“Your telling me you know how you’re going to pose a group of four when they walk in the door?” My fellow Assembly Line Portrait Photographer says in disbelief. “You use the same pose every time?”
“Pretty much so.” I say.
The Button Pusher part of the New Company Training was dead easy. So easy in fact that we spent the better part of the two days sitting around bullshitting about taking portraits, doing fine art, and telling each other why their pictures suck, while our own are the pinnacle of photographic expression.
This particular Assembly Line Portrait Photographer used to be a Real Photographer and his portfolio was filled with images of famous people from the worlds of sports and entertainment. When asked why he gave up these shoots where he could make more in a week than we make in a year, he mumbled something about there being too much competition. That’s a long fall down to the bottom working for the New Company.
When I first started doing this kind of work, lo those many years ago, I was a simple Button Pusher. The Studio had fixed lighting, fixed focus, and the camera could only be used in the studio-it was a monster long roll film camera useless for anything else. This was not a setup that needed a Photographer, it was classic Button Pusher territory. In other words, it was an idiot proof studio that virtually anyone with a few hours of training could use to create salable images.
Most of the Companies I worked for after that hired actual photographers and gave us real world studio photography equipment that you might find in any portrait studio anywhere. With the exception of The New Company, who once again wants nothing but Button Pushers and used specialized equipment that could only be used in their idiot proofed studios.
I really got spoiled at most other places. In the past few years I have been given all kinds of really nice Digital Cameras, several times they were given to me New In The Box. This showed a level of trust unheard of by The New Company. Many of those smaller outfits went so far as to say I could use the camera myself, so long as I didn’t damage it in the process, in which case I would have to pay for it. I never damaged a camera while using it and I captured countless images for my personal use as I traveled near and far taking portraits for my employers. This was a system that worked well for all concerned.
Once I went to work for the Old Company, they were pretty strict about what they wanted as well. You were not officially allowed to use the camera, but many people did. There were also a ton of rules about how to take portraits and they were really uptight about the poses, cropping, and exposure. Then they went mad for a short time and told us to do anything and everything we wanted and shoot as many portraits as we could so the Subjects would have as many choices as possible. Then they got bought out.
The New Company is a lot more Old School Assembly Line Portraits. They work under the assumption that all of their Button Pushers are idiots. Case in point:One of the instructions in their manual says not to look at the sun through the camera’s viewfinder. It seems to be OK to look at the sun without using the viewfinder. If the New Company is really hiring mind numbingly stupid people maybe this kind of warning is necessary. If they really think I am mind numbingly stupid, this kind of thing pisses me off.
The new Studio has two fairly high quality DSLRs. But once again the file and rank cannot be trust to pour piss out of a bucket. The camera has been locked down in several places, once with a hot glue gun, a couple times with black tape, and once with a mechanical lock. The lights have also been taped so that we won’t be tempted to change the power settings. But just in case we go to the trouble of circumnavigating their preventive tampering methods, the Passer’s sales computer is programmed to reject any image that doesn’t meet the New Company mandated camera settings.
So what the dumb fucks at The New Company have done is taken a $2,000 DSLR camera and turned it into a $200 point and shoot camera. God damn, why didn’t they just give us a fucking iPhone and have done with it?
The Passer side of the training was filled with a lot of really boring shit. Redundant paperwork. Writing out prices by hand. Dealing with varied and sundry computer problems. And general mass confusion on the Passer’s-and my-part as to what is supposed to be going on.
The Button Pusher’s part is all but irrelevant and will take maybe five minutes per sitting. The Passer’s part has become a confusing nightmare of endless paperwork that will take about twenty minutes per sitting. The New Company has gone above and beyond the call of duty in making this a job where the turnover rate is going to be close to a hundred percent every sixty days or so.
And this doesn’t even mention the real deal breaker-that we may all end up being paid the minimum wage for six on-the-clock hours a day. For those of you playing at home that’s about 43 dollars a day, before they take out for tax and social security. Oh, and the average week is usually four days, sometime only two or three.