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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2009-07-27

Freelancing, Summer and Free Assistants!
By Todd Bigelow

Photo by

Todd Bigelow and his son Casey take in a ballgame at PETCO Park in San Diego.
Juggling assignments and parental obligations is hardly a unique situation. Many of us are faced with having to quickly arrange for sitters or day care arrangements often with only a day, or even hours, notice. And with summer upon us, gone is the option of scheduling in-town shoots during school hours, sitters are on vacation, friends are drinking by the pool (well, at least my friends usually are) and family is, well, they're family. And they're sick of baby-sitting anyway.

So what's a photographer to do?

My son, Casey, is a month shy of becoming a teenager, so I figure it's time he started helping me out a bit. I was cooking pizza in my uncle's parlor in Rhode Island at that age, so helping out dad on a few shoots can't be as bad as sliding dough into a scalding oven, I reasoned with myself.

Actually, he started a couple of summers ago when he helped on a shoot of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Paul Crutzen in San Diego for a German magazine. Nothing big, he just had to hold a 580ez strobe where I told him too, be polite and don't interrupt. He did a great job and the result was more flexibility in the very short time I had for the shoot. Instead of having to stop and adjust the placement of the 580, I just told Casey where to stand and how to point it. The magazine was happy plus we had some fun in San Diego afterward.

Last summer he helped on another shoot doing the same thing and he did a great job again. For clients that don't have a budget that allows for assisting (in this case a non-profit), and summer with its' endless free time upon us, using Casey is a no-brainer. He gets to meet interesting people (world skateboarding stars Danny Way and Tony Hawk, Olympic Marathoner Ryan Hall and USC's Pete Carroll, to name a few) all while providing real help. I kick him a few bucks to show him how the world works (the "few bucks" being quite the literal lesson!).

Later last summer he helped me by working as a stand-in while I scouted a location for a Sports Illustrated piece at Dallas Cowboys training camp. Mind you, he's about a quarter of the size of a NFL player, but it still helps to look through the lens at a person as opposed to just viewing the empty environment. He skipped the actual shoot a couple days later because I had two guys lined up to assist, but the scouting proved to be really helpful.

Just this month I had a shoot of a college basketball player in Santa Barbara for SI. I asked Casey if he'd like to "assist" Mariah, my regular assistant, and me during the shoot. To my surprise, given he sleeps these days until 11 and the shoot was a morning gig, he was enthusiastic.

He loves basketball and he already had enough experience to know that he would probably get to talk to the guy before or after. And with the dreaded "I'm bored" becoming a resounding echo in our house, I knew he would enjoy getting out and doing something different.

I had spoken with the player a couple of times and pegged him for an easy going guy and I knew this would not be overly stressful, so I figured it would only be beneficial to have Casey as an extra pair of hands, if only to help haul the gear.

Turns out, he was a huge help in a way I never anticipated. One of the things we all know can kill the momentum of a shoot is when you have to change your lighting set-up to get a different look, so when Mariah and I broke to change things up, Casey had the subject laughing as he tried to outshoot him from the three-point line. It was great, like having a half-time show to entertain while the team gears up.

As things go, I told him recently, I'd be happy to keep using him especially during his summer vacation because it beats him sitting at home by himself. My wife loves that he gets to "go-to-work" and learn some responsibility and Casey has some cool stories to tell his friends.

Now, hopefully I can convince him to study engineering or something because only time will tell what sort of world awaits the next generation of editorial photographers.

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