How to Get a Job With A Photographer

Well-executed, creative attempts to get hired by a photographer as an assistant, producer, re-toucher, etc, are few and far between. That said, I was inspired by the following letter I recently received (posted with permission):

Obviously you folks are stacked with talented, energetic folks over there at CJ inc.

But that’s not going to stop me from trying to get my foot in the door over there. I recently left my post as studio manager, assistant, photographer, post-pro guy, painter, espresso master, steamer and dog walker at XXXXX Photography (www.XXXXXXXXXXXXX.com ) It was a good run there and I’m looking forward to some changes and meeting new photographers. I feel like a free agent, although I would rather be a secret agent.

I can wrap extension cords in fancy figure eights, I can create clipping paths for hours and steam motocross pants even longer. Most assistants can after doing it a couple years. (I attached a resume)

I find it takes much more to be a valuable assistant, that’s why I got an iPhone. As far as dedication and work ethic go……A few years back I had the fortunate opportunity to take part in a crevasse rescue demonstration. I strapped the climbing harness on, waved to my rope team and did my part by hucking myself off a glacier. I plunged toward the icy water in the middle of the Yukon Territory. It was sort of like bungee jumping except on a climbing rope. There I hung, 100 feet above the water, they caught me. I think it’s important to trust your team. Next time, I’ll remember to have the rope next to me instead of between my legs when I jump off. I’m tying to give the impression that I give 100% (I don’t believe in 110%, but that might be a topic for your blog down the road.)

I play soccer, ski and mountain bike. I never made it professionally at any of those so I bowl and play kickball in order to get the thrill of winning. Curling is next on the list.

I hope some day there is an opportunity at CJ inc. I look forward to challenge. I really respect the amount of work and energy it appears comes from the organization.

Thanks for posting the Superman game on your blog and thank you for considering me if anything opens up over there.

Cheers,
XXXXXXXX
XXX-XXX-XXXX

That letter was very well-written IMHO. For someone like that, there are opportunities.

What did I like about it?

1. It’s unique but not weird or freaky. He seems skilled, knows his stuff, and demonstrates that he knows something about my brand; specifically, my work, style, blog, career, etc. He’s articulate and tells my why he wants a job from me and not some other operation down the road.

2. He knows that I’m less interested in his portfolio and more interested in his go-get-em, attitude, skills, usefulness, humor, wit, and general intelligence.

3. He’s seems to have solid photography experience, knowledge, and genuinely seems interested to become an outstanding team member. Regardless of office staff or crew sizes, producing shoots and making images involves teamwork. Crucial home run to know that – he hit that one out of the park, simply and subtly.

4. He doesn’t seem to have fretted too much over the details of how he contacted me. There were no gimmicks, yet it was interesting. He seems comfortable and genuine that we might be a good match and has presented his ideas clearly, honestly (seemingly), and cleverly. His note happened to be an email, but it could have been a snail-mail letter all the same and it would have got my attention due to THE CONTENT. Ultimately, it was about his skills, experience, and the personality he exhibited in his contact.

Now, here’s the kicker: despite being one of my favorite letters of all time seeking employment, I still didn’t hire him. Why? Just unlucky timing. We’re all full up with a killer staff for the time being. But just like A Photo Editor holds onto good promos, I’ll hold onto his info and give him a ring when the time comes.

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10 Responses to How to Get a Job With A Photographer

  1. Andy. February 1, 2008 at 1:49 am #

    Hi Chase, All,

    This kind of correspondence definitely works and caught my eye because I have a funny story along a similar track, from the other side of the fence. I was applying for assistant jobs as many others do. I’d sent dozens up on dozens of the usual emails and letters that got me nowhere. One day, I poured my frustration out in to an email. I knew I was capable of delivering whatever needed to be delivered so I just wrote down why I thought I was the man for the job. Things as bizarre as “all my grandparents have sadly passed away so I won’t be taking time off to go to funerals” and “I’m more than happy to pick your nose, sweep the store room out and wash your cars”. It was worded rather more fluently than that of course. Although I say so myself, it read very well.

