A Year in the Life Project in Which Jaime Rejects Full Bleed and Grant Makes a Transition

by Heather on November 13, 2009

Jaime Hogge:

Feast or famine. Not only is it an awesome album by Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music fame (bonus points for those who have any idea what I’m talking about), it’s really the only way to describe my career the past little while. After a couple famine periods, this past week things were quite feasty indeed. Most of it isn’t stuff I can really talk too much about at the moment unfortunately, but it’s all been good!

Anyways, my week started out busy with a restaurant shoot for Toronto Life on Saturday. It’s kind of funny, I’m pretty sure I bombed the ‘restaurant assignment’ in college but I’ve been getting a few of these jobs from Toronto Life recently. Then again I didn’t do too hot in portrait either but I killed commercial/product class, go figure. While I can’t show off the stuff from Saturday, you can check out a copy of the latest Toronto Life, which has a few photos from a couple food related places that I shot a few weeks back.

Next up was putting together a quote for a pretty neat job that will have me headed down south to shoot if I get it. Seeing as I’ve never shot a job outside of the province let alone outside of the country, I wasn’t quite sure where to start on this one. Thankfully, Nicole from Zinc Productions had contacted me a short time ago to introduce herself and Zinc. I’m so glad that happened as I was pretty lost on this one, but with a quick call Nicole and Alana were on it and had quotes for different location options in my hands the next day.. I could definitely get used to this. I think everything managed to be on budget quite nicely so here’s hoping we get some good news on it soon.

Finally, I got a call from Ronit Novak at Canadian Business/Profit/MoneySense magazines. She mentioned she had been following my work and was reminded about me by good friend and good photographer (and apparently good rep) Daniel Ehrenworth. This was pretty neat because I’ve never worked on anything for any of the magazines that Ronit is photo editor of. I shot a portrait assignment in Willow Beach for MoneySense on Thursday thanks to that phone call which was fun as it’s been a few weeks since my last portrait gig. Again, I can’t show off what I’ve got from that shoot just yet, but here are some shots of the scenery up there.

© Jaime Hogge

© Jaime Hogge

© Jaime Hogge

© Jaime Hogge

On the non-shooting end of things, I’m wanting to get going on totally redoing my print book next now that my website is essentially finished. I’m not really into entirely full-bleed style books though as there are a ton of images that I just don’t want to crop. I currently have white space around each page in my book but I don’t think it’s a big hit with anyone but me. What’s everyone else doing these days? I’m thinking of mixing and matching, some full bleed, some double page, and some small with whitespace. Is that ridiculous? I’m not sure exactly how it would work together, just brainstorming at this point. Hopefully the excitement continues next week and I’ll have more good news to share.

- – - – - –

Grant Harder

The last week was full of assisting. I had a couple of days with Lindsay Siu – formerly featured in The Lounge, a day with Hubert Kang and a day with Shannon Mendes…all great photographers and wonderful people. Four assisting jobs combined with all of the other little things going on at the moment didn’t leave time for much else this week. While I welcome the work I feel like I need to be careful in the amount of assisting I take on. Two years is what I have always told myself- two years of assisting and then it’s time to start moving on. It’s been two years.

Here’s my question to you full timer shooters out there who spent time assisting. How did you make the transition from assistant to photographer? Was it quick like removing a band-aid or more of a gradual process that happened over time? Everyone is different. I get that but I would love to hear some personal accounts, tips and suggestions. I know it’s not going to be easy and I don’t expect a simple solution. I would love to hear from art directors and photo editors on this as well. Do you feel the decision is an all or nothing situation? Should the assisting line be cut completely or is it possible to keep trolling for work to keep the bills paid over the next few months? I don’t want to straddle the photographer/assistant line for long but I do want to be able to eat and pay rent next month.

Monsoon season has officially arrived here in Vancouver. In remembrance of dryer days here are a couple of summery pics- RV’s and warm early morning light! I found the RV in Jasper and the portrait is of friend/photographer, Shea Pollard.

