It takes a team to build a mountain

One of the most important traits I have learned over the years is having a great team on a project. No man is an island and working on a photography project is a joint effort no matter what size it is. Surrounding yourself with other creative individuals only help enhance the success rate in the end. As far as back I remember in my career I have always brought aboard people to help with executing different shoots.

There are a few key types of individuals that can be very helpful on any type of project that you encounter.

They are broken up into the following:

  • Assistants
  • 2nd Shooters
  • Hair Stylists
  • Makeup Artists
  • Wardrobe Stylists
  • Location Scouts
  • Set Design Stylists
  • Retouching Artists

-Wrapping up a fashion editorial in Chicago with my team.


The most common and often the most under appreciated team member is the assistant(s) on a production. These individuals wear the most amount of hats (except for the photographer) on a project. Frequent to helping out in all the departments they are the wall to lean against when the workload of a project intensifies. Speaking from personal experience as an assistant for many other photographers I can say it is a very challenging position to take on. A great assistant is able to read the photographer well enough to anticipate ahead of time what they me require during production.

This is in addition to helping setup/test/break down camera gear and lighting on a set. The role of an Assistant is not always a glorious one. But the trade off for many is gaining valuable experience working on set with a more proficient photographer and growing. The relationship between Photographer and Assistant is not always a student/teacher one. But many times experienced photographers will take aspiring new photographers under their wing to help them progress further and introduce new techniques. Over the years I have the priviledge of having some incredible assistants who grew into terrific and very talented photographers.

 -Kevin and Heather working with me on a Corporate Portrait Shoot in Chicago.

2nd Shooters

Working very close in line with Assistants a 2nd Shooter is another photographer who works under the main photographer on a project. Often these individuals will take on the responsibility of shooting 2nd location photography / B-Roll footage / Behind the Scenes footage and Alternate angles on a production. Most often you will see a 2nd Shooter on a Wedding Photography session. During pivotal moments of the wedding having a 2nd camera documenting the event often helps the main photographer ensure he is capturing everything. Sometimes you will also see an Assistant double as a 2nd Shooter on a production also. This is where the role of an Assistant will require multitasking in a few different responsibilities.

 -Julia helping as a 2nd shooter with back to back weddings outside Chicago.

Hair Stylists and Makeup Artists

Hair Stylists and Makeup Artists often full under the same category on a production. But they could be individual depending upon the size and scope of the shoot. Having a great artist in this area helps tremendously with any type of project that involves having people in front of the camera. Whether it is a Wedding or Engagement Session – Family Portrait – Professional Head shots – Fashion Editorial and more all can benefit from having professional services in this area.

Often I hear from male clients ask why they need a Hair/Makeup Artist on set for a shoot. And the fact is that everyone in front of the camera (especially for Professional – Editorial Portraits) can utilize having makeup and hair services to help enhance the portrait. Also having a 2nd pair of eyes next to the Photographer on set allows them to notice smaller details in this department that they may overlook.

 -Fabric Illusion: Fashion Spread with a my super talented team.

Wardrobe Stylists

Wardrobe Stylists can be a valuable asset to any large project that we come across that involves people. And more often then not we ask to bring on a stylist even on a non-fashion oriented project. Similar to a Hair-Makeup Artist a stylist on set can help the photographer with attention to details in the clothing that the subject is wearing. They also can help with coordinating attire best suited for the location and theme of a project. Again having this extra layer of help on a project will ensure that we can create the best possible photographs and make our clients feel comfortable knowing attention to those details are being looked over.

A stylist also helps tremendously when we do work with clothing designers and/or editorial spreads. They often are able to coordinate with the client and develop a shot list of outfits that best will suit the flow of the photography session. Fashion Stylists generally borrow and return clothing and accessories from fashion boutiques and directly from fashion designers. Items can also be bought if funds are available. Most boutiques and designers will want you to leave a deposit or credit card details in case the garment or accessory becomes damaged while on loan. 

 -Model Samantha working with Nicole and myself on a quick Summer vintage fashion editorial.

Location Scouts

The primary duty of a location scout is to find an environment best suited for a particular photograph or series of photographs. The search begins with the concept for the shoot, which indicates what kind of location is needed. The scouting of potential sites usually begins with a file search, leading to physical visits to actual sites, whether exterior or interior. The location scout is responsible for contacting property owners to gain permission to scout their property; permission also must be obtained from the appropriate authorities to prevent the possibility of trespassing or other legal liabilities that may occur. Location scouts often drive themselves to sites and may scout locations alone or with others. Once at a site, the scout makes descriptive notes and sketches and takes detailed photos and video that shows how the spot meets the aesthetic goals of the script, as well as noting details about the logistical implications of the site.

The more details they can provide about a site to the photographer, the better; a complete picture of what to expect during the shoot is expected. Ambient lighting conditions, ambient sound, parking areas for the crew, sources of electricity, and access to the site are just some of the most crucial details that should be scouted. Finally, once the location is chosen, the legal issues have been worked out, and the crew descends on the site, location scouts photograph the site to ensure that any “dressing” of the location, whether in the form of props and furniture or actual structural changes, can be easily undone and the location returned to its original condition once filming is complete.

 -Scouting the North Shore at sunrise for future fashion editorial locations.

Set Design Stylists

Set Designers have a multitude of roles that they could take depending upon the size and scope of the project. They include:  Presenting drawings for approval and makes changes and corrections as directed for the shot list. Selecting furniture, draperies, pictures, lamps, and rugs for decorative quality and appearance of a project. Coordinates with heads of production and direction to establish budget, schedules, and discuss design ideas. Directs and coordinates set construction, erection, or decoration activities to ensure conformance to design, budget, and schedule requirements. Though not used as often as the other team members a Set Designer can be a valuable person on more complex projects requiring an extra level of staging at a location.

 -A huge team effort to put together an amazing editorial spread.

Retouching Artists

Digital Retouching Artists are often not seen on the set of photo shoot but will always be the last person to complete a project for a client. These artists are the members who will do all the corrections in Post Production to clean up the photographs and make any necessary adjustments needed to properly output the images to the highest standards. Using the latest software they are able to process the RAW file images from the camera and make the necessary corrections. Often photographs will only need adjustments in brightness or minor skin retouching to complete an order.

But some projects require more time and attention to detail to remove particular items from the image or recreate a section that may have been removed. The role of the artist is often never done in the initial round of editing. Many times a client may require a 2nd round of fine tuning of an image to best output for their needs. But once a project has been approved the entire team can celebrate in knowing another satisfied client has been serviced by the studio.

-Behind the scene look at retouching a set of images for a publication in the studio.

1 reply
  1. jon cancelino
    jon cancelino says:

    Thanks for the comment Patricia! After years in the industry I stand firm in knowing that having a solid team is the cornerstone to a successful project indeed. And I feel being such a caring individual I had to put a personal touch in recognizing everyone in this post that has made such a difference in the portfolio of work I can share now. 🙂


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