PHOTO © ALEX TEHRANI
WORLD WIDE TECH: During his recent travels as a digital tech Esteban Aladro spent more time under wraps than enjoying the scenery. Above, Aladro works on location beside Stanley Bay in Hong Kong, China.
PDNedu: How did you get your first jobs after graduating from school?
Esteban Aladro: I decided that New York City was where my skills would have a chance to flourish, and when I got there, I spent weeks researching photographers to find people I was interested in working with based on technique, lighting and content. From there, I made a mailing list and promoted myself relentlessly via postcards, e-mail blasts and cold calls.
PDNedu: What are the major differences between a digital tech and a lighting assistant?
EA: Mainly just the tasks being accomplished, but generally one job informs the other. Skills that I learned while lighting help me troubleshoot when I’m teching behind the computer, and vice versa.
PDNedu: What are your primary responsibilities and the skills needed for each job?
EA: As a lighting assistant, my primary goal is translating the photographer’s aesthetic and vision for that particular shoot: making sure the tools he needs are there in advance and being able to problem-solve as the shoot moves along. With digital, I’m more locked on the computer. I’m responsible for devising a workflow and checking technical concerns from focus to color temperature.
PDNedu: What’s your favorite part of your job?
EA: Experimenting with light. The seemingly endless amount of light-shaping tools, ratios, setups that can be done—it’s always interesting in a studio environment to see where people take different things.PDNedu: What’s been your most difficult challenge in a job situation?
EA: Probably the combination of jet lag, a cold and the demands of a client. While on location for an advertising shoot in Hong Kong, the bar was set really high, so the turn-around they expected was extremely quick. Luckily, a few long lights (and days) allowed me to deliver the hard drive only a few hours after we wrapped.PDNedu: In your opinion, what sets you apart from other photo assistants?
EA: Broad knowledge of how a shoot works. I’m familiar with preproduction elements, lighting, digital and post-production. I can generally contribute on many fronts.
PDNedu: What’s your most important work accomplishment to date?
EA: Building a positive reputation for myself.
PDNedu: What’s the most important thing an aspiring photo assistant needs to bring to the table in order to succeed?
EA: Bring an open mind and a good work ethic. The most important things to leave home are any sense of self-entitlement or pretentiousness. After five years, I’m still learning things about industry politics, technical tricks and the like. There’s no reason to be fresh out of college and think your education is over. Your demeanor on set is just as important as your knowledge base.
PDNedu: What are the job requirements and what’s the best route to take in pursuing this type of position?EA: Experience. Being familiar with the software and hardware is not enough—it’s important to observe other techs. See how they troubleshoot on set and apply the software to a real-world situation.
PDNedu: As a photographer yourself, how do you achieve a balance between your job responsibilities and the pursuit of your own photography?
EA: It’s really hard. Sometimes after a shoot, the last thing you want to do is pick up a camera yourself. But ultimately, the exposure makes you a stronger photographer. Just to see the industry so closely and what other people are doing is invaluable.
Esteban Aladro studio headshot (top) © Ryan Michael Kelly. Esteban Aladro location shots © Jeff Gros (Rome Coliseum), Alex Tehrani (Beach in Hawaii).