A Nice Reminder....

/ 14 August, 2014 /

It's weird when you're minding your own business and scrolling around on Facebook, then see an editorial you shot years ago.  It was one of my first 'assignments' from ONE Magazine after I was taken in as a contributor.  I was still figuring things out.  The gear was 3rd hand, the editing was cumbersome, and timing drove me crazy.

I had started blading with a new crowd then, which lead to the beginning of my video "Take Your Time".  In many ways, this editorial marked a transition in my life.  I was going from shooting for fun to turning this into a career.  I didn't know it then.

And here I am, assisting and tech on a Nicole Richie shoot tomorrow and Kelly Osborne shoot next week.  It's surreal to think the guy I was laying on the floor when I shot the photo above would become me.

Becoming A Digital Tech

/ 29 July, 2014 /

A few months ago, I took on an internship as a digital tech and assistant, fulfilling a dream I've had for a few years now.  It's cheesy when you say it like that though, but that's the truth.  From what I've heard, assistants usually end up digital tech and that's how they go about becoming one.  I've known going in this was the route I wanted to take.  

An assistant friend of mine suggested it when I listed off my years troubleshooting gear, repairing macs for fun, and the amount of techie info he could probe me for.  Looked into it and that's as far as it got in the time.  Though I had no idea how to become a digital tech.  Sent out emails to some photographers, answered Craigslist ads, had a few interviews, hit up friends in that field.   Nada.  There were scheduling conflicts with my then-job or they wanted all my time.  I had to let things go fallow and focus on other things.  

Then one day, by chance, I was on Craigslist looking up jobs and within that hour, Milk Studios had posted up an internship with their digital department.  I couldn't believe it.  I applied on a whim and said here's hoping.  A few days later I received an email to come in and a week later I was hired!  Couldn't believe my luck.  Spent 4 months interning, asking endless questions, jotting down everything in my moleskin notebook, running gear out, putting together gear, testing workstations.  I wouldn't say they teach you to be a digital tech, however if you note the gear and ask the right questions, you're on your way.  You learn industry standards and habits to make your life easier later on.  Suddenly all the gear you stared at while at Samy's Camera finally makes sense.

I said my farewells at Milk and off I went, free-floating again.  The difference was knowing what to look for and as much as I hate to say it, having a top-tier studio in my resume didn't hurt.  The interview replies came sooner at least.  But they weren't what I was interested in.  Then another chance Craigslist ad popped up from a fashion photographer who wanted someone with a PR / marketing background, tech smarts, and could assistant.  That had my name all over it!  His work was something I wanted to be a part of - cleanly lit, driven by intense visuals, and minor details which made the photo sing.  I sent in a revised resume and 2 days later, I was hired!  A couple weeks later, he gave me a test as a digital tech on a small shoot.  It was nerve-wracking and phenomenal! I had finally achieved that daydream I had some years ago. 

Mind you, it's an unpaid internship, but it feels great to finally do something you love.  It's been a learning experience figuring things out, working with the photographer to address his concerns, trying different workflows, smoothing out winkles in his shoots, and working with top gear.  It's even better knowing years of collective knowledge, tricks, tips, schooling, and hacking have finally come together into something I could do all day long (which is good when you consider how long shoots are when you consider pre and post shoot time).  

I've gone on to rack up a number of high-profile shoots under this photog's wing, with 3 A-list shoots next month...something unimaginable 6 months ago.  I'm curious where the next 6 months will take me....

Photos Featured on TheBooted.com and Razors Skates

/ 16 June, 2014 /

Been a little busy lately between gigs and the latest ONE issue dropping last week, though I did sneak a photo onto TheBooted.com's Exposed page featuring USD AM skater, Steven Cortes.  Been meaning to submit photos to them for quite some time now!  This one seemed in line with the film-feel I get from  their overall content.

Then there's Razors Skates (one of the biggest skate companies) which over the weekend picked up a photo of Becci Sotelo from her ONE Spotlight Interview of her doing a mute air over a quarter pip hip.  It ran on Instagram and over the weekend scored a little over 900 likes.  Not too shabby given rollerblading is a small sport!

Spotlight Feature in Digital V.4 of ONE Magazine

/ 12 June, 2014 /

I let out a sigh of relief yesterday as I popped onto Facebook to see ONE Magazine had finally dropped their latest digital issue online.  I thumbed through the issue, read through the editor's note and B-lined straight to Becci Sotelo's article.  I was approached by ONE to shot these back in February, realistically with only a couple days to meet up and shoot them.  Still, I'm pleased with how the photos turned out!

