The Essential Photo Assistant Kit

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Assisting a big job in the near future? Feel like you’re missing something? If you don’t have an assistants kit, you are.

When I was in college, I had a professor that handed us a laundry list of seemingly unrelated items we were required to purchase for a studio photography class. Little did I know, that list would change the way I assist and shoot, forever. Not only did certain items on the list intrigue me, “What could this be for?”, I would ask myself, but others just seemed weird. Glycerin? Clothes pins? Museum putty? Who knew all of these items had something in common. It’s like that trip to the grocery store when you buy ice cream, band aids, and a rolling pin. People are confused and look at you all sorts of funny. But who cares what others think? You’ll have the last laugh on set when you show up uber prepared.

Here’s your essential photo assistants kit: (great for the solo product photographer too!)

• a toolbox, maybe on wheels, to house everything you need
• all kinds of tape including electrical, painters, gaff, double-sided & regular clear tape – what I use the most
• pens, pencils (regular and white), highlighters, & different kinds of Sharpies
• gray cards, white cards, and black cards – small and large
• pliers – for those hard jobs
• small and large scissors – you never know when you need mini scissors, plus their super cute.
• set of screwdrivers & a mini set – resetting watches? you need a mini screwdriver like, yesterday.
• lighter – candles on a birthday cake? need to start a fire?
• museum putty – won’t leave residue and holds objects in place fairly tightly, also reposition-able.
• atomizer – need to spritz something?
• glycerin – make faux condensation by mixing with equal parts water and put in your atomizer, it won’t drip the thicker you make it.
• box cutter
• Exacto knife and extra blades
• AA batteries – because almost everything takes AA batteries, and sometimes the rental house forgets to change them out .. a chance for you to save the day.
• pain reliever, band-aids, Neosporin, allergy medicatio, sunscreen, bug-spray, and baby wipes – just bring your whole bathroom, someone will need something.
• mini mirror – to reflect specular light back onto small objects, and for checking yo’ self.
• LED flashlight – you always need a flashlight handy.
• small pins, push pins, and safety pins – in case the stylist forgot something, our you need to pin looks/Polaroids to a board.
• ruler & a level – to even things out.
• chalk – x marks the spot.
• glue stick – because. just because.
• hot glue gun with extra glue refills – somehow this always comes in handy when you really need something to, well… not move.
• paint can key – someone always forgets it, plus it can be used to pry open a plethora of things.
• hammer – there’s not always a set-builder, and although thats not your job title, you can make a client very, very happy, if you come prepared to do anything.
• clamps – of every single size, the most used thing in my kit, besides my gaff.
• clothes pins
• hair ties and bobby pins – for you, for the photographer, for anyone.. I never want to ask hair and makeup for their tools.
• small piece of acetate – for reflections, and other things.
• sync cord – in case you’re in a place where every single radio channel is being used, or none work at all.. it happens.
• iPhone chargers & speakers – because everyone on set will forget their charger.
• bungee cords – hauling gear, strapping gear to a cart, set-building tools.
• cotton swabs – cleaning small, hard-to-reach spaces, and ears.
• lint roller – lint’s enemy.
• small Zip-lock bags – for storage of all sorts of things.
• trash bags – on location these always come in handy, and in-case it starts raining, you have ponchos for everyone!
• sand paper
• trusty tape measure – compact and useful.

The list really could go on & on… but this will get ya started.

If any of you guys out there (assistants or photographers) would like to add something to the list, feel free to put it in the comments below!

 

-V

Pressing the play button, again

Fortunately, I’ve been absent from this blog because I’ve been making literal moves in my life. From Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Miami’s gorgeous art neighborhood, Wynwood – from shooting tests to assisting NYC photographers on BIG production jobs – it’s all been quite wonderful. Although all things are not perfect in my life, I’m taking the negative and making it positive – sometimes that’s the only thing you can do. Having friends around you to remind you that you’re not completely crazy, or maybe you are (in a good way), is a blessing. And in this chaos, I’ve found some sort of peace and motivation to move forward and strive to make my dreams come true, instead of fighting what I can’t change.

In this journey, I’m starting to focus on personal projects. Personal projects, to an artist, can sometimes be more crucial than any paid gig. It gives you a chance to really dig deep and find out what you love, what you want to say, what you want to discover. There’s no false motivation. Just the desire to make something that makes YOU feel good. I believe that the purest forms of art are not commissioned by clients, but by your heart.

Picture 1

Without even trying, I proved this to myself last week. I was digging through a cardboard box full of old film prints. Some were really, really, really bad. But some really surprised me. Those photos were a product of a 15 year old girl, with her first camera, 36 exposures, and nothing to lose but her time. No nightmares of student loans, no parents telling you to get a “real” job – just my Nikon and I, in a small town, all alone. I’ve learned that whether you’re a photographer, writer, sculptor, or surgeon – find something that inspires you and do it for yourself, not for the money, not for the recognition, or the school credit. Do it for yourself, and in that experience you will always find something even more valuable.

 

history of photography // no. 3

While I’m waiting on the graphic designer to put the finishing touches on our latest editorial (eeeek!) I’m going to take a moment to talk about the history of photography (yay!).

the wet-plate collodion process //

In 1840′s, if you wanted your portrait to be made, you had the choice between a Daguerrotype and a Calotype, which we will talk about later. Daguerreotypes were stunningly sharp and the process was much more sensitive to light yielding a beautiful photographic likeness. The downside? There was only one, so there were no copies for family members or friends. No negative/positive funny business. However, the Calotype produced between 50 to 100 reprints from one paper negative. The downside? The final print was soft, somewhat dreamlike, and the process was not as sensitive to light which required longer exposure times. Not too good for portraits. Then, a man named Fredrick Scott Archer invented the Collodion process in 1851. It was as if he took the best of both mediums and created one single process. The Collodion, or wet-plate process, was much more sensitive to light, produced sharp photographs, and was able to be duplicated! Awesome right? Well, like everything else there is always a downside, and this process had quite a few of ‘em. The photograph was made directly onto a glass plate (which became the negative) making travel kind of a pain in the butt. Imagine wanting to take ten photographs on vacation. You would have to carry ten pieces of glass! Whew! Along with the fact you had to basically be Hercules to be a photographer, the plate had to be coated, exposed, and developed on-location making it necessary to have a portable darkroom with you at all times (or a photographic van / see no.1 below). And chemistry. And a ton of glass. The photographs though? Gorgeous prints that could be duplicated! Take  a look >>

photographic van, julia margaret cameron, carleton watkins the three brother, sally mann daughter, wet plate, good exposure, valerie petralia, history of photography

// 1. a photographic van used for making wet-plate photos on-the-go // 2. I Wait, 1872 Julia Margaret Cameron // 3. The Three Brothers, after 1860 Carleton E. Watkins // 4. Part of the “Family Pictures” series by Sally Mann, 1984-1991

links for more information on collodion photography //
video // how-to
video // history of collodion by george eastman house
article // getty.edu

multiple angles //

Finally! Brampersandy and I had time to shoot a location we’ve both been eyein’ for a while. Our careers are our mistresses and our locations are our dirty little secrets. We decided to play around with a bit of coral + teal tied in with some clean-lined triangles. Miami in the summer, anyone?

Photo: Valerie Petralia (Good Exposure) // Style: Brandy Swope (Brampersandy)