    Before sending it, I ran it past a friend, who at the time was the MD of one of Europe’s largest repro/pre-press houses. He said it was probably the best cold approach he’d ever seen.

    So off it went.

    A week later I get a call from a snapper in London [I live in the North of England]. Went down there for an interview to discover that my email had been printed off and stuck up on the wall. Not only did they want me to assist the Photographer but they wanted me to write the copy for their website.

    I knew nothing about this profession at the time and was 22 years old and recently single. I should also mention that I’m straight.

    The guy was a porno snapper which obviously I’d found out before I went [what? I was just eager to learn]. Here’s the good bits from my interview:

    “So, you know we shoot porn right Andy”?

    “Oh no, you don’t do you, what do you think I am some sort of…. OK I’ll do it”.

    “Well, we only do girl/girl porn because of the red tape thats involved with using male models. The chances of passing on infections are increased if men were to be involved. Are you OK with that”.

    “Absolutely not, no. No way. What do you take me for a… OK I’ll do it.”

    “During the summer months we tend to live in Ibiza because its far easier to SOUexpolitRCE models there. You do have a passport don’t you, are you OK with traveling”?

    “Hang on, you want me to live in the party capital of Europe for six months of the year? You must think I’m stupid, do I have ‘mug’ written across on my… OK I’ll do it”.

    “What’s that dishwasher for” I asked, pointing at it. The dishwasher was standing in the corner of the studio with six large storage boxes next to it that from what I could see through their blurry surfaces, were all full to bursting with a lot of very colourful objects.

    “Thats for washing the “props” in. It’ll be one of your duties”.

    “and how much are you paying”?

    “12K”

    For those who may not have been, 12K to live in London is like somebody giving you 20 pence to get a coffee in Starbucks.

    Close but no cigar. The point is, in a very round about way… I agree with this post.

    Cheers.

  2. Anonymous February 1, 2008 at 9:17 am #

    CJ team,

    Nice tip on employment – thanks!

    You guys do rock. So proactive and unselfish about knowledge and good biz gouge. And fun!

  3. scott-mac February 1, 2008 at 12:20 pm #

    Chase: Great post today about getting an Assistant job, etc. Of course, I think most of your posts provide valuable insight and I continually encourage our students, graduates, faculty to sign up for your Blog. Cheers,

    -SCOTT MACINTIRE, Career Advisor
    The Art Institute of Seattle,
    Photography / Video Production
    206-239-2337 | smacintire@aii.edu

  4. Chase Jarvis February 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm #

    @ Andy: doozie of a story, and brilliant!! Thanks for sharing. If it were up to me all the readers would share kooky anicdotes like that whenever they were brave enough to do so.

  5. Chase Jarvis February 1, 2008 at 5:26 pm #

    @ Scott: Thanks Scott for sending interested folk my way… And, btw, the quality of students coming out of the Art Institute is really growing.

    Nice work.

  6. Ryan February 1, 2008 at 9:52 pm #

    Great stuff again Chase…One thing that I have learned is its better to have one of these letter then the alternative of someone giving you a piece of their mind when they quit.

  7. Anonymous February 3, 2008 at 10:28 am #

    This is about the most honest, revealing piece of information I’ve ever read about how to get the attention of a hiring photographer.

    And duly noted is that its basically exactly the opposite of what I learned from a very expensive education at a “top” photography school.

    Thank you so much.

    PhoebeT
    Austin, TX

  8. Fabio February 5, 2008 at 3:01 am #

    Well, I am new to this blog and as we all know “we have one chance to cause a first good impression” and by far the hiring note made me read the blog for another 45 mins….in the middle of work !!!

    good stuff,

  9. clipping path March 30, 2009 at 4:41 am #

    Great stuff! Thanks.

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