BLOG: How to Become My Assistant (or Not)

I get a fair amount of emails from assistants moving to Portland looking for work. I totally get it. Portland is a cool place to live and being a photographer is fun. With NYC, LA, and San Francisco very expensive and hard to break into, Portland seems like an obvious place to start your career. Hey, it’s why I moved here.

There is definitely a fair amount of work here. But, there are a lot of assistants and probably more assistants than there is work. So you got to do something special to get my attention (and every other working photographer here).

Here’s an example of what not to do:

First of all, the email isn’t even to me. I’m BCC’d on it. Strike One! Mike mentions they are a graduate of a Canadian art school, but doesn’t tell me if he still lives there or in Portland. Strike Two! He also attaches a resume which really is pointless unnecessary as far hiring an assistant goes. I would have like to seen referrals. Strike Three! I don’t respond to Mike’s inquiry.

On the other had, here’s a great example of what you should do to get my attention:

First, a great subject line and I immediately opened the email. Dan then pretty quickly sums up who he is and why he’s contacting me. What sells me is that he specifically points out something I shot and that he shoots interiors, but wants to see how I do it. I would hire an assistant who likes to shoot interiors 10 to 1 over an assistant who is more interested in something else. I’ve hired Dan five times since he first emailed me and he’s been great. I highly recommend him.

The lesson here is to be straightforward and show genuine interest. It’s a huge mistake to feign interest in what I do, just to get assisting work. Always try to work for photographers that shoot what you like to shoot. You’ll enjoy the job more, learn things that you want to know, and connect with the person you’re working for. It’s a win win.