I had never assisted a pro photographer in my life. Gone are the days that rookie photographers climb the ladder in such a way with today's online tutorials. Want to be an interiors photographer? There's a video for that. Want to be a food photographer? There's a video for that, etc.
The downside to all that is the lack of a mentor to look up to for guidance along every step of professional development. I'm doing pretty well as a self-made architectural photographer, but as an aspiring top hotel photographer, I have to admit: When a Starwood Resorts photographer asked me to assist on a shoot of the Westin in Buffalo, I was flattered and ecstatic! Finally - someone to glean from rather than stumbling through and learning the hard way.
I was pleasantly surprised that he shoots extremely similar to me. I thought my interiors photography technique was so novice, so it was validating to see our similar approach. But of course, I learned a lot of little tricks that made me slap my forehead and say "Why didn't I think of that?"
We worked together for two days, but an emergency came up and he was not able to see all the shots through. So he asked if I could shoot it myself under his direction. (Gulp! No pressure, right? His portfolio is stunning and those are some pretty big shoes to fill.) I've learned to never say "no" to an opportunity even if you have some self-doubt.
So I produced five perspectives with his approval for composition and staging. I'd take a snapshot, text it to him and he'd give me feedback for any needed adjustments. Once we had that locked down, I was off and running with my usual bracketing, flagging, lighting and scrim work.
Here are my composited shots delivered to him for his final touches. For the hotel industry, he gives his photos slightly higher contrast and "punch" than I'd normally deliver to an architect.
It was a great experience that I'll always remember and appreciate. Thanks to Brandon Barré for the honor.
Update 2019- I am now a Marriott-approved photographer.