Week 1: Photographer

Ah!! I just got home from Day #2 as a professional photographer. Henrieta.is.so.cool! On day #1 I met her at her house, where she promptly started feeding me(!). We chatted for over an hour - everything from her immigration to Canada at 19yrs old, how she started shooting, and how she's "bullied" herself into working for other photographers.

I sat in on a conference call from the creative agency and the client behind the shoot (hello Skype!), as they talked about licensing fees, wardrobe, the shot list, and the shoot schedule for Wednesday.  In this case, Henrieta's job isn't just that of photographer - she's been contracted to organize a huge portion of the shoot.  This includes hiring the hair and makeup artists, the casting agent and 'talent' (models), as well as her own assistants.  She's also in charge of renting the studio space, renting the gear for the shoot, and picking up craft services (the food on-set). I had no idea photography consisted of such organization...

For the entire afternoon, Henrieta was either on the phone or online, planning and organizing everything around the shoot.  What kind of food should we bring to set?  Was the talent available?  In this case, a model had declined the shoot and another had to be found - 2 days before the shoot.  A few phone calls (To the hair stylist: "The agency thinks she looks too young, can we grey her hair a little bit?") and emails later, we had our models and were good to go.

I definitely get the sense that to be a freelance photographer, you have to be willing to hustle.  No one's going to come to you - you have to go to them. And even if you DO manage to get to them ("them," being a photographer, a creative agency, or a client), and force-feed them your portfolio, there's still no guarantee that they'll remember you when the time comes for a shoot.  You have to constantly fight for position in their mind, reminding the photographer/agency/client that you're the best for the job.

This takes an insane amount of self-confidence and persistency - of which Henrieta has in droves.  She told me a story of one photographer who was known throughout the city for not hiring women.  She was a fan of his work, and would call his office every couple months to try and set up a face-to-face meeting. It got so his assistant would flat out tell her, "He doesn't work with women, you know that!"  Every year, this photographer held an "invitation-only" shooting event, and Henrieta was dead-set on shooting it.  During the show for this event one year (which she forked over $45 just to attend), she tried to meet the man behind the lens - and succeeded to have a short conversation close to the end of the nite.  The next Monday, she called him: "Hi!  Remember me?  We met Friday.  I'm 10 minutes away from your studio, and I'm going to stop by."

He agreed, and met with her for a couple minutes - just long enough to casually flip through her portfolio, and just as quickly - dismiss it.  "Why should I hire you?!  I need someone who's going to be able to pack gear!  My studio's on the second floor - and you need to be able to handle it.  I never work with women."

Maybe she was slightly discouraged - but I doubt it.  Henrieta called the photographer back the NEXT DAY.  "Hi, this is Henrieta. We met yesterday? Well, I thought about what you said, and I get your point.  When can I start working for you?"

Henrieta got a call from him 3 days later - and worked with him for the next 5 years!  And as for the "invitation-only" event - she was invited to shoot it last year.

I love this!!  This girl doesn't take "NO" for an answer.  And that's what kind of attitude you HAVE to have, if you're going to make it in the freelance world.  There's a lot of competition out there, and you have to make yourself stand out.

On Day #2, I met her for lunch, shopped for on-set food-stuffs, and then headed to the studio to start setting up.  It is such a gorgeous space: huge windows take up one wall and the ceilings are about 15 feet high - a totally open-concept-loft-type space.  As we set up (I helped a bit with the light stands), Henrieta talked about how she loved the technical side of all this, "It's like Kindergarten - we're building stuff!"

The studio we're using is also used for the TD bank ad campaign, so the famous 'TD Chair' was there - and I got to sit in it! (for those of you in the U.S - it's just a big, comfy, green chair - that is in every ad you see for this bank!)

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we'll be at the studio to set up the food for the clients and the agency reps who will be there, as well as the 10 models coming in for their close-up.  No doubt it will be a long day, but with Henrieta's hard work, I have no doubt the shots will come out looking fab.

Until then...!