View 201MC Professional Experience blog posts here, a total of 20-25 days experience.
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For my professional experience I assisted professional photographer, Darren Key, who runs and owns Dark Lens Studio based in Wolverhampton. The attributes I had entering the experience was a basic understanding of studio photography, access to university equipment and good communication skills. Prior to assisting at Dark Lens I had no professional experience and was unconfident about leading my own photography projects. In light of this I realised how professional experience was key in broadening my expertise and building my confidence to one day becoming a professional.
I felt working, as an assistant photographer was one of the best routes into gaining worthwhile professional experience within the industry as opposed to creating a self-led project. Gaining a traditional placement as an assistant photographer allowed me the opportunity to learn on the job from a practicing professional, without having to shoulder the responsibility of running a business or producing professional quality images before I was ready. I was able to observe and learn at my own pace, which was most beneficial.
Dark Lens specialises in portraiture and studio work but also covers a wide range of live events. It was this variety within Dark Len’s portfolio that attracted me to get into contact and to assist him. I wanted to assist across a variety of genres to gain a better understanding of what area of photography I want to focus on, as well as broadening my ability to work under a range of conditions. What also encouraged me to contact Dark Lens was the fact Daz is completely self-taught, yet has managed to build a really successful business as well as form a large clientele and an impressive portfolio. I wanted to learn what it is that makes a photographer great at their job as well as how one can form a living from photography and add those skills to my repertoire. Therefore, by assisting at Dark Lens I’ve not only come to learn more about different areas of photography, I’ve also learnt more about the business side of the industry and how to present myself as a professional.
During my time at Dark Lens, I’ve helped out on a multitude of photographic projects, which has covered everything from photographing burlesque dancers to comforting screaming babies to covering wedding events! The experiences have been varied and challenging but have all added toward my ultimate goal, which was to broaden my expertise and to try a variety of photographic genres. As well as this I’ve also gained new skills and realised the importance of communication and teamwork.
The importance of teamwork became apparent instantly when assisting at Dark Lens. Working within a team, allow you to share responsibility and ideas, in order to create good images efficiently. I got to assist and observe Daz on a range of photo shoots, which offered me the chance to learn how to direct a photo shoot, greet customers and set up the studio space, as well as work within the Dark Lens team. It made me aware of the vitality of communication, in order to do a good job. Enthusiasm and the ability to communicate clearly with your subject and those around you is key and makes the whole studio experience more fluid and enjoyable for all of those participating.
My role within the Dark Lens team was that of an assistant photographer, meaning I had to be prepared to do whatever was necessary to ensure that a photographic shoot run smoothly, in both studio and event. This typically involved me preparing sets, checking that all equipment was functioning properly, setting up lighting and accessories, taking meter readings and transmitting files. I also held reflectors and lights whenever necessary.
It proved important to memorise the names of different equipment and to familiarize myself with studio set ups, to diminish any form of delay. It was also important to recognize potential problems and to be ready to deal with them. My knowledge on different forms of equipment and ability to foresee were good, meaning I could run and fetch whatever was necessary without hesitation. This made the team run more efficiently as I was quick and ready to do whatever was needed, which meant the shoots would go underway quickly. Therefore, my ability to understand, evaluate and to anticipate the needs and requirements of the photographer was something I did quite well.
In my role I was also required to entertain present clients whilst Daz was busy on other shoots, to shield him from any interruption. This was something I did well. I’m quite happy to make conversation with anyone, so greeting customers was something I enjoyed and was good at. I also had to answer the phone on behalf of Daz in a polite, friendly manner, which I did well. I entered the placement with good communication skills but my confidence with dealing with the general public and conversing with customers and professionals has much improved.
However, sometimes I did struggle with setting up the studio space. I had very little experience in working in studios prior to this experience and so calculating the correct settings on both the camera and lights proved challenging. This was a weakness within the team. I would often ask Daz for help when setting up the lights and camera, to ensure I was doing everything correctly, when really I should have just worked it out alone. I would often panic and worry over how to set up the lighting scheme and camera, something which should be dealt with in a calm, well-organized manner. Eventually, these qualms settled, as I set up the studio for more and more shoots, but initially it was something I didn’t do so well.
Next time, or if gaining another placement at another studio, I feel if I took notes of different sets up would have improved my stance within the team. Instead of having to ask the photographer for help or advice when setting up the studio space, which held the team back, I could instead, refer to my notebook. This would improve my knowledge and make me more self-efficient within the studio, which would benefit the team and my role within it.
Before, I had a good grounding in creative and technical aspects of photography, thanks to my studies at university but lacked real life experience and confidence in presenting myself as a professional and conducting my own projects as well as finding my own work. However, gaining experiences alongside a practicing professional has progressed my confidence, understanding and knowledge within different types of photography and scenarios.
Working alongside Daz has pushed my artistic boundaries and skills, enabling me to learn how to work under a variety of conditions whilst also becoming more of a professional. I now have experience covering a wide range of events and different studio shoots, from families to model portfolios, which has stretched my creative abilities, enhancing my versatility and portfolio. Through my experiences at Dark Lens and enhanced confidence, it pushed me to go and find work independently, which I feel I wouldn’t have done for some time, if it wasn’t for this module. This made me realise the importance of gaining experience to really push yourself within your craft, which I feel I’ve done but could pursue more.
I also have a better understanding of studio set up and equipment, which has proved most beneficial when conducting my own photo shoots and when working in a team. Anticipating problems, having a polite friendly attitude and meeting the photographers needs in an efficient calm manner is vital, and are skills I can add to my repertoire. My communications skills have improved as I’ve dealt with real life customers and models under a variety of conditions meaning I now have the ability and confidence to greet and entertain a wide range of people with ease.
Initially I wanted to gain a placement as an assistant photographer to practise a wide range of photographic genres, from studio to events, which I achieved. In doing this I wanted to gain more professional experience and work out what kind of photography I’d like to focus my efforts on. Through my experience with Dark Lens, I’ve not only picked up some useful tips and tricks within studio work but also found a new passion for photographing events. I’ve increased my communication skills and confidence and have improved my portfolio.
However, upon reflection I feel I should have spent more time researching photographers and their work to really figure out whom it is I really wanted to work for. I understood the vitality of assisting people that I really admired, to learn what it is that makes them great at their job, to add those skills to my own repertoire. There’s no point in learning bad habits from less successful photographers. Therefore, whilst I admired Daz for being a self-taught successful businessman and photographer as well as the work produced at Dark Lens, I feel I should have tried harder in gaining more experience with different photographers. This would have offered the opportunity to observe and learn how different people work to understand which way is best for me.
The knowledge and new and improved skills I have gained through my professional expereince are a direct outcome of this module. I am now more confident in presenting myself as a professional, working both independently and within a team, meaning I am now more willing to conduct and to pursue other and more exciting projects. Before, I lacked confidence in practicing photography but I know feel more confident and excited at the prospect of getting more work and gaining more placements. My professional experience has helped me build a varied and better portfolio, demonstrating a range of photographic genres within portraiture, which will benefit myself when wanting to land more jobs and events. Before, I didn’t really have a portfolio, only work produced as an outcome of my university course, so this progression in my portfolio is a great result. Although I wish I had pursued more and different photographers, my experience has been valid and will use it to gain more experiences and to create more great images in the future.