The Value of a Good Production Team
by Michael Lee, co-founder of The Photocoop, a photography community and rental studio
Currently, I’m putting together an updated version of a promotional slide-show video for our studio, The Photocoop. In doing so, I had asked my partners to submit their best works, or at least the works that they’d be most proud to show off. And when I saw the submissions and looked at my own choices, it dawned on me that the best works came from shoots in which involved multiple participants. It may seem like a “no duh” moment, but a good portion of our works in the past had been solo endeavors. Well, other than the model involved, of course. But ever since we opened The Photocoop, we have been fortunate enough to be able to have at least one assistant present at most of our shoots. And in some, we’ve had full teams: makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, retouchers, and of course, assistants (whom we lovingly refer to as VALs (voice-activated light-stands)). Finding the right support staff isn’t easy. Some might be very talented, but lack professionalism in ways of timeliness or reliability. Others might be rock-steady, but somewhat lacking in creativity or drive. When you find someone who demonstrates a good amount of it all, that’s gold, man! The team that I use isn’t always the same roster. I employ different MUAs and stylists, depending on the shoot, budget, and availability. But one position seems to be consistent: my VAL. But my VAL is so much more. She’s also my retoucher, wardrobe stylist, reflector holder, creative consultant, wind-blower, smoke-blower, dress-fluffer, and a myriad of other job positions. She’s also an amazing photographer. And she’s also my wife. You can always tell which photos that she helped me with. They’re the ones that are GOOD.
I’ve played the role of VAL also. I’ve also been the creative consultant. And wind-blower. And smoke-blower. Sometimes in an embarrassingly literal way. But damn, those photos turned out good! All of our partners have had their turns as the primary shooter, and as VALs, assistants, etc. That’s the way we work at the Coop. And that’s no small part of what’s elevated all of our quality. So yea, are any of us at The Photocoop good photographers? At the risk of sounding arrogant, I can confidently say “yes, we are”. But we’re all made so much better by our support staff. Without them, at least for me, I’ve produced work that was pretty good. But WITH them, we’ve produced gallery-worthy art.
I’d like to thank my wife, studio partners, frequent helpers, VALs, MUAs and stylists. And our new interns will become welcome additions to our staff, I’m sure. Thank you folks, for making The Photocoop the place where ART happens.
You are 100% right in everything you stated here.
A lot of photographers don't like escorts, but for outdoor shoots I think they are essential as a VAL to hold lights or a reflector.
With all those important functions it's great if you can find one person who can handle multiple functions (less no shows).
And as your kids get older, you will be gaining some more reliable VALs.
Keep up the great work.
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