© Grant Harder

© Grant Harder

© Grant Harder

© Grant Harder

A Year in the Life Project follows two junior shooters through their weekly adventures, trying to make a go of it, in the world of commercial photography.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaime Hogge November 13, 2009 at 10:15 am

Grant, great shots! I can give you my rundown on quitting assisting since it’s still pretty fresh in my mind. I was originally planning on easing my way out of assisting and into shooting slowly; this seems logical but I found that it wasn’t. After a little while I found that 80-90% of the other assistants I was working with were saying the same thing but, no one was actually doing anything about making the move, they were just sort of talking about it all the time.

I began to think I’d be better off just straight up quitting assisting and going full speed with shooting. I was getting a little tired of not having enough time to dedicate to growing my shooting career. I also began to wonder what it was like from the clients point of view: they’re seeing me as an assistant one day, I’m bringing them my book the next and then a week later it’s back to being an assistant. Are these people really going to want to hire me when that’s how they’re always seeing me? I can’t answer that question because I’m not one of them, but it would seem that there is definitely a little bit of time needed for everyone to see you in a different light.

I had some conversations with a handful of photographers that I routinely worked with and while there were a few that said you can juggle both, most said otherwise. I’m a bit of an impulsive person and I really, really wanted to shoot so I’m sure that factored in as well but I made the decision to just do it cold turkey and I think that’s really the only way. Sure there have been plenty of shitty/lean times since making that decision last year but you know what? I love what I do, and it’s only going to get better because this is just the beginning. Being broke constantly sucks, learning how to make yourself work on your business even when there is nothing coming in sucks, but not enjoying what you do sucks more a lot of the time. Assisting wasn’t enjoyable for me like it was when I started out, it was time to move on. I have a very supportive significant other which helps as well. Her and her entire family are endlessly supportive of me and what I’m doing which goes a long way in giving you the confidence that you will absolutely need in spades if you’re going to succeed in the future.

Anyways, that’s my rant on the subject, hopefully it helps you out some!

Mason November 13, 2009 at 10:26 am

The thing about Chuck Ragan, you can tell that not only does he love playing music, there is nothing else he could do. He is a musician to the core, and takes the good with the bad and does his time on the road (even after years of touring).

The best photographers are the same way – there is really nothing else that they could do but take photos. It is not even a fact, it’s like some incontrovertible truth of the universe that the camera is an extension of their body.

Simon November 13, 2009 at 11:47 am

props to Jaime for digging Chuck :). My book has vertical images go to bleed, but a border around horizontal images. It would be interesting to know if this is something Photo Editors have a preference on.

eric f. November 13, 2009 at 2:57 pm


You’ve just asked the most important (and most frustratingly difficult to answer) question ever.

Right now my books are full bleed… reluctantly. This is after 11years in NYC with magazine photo editors and Photo agents always stressing how important tearsheets were. I paid my editorial dues, and finally in the past year when art buyers finally started requesting my book from the magazine exposure (I assume), the first question I heard was “Do you have prints?” I’d understand if they were bad tears, but they were all major publications with perfect reproduction, so my brain exploded as I contemplated the $100′s of dollars I had to spend to re-print all my books.

I do hear nowadays that most photographers have print-only books, which makes me wonder why I didn’t get the memo.

So now all my books are full bleed. I did add a tearsheet collage spread at the end of each to showcase the vast array of published material.

I agree with you on the white border front. I would love to not have to crop all my images and even have the space to add little descriptions of the client/project/portrait subject in the lower corner if someone doesn’t recognize the celebrity.

I worry that the mix of some borders some now may not flow as well. but in the end, presentation can work on a case by case basis. I’d hate to see you go though a huge expense of reprinting to find out it doesn’t work. That’s always my biggest issue.

Has Heather weighed in with her opinion? Heather, what do you think as the Art Buyer?

Josh R. November 13, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Every professional photography portfolio I have ever seen—I have seen a lot but admittedly they were mostly automotive shooters—was a mix of full bleed and not. They were almost all the 11×14 lost luggage style books and that meant unless you crop every shot 11×14 and landscape there had to be some white space.

Jacqueline Bovaird November 13, 2009 at 5:06 pm


First of all, your work is gorgeous.

