Commercial photography is not a single player game. Some photographers get lost in their own ego and forgot about the team that’s helping to make the shoot happen. Where would you be without a great assistant? How do you run three sets without help? The team works together to make the client happy and to make the shoot day run smoothly. No matter the size of your team, each person brings valuable knowledge to the set. When you have help, you can focus on making the best images possible. I lean on my crew to help me navigate the day, and make a plan for a successful shoot.
I have worked on sets with 30 + crew members - all working in harmony to get the production flowing. A production assistant is at the bottom of the totem pole. I find them to be the backbone of any production, they are normally the first to arrive on set and the last to leave. The production assistant is a huge asset for anyone working that day, and yes, they might get coffee and set up catering - but the tasks they take on are one less thing you have worry about.
The first assistant is your right hand. He or She is there to support you, and they are your buffer from the rest of the crew. Your second in command. The best first assistants are photographers as well. They can get in your head and help make suggestions for things you may not have thought of. They understand what is takes to make images, and they have the knowledge of the gear you are using. When you get excited and start beating the recycle time on your power packs - they dial you back in. The first assistant is attentive and ready to solve any problem that pops up.
The producer is the team leader. They have mapped out the day and thought about the little things that make the day run smooth. They take into account the needs of the crew and make sure you are taken care of. The best producers have an iron fist in a silk glove. As well as checking in on the process of the job and putting out any fires that come up, they also have your back. The producer will stand up to demands from clients that go outside the scope of work.
The Digital Tech is running your computer, managing your files and showing the client and AD the images as they import into your capture software. They provide valuable feedback on the images as well. When you are in the zone, hearing that your exposure has changed or your images are slighting soft lets you work faster. You do not have to walk away and review it for yourself. At the end of the day they back up the job and get the client the files needed to take the job to the next step.
The stylist, and I’m not talking about the instagram fashionistas. Soft, hard, food and wardrobe stylists are a huge asset to a team. They specialize in making fabric, food, props and just about anything in the image look the best it can. They are working along your side to translate the client vision into reality. A stylist shows up with a tool kit of pins, metal tape, tacky wax, batting, and brushes - all the items they need to get the job done. The job dictates what kind of stylist you need, and some wear many hats.
The makeup artist is essential when photographing people. No matter who you are, a little (or a lot) of hair and make up is going to make your life easier. They have everything to make anyone look their best and get them camera ready. Some of the more experienced makeup artists will ask you what kind of lighting you are using because they know what make up will look best. They see things you might miss and will jump in to fix flyaway hairs and knock down any shine on someones forehead. The makeup artist is present in the process - watching what come up on the monitor and on set.
Not every job will need every person. Some jobs need multiple crew members. It all depends on the production, budget and goals of the job. Many hands make light work. With a great team you can accomplish anything!