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|| News Item: Posted 2004-12-16

Leading Off: Give a Gift That Gives Back
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Just say no!

No more gift certificates (no matter if they are from the cool Apple iTunes Store).

No last minute stops into stores like Brookstone, Sharper Image or Restoration Hardware.

No cheesy ties, funky socks or bad inkjet prints.

But you say you're still looking for that unique holiday gift for that good photographer friend?

I've got one for you, one that I discovered by accident recently.

How about getting on your computer and making a personal gift certificate, one that gives the recipient the use of your services as an assistant on a shoot in the future?

Now here is a gift that benefits not just your photographer friend but you as well. The Holidays are all about giving (but we all know that we secretly want something too) so this is a gift that gets you a little something back as well.


For photographers it can come in lots of different ways, but most likely in the form of books (like my current fav, a gift from my pal Ron: "Hollywood Nudes In 3D"), movies (I like to study the lighting), the Message Board (threads sounding like "Hey look what Vince did today!") or your annual performance evaluation --- "Bert must improve (fill in the blanks) or he won't be working here in 6 months."

But I rediscovered something that I used to do a lot and I thought I'd pass it along: assisting a friend with a shoot.

Recently I helped a friend with celebrity portrait assignment and found the experience educational, fun and yes, inspirational.

This is something I used to do a lot when I worked at smaller newspapers earlier in my career. Being basically a "Lone Gunman" in LA for USA TODAY I don't have the luxury of having staff-mates around to talk face-to-face about photography and yes, help them with a shoot.

My friend Myung Chun had an important shoot for the LA Times with actor Kevin Spacey recently and rather than let macho pride or some other nonsense (like hanging out at Fry's Electronics on a day-off instead?) get in the way, I said "yes" when he asked me for some help. I hauled gear, set up light stands, tweaked background lights, held a softbox to keep it from tipping over and most importantly kept quiet, listened and learned.

When you do something like helping a friend with a shoot it's sort of like going to work for your wife or your mom … you want to make "suggestions" along the way, but if you know better you keep your yap shut. By keeping in mind "it's not MY shoot," I ended up getting a lot out of the two and a half hours I spent on Hollywood and Vine with Myung (an hour set - up, an hour and 15 waiting around and 15 minutes of actual shooting).

Sometimes we get into a rut with our photography (some think it's a "groove" but trust me, you're in a rut!) observing another photographer work can shake you up a bit and most of all, make you think. Myung did some things that I wouldn't have thought to do. And they worked.

We all have looked at a photograph and muttered "Damn! Wish I had shot that" or asked "I wonder why the photographer shot it this way?" So why not do something about that and find out first-hand?

It seems this season every Sunday morning I opened up my LA Times and I saw a great, story-telling, 6-column photo from a Southern Cal football game by Wally Skalij staring at me in the face (that I obviously missed). And Thursdays I opened up SI and saw a fabulous double truck photo by Peter Read Miller (Jezzz and I was right next to him?) … Sometimes I think that instead of going to cover a game, maybe it would be good for me schlep around the sidelines carrying someone else's 600mm for a while and listen and watch at least once a season.

So instead of giving that colleague a Starbuck's gift card for Christmas, why not give them a card that is redeemable for your time assisting them on a shoot? It would be a cool gift and something that you'll get a lot of too. Isn't that what the Christmas Season is all about anyway?

* * *

The Holiday edition of the Sports Shooter Newsletter features a provocative column by Scott Sommerdorf on ethic dilemmas. Regular Sports Shooter contributor Reed Hoffmann writes about his experience in documenting the reality show "The Apprentice". This issue also features our long-awaited users report on Canon's new pro-sumer digital camera the 20D and the Sports Shooter (Last Minute) Holiday Gift Guide. Photodude gives us his ABCs and Darren Carroll givers us the lowdown on assisting and how that might lead to bigger and better things in photography.

So sit back, adjust the contrast on that monitor, turn up the volume on "The Beatles Christmas" bootleg CD and enjoy Sports Shooter v. 73!

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