When Ann Elliott Cutting told me about her recent experiences with her team of interns, I asked her to share with us what she learned and some insights for photographers looking for internships. Here is what she wrote.
When I first though about hiring interns, I was reluctant and felt guilty about asking someone to work for free. How would I keep them busy? Would it be more work to teach them what I knew? Would they even be interested in what I have to teach? I quickly decided that it was best to approach it as a learning experience for all of us.
I knew things would go smoothly when I met the interns. They were young, talented and eager to get a start in the photography business. Getting to know each other and sorting out roles was easy. It was such a positive experience that even though the internships for two of them are formally completed, we continue to work together and I am adding a third for the summer!
Part of the reason for our success was how well we communicated. I emailed them each week with the shoot schedule and invited them to come and lend a hand if they were interested and had the time. They seemed to enjoy being on set the best. They did a lot of pre- production work, light styling, helpful editing and casting. I realized it helps them to have the hands on experience and seeing the flow of a shoot. Timing, logistics and business practice seem to solidify during the internships easier then in the classroom. I have learned to delegate without feeling guilty and to recognize their different skill sets.
When Heather asked me to reflect about my time with my interns, I decided that it would be most relevant to share some helpful hints for photographers looking for internships. Having a good experience goes a long way towards shaping how you want to be not only a photographer but as a business person as well.
Some points to think about as you look for your internship:
It is crucial to do your research of whom you would like to work with. Find someone who inspires you and gets you thinking. Look for someone who has the same sense of creativity as you do.
2. BE PREPARED TO SHOW OFF YOUR WORK AND SELL YOURSELF
Make sure you have a website to show your work. Less is indeed more (keep it high quality) and make sure the site is easy to navigate. When reaching out, keep the conversation going, make the effort to meet at their studio. Always follow up. Be persistent but don’t pester. Timing is everything, so keep in touch. Offer to work for free. And , be sure to set it up through the school you attend so you can get credit.
2. DEFINE GOALS AND TIME FRAMES
Define your goals and areas you want to learn about and discuss these with your employer. Determine what you want to learn about and find someone who can teach you. The photo business has many different jobs and being an intern for a producer, ad agency, a photographer or a rep can provide very different experiences. Keep in mind your end goal and where you see yourself in 5 or 10 years. Think of your internship as a place to build a network and make connections for future employment. Spelling out a time frame is important to ensure that the milestones can be planned and realized.
3. BE PROFESSIONAL, ARRIVE ON TIME AND BE DEPENDABLE AND COURTEOUS
This goes without saying but a reminder if always helpful.
4. BE NIMBLE, LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN MORE, BECOME THE EXPERT
Always ask questions. You are there to learn. Take initiative. Help out the prop guy or the set builder. Learn some food styling techniques from the food stylist. Become confident in using the equipment. Answer the phone, help prepare and send out a promo. Check in with your employer and set up regular meetings so you can share information and experiences. Observe the pre and post days and notice how the jobs flow in and out. Offer your services outside of the internship; such as an assistant. (I always prefer to hire my interns as an assistant when we are short on set.) Offer good suggestions and think outside of the box. And, offer your special skill set, you might be great at retouching or you might have great people skills on a big set. Become the expert so you are the go-to person.
5. REMEMBER THE LADDER
If you start with a good positive attitude and are helpful and enthusiastic you will climb the ladder faster, get referrals, and recommendations. Most studios are connected to a huge network of other potential employers. We all work for ourselves and we rely on each other for referrals. We trust other photographer’s suggestions when our favorite assistant or stylist is booked. Don’t burn your bridges, it is a very small community and a vast network.
6. CONTINUE TO GROW OUTSIDE OF YOUR INTERNSHIP
Continue to shoot on your own and bring your work in for critique. You have a captive audience to share your work and get valuable constructive criticism. Take advantage of it while you are there as it won’t be as easy to make happen after you leave.
7. HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY
Here are some of the images that Ann Elliott Cutting show with her interns this spring. Many were done with Type 55 Polaroid which was a treat to work with it again. If you haven’t already discovered the Impossible Project, please link here.