~~~~~~~~~~ This position has now been filled - thank you to all those that applied and welcome to Graham and Isabel!
We're now looking for an associate documentary wedding photographer to join the team, rather than waffle on about the position you might like to hear it from Joshua, my first associate photographer. If you still think it's for you after reading the article, simply email your portfolio and CV to email@example.com
I'm Josh, and I was the first photographer to go through Allister's Associate program some two and a half years ago. It's about time I shared my thoughts on the process so that those of you looking to earn a place on his upcoming programme know what you are getting into.
Now you are back, read on...
First up - what this programme is.
The first thing you need to realise is that success will ultimately come from you, your talent and your attitude. No one can polish a turd, and whilst Allister can sprinkle some glitter over even the most artistically challenged (just look what miracles he worked on me), he can only work with what he has. That said, don't be afraid to submit your portfolio. Mine was awful, and I mean awful, but I emailed it to him and he could see the potential, so get yours in.
You also need to be prepared to put in the hard work right from the start. You really will start from the beginning, right back to how you handle the camera and why you decide to use the settings you do, so be prepared to get knocked back a peg or two, particularly if you are overly confident in your skill but on assessment are found lacking.
As I said in my previous post, this programme is designed so that you are fully integrated into our collective - and I use the word 'our' purposefully as you'll end up working with Andy and I along the way too (probably less me as I am on sabbatical at the moment but certainly Andy). Allister will not end up as your boss, this is a collective of equals and you will be expected to put in equal effort to make it succeed. It will be almost as much hard work as running your own business (admittedly with significantly less of the risk on your shoulders) because whilst it may have Allister's name up there, your success will be down to you.
It will be exciting, trying, emotional but rewarding. And it'll be a lot of fun.
Secondly - what this programme is not.
This programme is an opportunity, but it is also an investment. It is not a free lunch. You will have to work incredibly hard to get the most out of it and of yourself so you must not go into this thinking that you are going to walk into a stack of commissions handed to you on a plate and off you go. You will be doing a lot of work yourself, a lot of self study and a lot of soul searching to determine your style. If you love photography, the process will be hard but fun. If you are coming into this for the wrong reasons you'll suffer and fall by the wayside very quickly.
Likewise, this programme isn't interested in turning you into a clone of any of the three of us. That would make no sense as how could you be marketed if you had nothing unique to add to the business? You won't get a template to work to, you won't get a series of hoops to jump and a big certificate at the end. This isn't a 'course' that you can add to your qualifications, it is about becoming part of this team and being stronger for it.
What you'll cover.
If I was to list everything I learnt, and everything I brought to the table (another factor I'll get to in a minute), this post would be huge. That said, here is an abridged version, roughly in order:
- Assessment phase - your abilities and skills are appraised to set the framework of the program.
- Portfolio critique (this is usually very harsh, but constructive - if you can't take criticism, don't apply - I mean that very seriously).
- Shooting and critique (shoot on live commissions, critique and then shoot again - this phase can/will take several months depending on your progress).
- Editing - runs alongside the shooting phase. Sit with Allister at the computer during the editing process, learning the art of culling, selecting your best images, learning why they are the best, recognising how to edit to enhance what you have captured and producing final images ready to deliver to the client. This phase is extremely tough, incredibly detailed, constantly changing and somewhat soul destroying in the early days when you see what you captured next Al's work (it was for me anyway). On a happier note - he has moved into a new studio, rather than the old uninsulated loft space he had before - so you won't have to both sit there editing images in just your pants in order to avoid heat-stroke in the peak of the summer heat! :-D
- Shoot your own commissions, on your own: A nerve-racking one if you haven't done it before.
Fundamental for all modern photographers, your online presence is the key portal for new commissions, you'll learn how to do it properly and run your own website.
- Blogging: Running a successful website, engaging with the wedding community, getting your work out there in addition to all the other 101 little things that add up to a comprehensive online marketing campaign will be covered.
- Social media: optimising social media to enhance your online presence and marketing.
- A lot of this stuff is proprietary so I won't share it freely here but you'll get everything from learning how to optimise the initial contact right through to the commissions itself, passing everything from pricing to vendor relationships to differentiating your style on the way. It's as full featured as it comes in terms of learning the ropes of a successful business from the inside out and putting these techniques to use for your own commissions.
What you bring to the table.
The Associate position is a fully fledged member of the business and we are just as interested in what you can bring to the table whilst not behind the camera. For example, this website you are visiting - I made it, showed Al and Andy how to use it themselves and saved thousands of pounds for the business in the process. Andy has incredible marketing skills and in just one example massively increased the quality of our client slideshows. All of us together worked out new strategies to improve our client communications, our marketing and increase our number of commissions. If you read between the lines you'll understand that that stuff worked so well we now need you!
You can, and will be expected, to bring your own ideas and approach to the collective. We can't predict what value those skills will bring, but if you embrace it fully, we'll all benefit, you included.
Some concluding thoughts...
Finally, reading all this in one big chunk can make everything seem a bit daunting. It isn't and that is not the impression I want to leave. So much of this happens organically, learning through doing and not just sticking your head in a book, that you will often barely notice how quickly and how much you are improving. Nothing is ever overwhelming and support is there the whole time - even if it is just to whinge about self-important registrars!
Allister isn't looking for a finished product when he receives your initial portfolio. It's actually harder for a fairly established photographer to do this programme as they find it difficult to take the criticism of their methods and things don't normally work out. He's looking for potential and personality, and he'll be the one to decide (with a little input from Andy and I no doubt) so don't judge yourself, just get your application in.
Portfolio of at least 15 images, CV and preferably a cover letter/email.
Deadline for applications is 31.12.12.
Applicants from all areas of the UK considered.