Dan Bannister’s Light Test Portraits of Photo Assistants

A clever promotional idea shines light on some of commercial photography's unsung heroes

Test Shot: “This was part of a conceptual series exploring extreme hair styling and the model, Carly Francis, is one of my all time favorites to work with.”© Dan Bannister
Final shot featuring Carly Francis© Dan Bannister
Test Shot: “I love shooting for shopping centres. Mostly because they understand the importance of good images and because they usually buy billboards and other large print media, thereby giving me something to Instagram and send to my mom for the rest of the year”© Dan Bannister
Final product for Tag Advertising© Dan Bannister
Test Shot: “Part of an incredibly fun shoot for a line of restaurant staff wear called MediumRare. This client wanted to do something new and a little different than what you’d expect from a chef wear catalog and the results were some of the best stuff I shot in 2014.”© Dan Bannister
Final product for MediumRare© Dan Bannister
Test Shot: “Part of another OOH campaign for a shopping centre. Have I mentioned how much I loving shopping centre campaigns and the big billboards they usually buy?”© Dan Bannister
Final product for Tag Advertising© Dan Bannister
Test Shot: “I shot the album artwork for Chandler White’s debut album. Jesse Salus came up with the concept, art directed the shoot and stood in for the light test here.”© Dan Bannister
Final product for RFX Communication© Dan Bannister
Test Shot: “Beauty shoots make for tough light tests for the Assistants.”© Dan Bannister
Final image© Dan Bannister
Test Shot: “I love this light test almost as much as the finished image. Shot for a tourism campaign.”© Dan Bannister
Final product for Venture Communications© Dan Bannister
Test Shot: “If Dave McGrath had shaved the morning of this shoot, I'm sure we would have tossed out the model shots and used Dave’s picture instead.”© Dan Bannister
Final image© Dan Bannister
Test Shot: “Another fun and unusual ad for MediumRare Chef Apparel.”© Dan Bannister
Final product for MediumRare© Dan Bannister

It takes a small army to pull off a commercial photo shoot. There are make-up artists, stylists, art directors, digital techs and, of course, the photographer's assistants. On a commercial set, assistants help photographers arrange lights, lift heavy items, wrap cords, pin baggy clothing, sandbag light stands, and generally help the photographer anticipate what is needed to keep things running smoothly. For Toronto-based commercial photographer Dan Bannister they also end up as stand-ins for his light tests, helping him finalize concepts before the models are moved into the frame.

“They are indispensable,” says Bannister. “They are the people that make everything tick.”

To celebrate these behind-the-scenes members of his crew (and keep his name on the minds of art directors who may be hiring) Bannister started publishing a promotional sketchbook that he calls the The Assistants. "The intent is to show clients what goes on during shoots and some of the things that we get up to in the run of the year," he says.

The second volume was published earlier this year, and like the first, pairs quick lighting tests featuring Bannister’s lovely assistants with the final products delivered to his various clients. According to Bannister, most times assistants only stand in for three or four shots, but with his carefully constructed crew he rarely needs more testing time.

“We can sort of read each others minds,” Bannister says about his relationships with his regular key assistants. “The conversations, sort of half of the words are missing.”

Bannister says that having a good team behind him is essentially what helps him finish commercial jobs with ease. He adds that clients regularly are surprised by how quickly he can get the job done. “It’s not me,” he says. “It is the people that I work with. They understand what we are doing, how to do it and how to get there pretty quickly.”

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