It was a bit surprising to learn through the editor's note that this was ONE's first Spotlight feature of a woman since they started up back in 2006.  Which, is a nice feeling to know I made that happen!  Just makes me think there are a few more women I'd like to snap photos of!

When Taking on Internships, Don't Forget....

/ 11 June, 2014 /

I was driving around the other day, thinking about the odd path I've taken to working as a photographer and the unique set of tech skills I've built up along the way.  Maybe it's me turning 30 in 2 weeks.  That or things have been going extraordinarily well lately.  However, I couldn't help think I might have achieved more if I had done a few things different interning in my early 20s.

One of my first internships was under a photo representation agency that I don't think is around anymore.  I did 2 times a week, stayed as late as the actual employees, did what I was told.  I just didn't ask too many questions.  Why are we doing this, to whom is this going out to, how do you reach out to magazines?  I never even asked to be a free 3rd assistant on a shoot.  I didn't drive then, which I hate to say it, turns off photographers who need heavy gear hauled, items picked up, and shoot in strangely remote locations that public transportation just won't touch.

1st lesson, don't be afraid to ask.  You're there to learn and they know it.  That and it's free work, so don't be afraid about being let go.  The experience is all that matters, so make it count by asking everything and anything you can think of.

I ended up leaving that internship only because out of the blue, the LA County Museum of Art wanted me to intern with their Digital Manager.  I told the first one I'd be back.  Turns out after I left, most of the staff had moved onto greener pastures.  Which left me with zero contacts or references.  Which is my 2nd lesson: Always ask for personal contact information before you leave an internship.  You never know who might leave.  You're stuck with the name of a place, with no way to verify you ever worked there.

This goes along with my next point.  My last internship was at a renowned photo studio not too long ago.  The staff had seen numerous interns come and ago, so there wasn't a propensity to get attached.  Which I hate to say bled into the tasks they were given or information they should know.  I was the oldest person interning, but I asked question after question, asked for demos of how to put cameras and workstations together, noted gear, you name it.  By the time I left, I was surprised at how little the other interns knew.  They did things but had no idea why it was done a certain way.  It was baffling that I had to show interns how to do things or where to find things, being an intern myself.  The staff handed me off orders because of that.

Which, is my 3rd point.  Treat this like a real job.  Give it your all and take in all you can.  If this is the field you want to get into, it's best to pick the staff's brains and show how competent you are.  I'm surprised at how many rental orders I put together now that I think about it...but noting all of their gear lead me to put together a working duplicate of their setup.  It's a great starting point when looking to establish yourself as a professional.

At this junction in my life, I had already had a handful of internships.  I left on positive notes yet assumed I had solid references.  However, as I said, people leave.  And even if you get contacts, they might not respond.

The work around is to get a solid letter of recommendation.  Don't assume you'll get one at the end of your internship.  And try to ask 2-3 weeks before you depart as things come up and honestly, people get lazy.  A boss or person of notable status would be great, but if you don't report directly to them or work with them daily, then they won't know what to say about you.  You'll get a generic template with no meat.  Pick someone who knows your work ethic, works with you daily.  Sometimes, that's the photographer you're working for.  It might be the 1st assistant.  It might be the camera prep technician.  Just make sure that person is affable to you.

I once asked a boss I barely saw for a recommendation who didn't really care much about me to write one up. What I was given was written in 5 minutes, the day I was leaving.  It shows too.  I wouldn't hire me based on how half assed it was.  On the other hand, his subordinate worked with late at night with, putting together cameras, testing gear, standing shoulder to shoulder with, wrote a glowing recommendation.  It told any future employees exactly what kind of employee I was and what I had under my belt.  That's what you need to make it to the next gig, job, internship.  It's what I needed too!

Lastly, I just wanted to say never be afraid to tell a photographer what other skills you have.  My background in PR, compute repair, health/medical knowledge, schooling in literature have all come in handy at one point or another.  Every employer of mine is surprised I know as much as I do.

Hopefully, these thoughts guide some photographer hopefuls towards an easier path that I had starting out.  Looking back, you wish someone could have just laid it all out.  But that's life and that's what the internet is for today!

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