Secondly, I think you might like a recent Q&A I did about making the leap from assisting to working as a full time photographer.

Check it out here:

Jamie Kripke November 13, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Hey Grant — I’m not sure if I can tell you how to do it, since everyone has a different way of doing things. But here’s an idea of when to do it. It’s when you’re standing on set (as an assistant) and you are having trouble paying attention and assisting well because you know that you can do this job. Actually, you can do it better.

That’s when you stop assisting on those kinds of shoots. But you have to keep learning and spending time on all different kinds of sets. If an assisting gig comes along that will teach you something really new and different, by all means take it. You can’t pay to learn what can be learned on set, especially on big ad jobs.

Making the clean break is tough. But at a certain point it will become less about money and more about knowledge.

For what it’s worth, here is my timeline, and how the transition period looked for me:


Good luck!

Jaime Hogge November 14, 2009 at 11:13 am

Wow, I’m glad to hear all the praise for Chuck, Hot Water Music is one of my favourite bands. I had previously lost all hope in photographers’ taste in music after all the ambient electronic garbage I had to listen to while assisting.

Anyways, thanks for sharing what you guys are doing in your books. It’s definitely a lot harder than it sounds.

I’d also love to hear from any AB/AD/PE people on this. Heather recommended that I add a spread at the end of my book showing thumbnails of various published and/or commercial work which is one thing that has been going over pretty well. I’ve also been told that it’s good to through in a few double page spreads just to show that your work is good enough to be run like that.

Simon Keitch November 14, 2009 at 12:49 pm


I was given a copy of Mary Ellen Mark’s Ward 81 last Christmas and its layout was enormously influential when I put together a new portfolio earlier in the year; I loved the landscape orientation, the borders, the vertical frames offset to the edge of the page and the occasional horizontal frame printed small with a huge white border. If you haven’t seen Ward 81 I’d highly recommend it; if only for the great images. I wasn’t quite that brave with my layout but it did get me to thinking ‘why can’t my book be more like this?’ People will always have their own version of what’s Right and ultimately I think you just have to decide what’s right for you.

Rather than continue rambling I’ll just point you to this great post I read recently on the Seth Godin Blog: http://bit.ly/2BOxc0 (and make sure you watch the video; it’s really good)

Heather November 14, 2009 at 3:53 pm

OK, to answer the portfolio question, I like to see books that have been put together with a thought to the design and the flow. As long as the images look good and it’s well put together, it doesn’t matter to me what orientation each image is.

Recently I consulted for a photographer who had a lot of great stories- many interesting images from one event. In his case, I suggested he do three smaller frames on the left facing page and one big shot on the right. The three lead into the one really well. In other parts of his book, he had a single shot on the right, nothing on the left. And in other places, one horizontal on the right, vertical on the left (maybe it was the other way around, regardless, you get the picture).

And, to Jaime’s comment, I do like to see a big, impactful shot run across the gutter- as long as it works for the image (ie. the action isn’t happening in the middle of the frame)- this can look really nice.

Personally, I like some white space. And, if everything is cropped full bleed, I guarantee you, a client somewhere will say- “everything in this book is horizontal and our layout is vertical… this guy won’t work at all!”

I’m sure Jaime will send us pics of his book when it’s done…

And thanks to all who weighed in- lots of good links etc. here. Keep it up!

Shane November 14, 2009 at 7:29 pm


I’m in the same place as you assisting/shooting wise. It’s hard to quit assisting cold turkey when you have $12 in the bank. But I think there’s a point when you have to tell yourself you’re done assisting. And I think that time is when you no longer have the photographer’s best interest in mind on the set.

Grant Harder November 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm

A big thanks to those who responded. Jaime, both your honesty and openness are appreciated. Jacqueline, thanks for the kind words and the link. I encourage those interested in this topic to check it out. Jamie K, I have been an admirer/follower (virtual-stalker?) of your work for a few years now and so already know your time line. Again, for those interested, check out Jaime’s link. Seeing a time line like this is an eye opener.

It doesn’t happen over night.

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