s assistant on a commercial shoot, taught me more than I’ve learned in 6 months!
I am, by far and away incredibly guilty of being a “make do Susie”. What is that exactly? Well, outside of my photography classes in my first round of a collegiate education ( we won’t talk about WHEN that was. We’ll just say it was a while back :-D) I am self-taught. I have always had a camera in hand. And by always I truly mean always, and forever, as long as I can remember. My lighting arsenal includes the sun, a white 42″ reflector, a 580ex speedlight and insulation boards wrapped in aluminum foil. Since I only just picked up molding light beyond my speedlight and the sun as of 2 months ago, you can imagine my elation to be asked to assist Montana Pritchard, a photographer from West Palm Beach here in Asheville on a commercial shoot for the new Asheville Outlets (formerly Biltmore Square Mall) opening in 2015.
I have never really been involved in much commercial work as a photographer. I modeled some in the 90’s for a few recognizable companies and worked as an actor in films, but never anything on the tech side of things. WOW!
Don’t get me wrong, I love, love LOVE my work. Beauty and portrait work is my heart. Being exposed to what I do from an aspect of the commercial world…there are almost no words. I realized that my “make do suzieness” (mds) was out of control. I’ve never seen, let alone used most of the equipment we were working with and after 3 days with Montana and the crew, I was able to comprehend HOW to take my own work to another level, items to plan for purchase to build my business (instead of buying what I think I might, maybe need) and how to work with and learn from others to make their job(s) more streamlined and efficient and use that experience to my own betterment as well.
So Cat, what did you actually DO for 3 days?
- I pushed 300+ pounds of gear up a steep 20′ hill with the grip
- lugged 70 pound pelican cases up and down flights of stairs and through parks
- put my foot in my mouth
- set up and broke down sets
- shot behind the scenes with my iPhone (yup. my iPhone)
- got lost at the Grove Park Inn
- grabbed coffee refill(s)
- carried a myriad of crazy gear and reflectors and lights and stands and power boxes and lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!
- sweated like a banshee
- Loved. Every. Second. of. It.
Being a photographer’s assistant is not for the faint of heart. Figuratively and literally. It can be hard work. For someone in my position, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I know, it sounds sappy, but it is so true. With a lack in a formal photography education, I’ve made do and built my own gear and needs and have never been exposed to the type of gear (& the knowledge to utilize that gear) that would allow me to dream big for my shoots. It isn’t rocket science, I know but it certainly was inspirational and an eye opener. Frankly, it was just the kick in the you-know-where that I needed to revisit my business plan to adjust my own plans and forecast for 828 for the next 18 months.
*Sidenote, for those of you not treating your business plan as a living document, get it together! Do it! Come back to it, and regularly. It will change your life! But, that’s for another post all together, anyhoo*
One of the things that was discovered along the way was that Asheville doesn’t seem to have a central web presence with contact information on crew here in the area. Crew, studios, anything. So, that is on the way. Once it is built and live, I’ll be sure to link out so that photographers can actually source people here in WNC for their commercial projects and work.
In the meantime, below are some fun pictures from our commercial photography shoot this week for New England Development handling the campaign for the upcoming Asheville Outlets. (*Are you excited? I AM!). Try not to hate too hard on the snapshots. Not only were they from my iPhone but on a set, you’ve gotta move FAST!
To everyone involved and especially Montana and his studio manager Kat, THANK YOU. It was an incredible experience for me and I hope to find myself working with you again.
PS – Did I mention Montana was shooting with a Hasselblad? Just being in the vicinity of one was worth the job…one day (sigh)
Photography production crew:
- Production Manager – Miles Rice
- Digital Assistant – Matt Sellers
- 1st Photographer’s Assistant – Paul Lewis Anderson
- 2nd Photographer’s Assistant – Cat Ford-Coates (yours truly)
- 3rd Photographer’s Assistant – Morgan Ford
- Grip, Smokey Mountain Grip & Lighting – Mark Lewis