As a freelance artist, one of your primary goals is securing return clientele. For retouchers, makeup artists, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, digital techs, photography assistants, models, and others, one of those primary sources of income can be from the photographers who consistently hire you as a member of their creative team. So how can you improve your chances of being hired on a repeat basis?
As a professional photographer, I will break down some of the top reasons why I will hire someone for my team, and what it is that pro photographers tend to look for. The following is a list of rules that will universally apply to every role in a creative team.
1. Possess Strong Communication Skills
Whether you are being contacted via e-mail, DM, text, or a voicemail, the clock tends to stop ticking after 24 hours. Nobody will be sitting around waiting for your response and will find a replacement if they don’t hear from you quickly. Make every effort to respond in a timely fashion, and ensure that you’re conducting yourself professionally in these verbal or digital conversations.
2. Be Punctual
Your client will not care if you had to drive from an hour away and you got caught in traffic. If you’re late, you’re late. Being tardy is not just inconsiderate to the client, but to everyone else on the team that will now be delayed as a result.
Check the route that you’re going in advance, and always plan to be early. If there is any possibility of you being late, communicate that fact as early as you can. Things happen, and most people can be understanding, but if the communication isn’t there, your tardiness will be an issue.
Julia Kuzmenko McKim, Commercial Beauty Photographer & Retoucher: “There is a common saying among Los Angeles creative professionals in the Commercial Photography and Video production field: “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late“.
3. Be Personable and Approachable
Regardless of your role, or how behind the scenes you might be, bringing positive energy to set will only help to keep the work environment enjoyable. Nobody wants to work with Grumpy Gills, Debby Downers or divas.
On that note, you want to be open to feedback and collaboration from the photographer (or whoever may be in control of that set), so that you can course-correct as needed to deliver the best possible result.
4. Always Bring Your “A” Game
This should go without saying, but if you produce the work of an amateur, you’re unlikely to be called back for future work. Everyone has their off days, just make sure that no one else knows that. There is nothing more disappointing than working with someone who is extraordinarily skilled and watching them phone it in. Regardless of whether or not the assignment excites or inspires you, you need to bring your “A” game every time.
5. Establish a Job Description and Expectations
If this is the first time that you’re testing or working with a photographer or client, ensure that you have a firm grasp of what it is that they expect from you. Are you responsible for creative direction, designing a mood board, do they want to collaborate on ideas, etc.
Some photographers will direct every facet of production, while other photographers will love to foster creative input from their team. You want to make sure you understand which camp they fall into, and act accordingly.
6. Be Prepared
I am one of those photographers that keep “crew kits” around the studio of little odds and ends that tend to be needed on set. There have been so many instances where someone needed a bobby pin, a clothespin, a makeup removing wipe or a steamer for clothing. Not every photographer and client will have that to save your back, so if you want to impress, it’s best that you already have everything you need with you. You’re a professional, after all.
7. Sharp Presentation Skills Are a Must
There is a surprising lack of words that can be used to accurately communicate one’s creative vision when it comes to styling. One person’s idea of a smoky eye will vary drastically from another’s, similarly to how the phrase “just trim an inch” when uttered to a hairdresser often results in 1-6 inches of hair being hacked off instead.
Try to have visuals at the ready so that you can show the director of the production precisely what it is that you plan to execute. This is especially important for makeup artists, hairstylists, and wardrobe stylists.
8. Clean Up After Yourself
A good creative team will be able to show up on set, work for hours, and leave without a trace of their presence. Sometimes, it’s the little things that can get under your client’s skin, and common courtesies like this can go a long way.
Julia Kuzmenko McKim: “I usually stay back to tidy up and turn everything off in my studio after the creative team is out. I always notice if the makeup station has not been wiped and makeup residue and smears are left for me to clean up. I perceive it as a sign of a lack of professionalism and I think it is disrespectful to me and my space.”
9. Put Your Phone Down
It’s the digital age, and social media is the name of the game for just about everyone, but there is a time and a place for tagging twenty people in your IG story or recording ten BTS snaps.
Time is money, and nothing is more frustrating than a team member that makes the whole team wait. If you’re supposed to be styling hair, or applying makeup, or steaming wardrobe for the next look, make sure you are focused on that, and only that.
This especially goes for models. If a makeup artist is coming at you with an eyeliner pencil, it might not be their fault if you get stabbed in the eye because you were looking down at your phone.
10. Find Out if the Content is Embargoed
If you’re working in the beauty, fashion, or commercial industries, there is a very high chance that the photographs are not permitted to be shared or published until a specified date. Ask the client about any restrictions or rules they have on behind-the-scenes photos, or any previews of the images. This is not something you ever want to get wrong.
11. Credit Everyone
If you are sharing images from a shoot that you worked on, make sure you credit everyone involved. For unpaid tests, editorials, or even paid work, it’s common courtesy to tag and credit those who worked hard on the production along with you.
While this can be tricky at times, if someone on the team has all of the credits in their Instagram post, make sure those credits make an appearance in your own posts as well.
12. Ask Permission to Network
I have witnessed and heard the tale of many people who will use their jobs as an opportunity to network with others on the team. This can be as benign as sharing social media handles to something more aggressive as asking about getting work from another photographer that someone works with.
Most clients and photographers won’t have a problem with you sharing business cards or networking, but you really should ask permission beforehand.
13. Master Time Management
If a photographer asks you how long it will be before the first look is ready, you want to provide an accurate estimate. Being a perfectionist is one thing, but spending an hour on a natural makeup look for a model with perfect skin is not going to win you any favors. Learn how long it takes you to perform a given task and keep an eye on the clock.
This applies as well to retouchers, especially when it comes to hitting a deadline, or a delivery date that you’ve provided. No matter what, you always want to under-promise and over-deliver.
14. Express Gratitude
Like it or not, there are many people in the industry, and those people could have been cast or hired in your place. Even just a simple “thank you for having me” can go a long way in motivating a client to hire you once more.
In the end, there is no magic formula for securing jobs, but the above will set you on the right path.
If there are other important things to keep in mind, please share it with us in the comments below!
Featured Image Source – Photographer: Kendra Paige | Model: Arbenita @ Elite Miami | Styling: Anthony Bermudez @ Artists by Timothy Priano | HMUA: Bryin Smoot @ Agency Gerard Artists | Retoucher: Nataly Trach | Assistant: Chris Brodsky