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Etiquette: Internship


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BY Kenny Ulloa October 01, 2010 · Published by Resource Magazine

Thinking of working as a photo intern? This Resource Magazine article gives you the lowdown on what to expect and how to comport yourself to maximum interning effect.

This article has been contributed from the Spring 2010 issue of Resource Magazine, courtesy of the publisher. To subscribe to the magazine and explore Resource’s online features, visit the Resource Magazine website.






Illustration by Claudia Madera.  

Starbucks run! Does anyone want anything?” says the intern girl, preparing for her simple midday task.

“Why is she so, like, happy?” asks the production assistant in that vinegary fashion tone we’ve all come to know too well.

You can’t swing a roll of gaffer’s tape two feet in our creative circles without hitting some overly ambitious project. They often require bodies. Happy, well-dressed bodies to counter the resurgence of work. If only there were a way to gather a zealous group of quiet and intimidated young minds . . .

Enter the arsenal of sweaty undergraduates. Battalions of peppy boys and girls ready to impress. A secret weapon reserved for long and dark studio days. A soldier of labor who will, at a moment's notice, attack a task no matter how menial or demeaning. A fussy nineteen-year-old in Converse sneakers.

The interning experience can lead to a spectrum of emotions. A myriad of crucial events that, without the proper reminders, could transform a Play-Doh art school brain into a dried-out piece of hard gunk that no one wants to play with.


Photo bubble: Don’t call your intern “the intern.” Don’t be part of the “Fashion is a cruel world” fantasy perpetuated by reality television. Try, just try, to remember their names. If you’re the type who can’t possibly be bothered with the proletariat, then use memory associations, affectionate nicknames or whatever—anything to avoid making yourself look horrible to the outside world. Respect the (un)hired help!

Intern: Don’t be upset if you don’t get an internship at that giant commercial studio/agency/digital/production place. Sometimes the smaller companies—although not as glamorous—may offer a more intimate and fulfilling work experience. And beginning at a start-up can often lead to a more loyal employer.

Photo bubble: Be gentle—at least for the first month. Interns are fledglings without guidance. This is an exchange of time for knowledge. Not a time for you to practice any inappropriate power-hungry maneuvers. Don’t hire an intern to do something that they were not signing up for. There’s always plenty of extraneous work to do—but getting an intern to build shelves in your studio is kind of against the rules.

Intern: Don’t stay at a place where you feel like you aren’t learning. If you’ve been at John Doe Studios for six months and you don’t know the difference between a C-stand and a clothing rack, it’s time to move on. 


Intern: Remember the delicate hierarchy that exists in the commercial world. Be courteous no matter how rough things get. Interning can be a fruitful experience, and it’s the foundation for reputation-building. Be wary of how your attitude and work will reflect on your future career decisions. Keep a distance from the action. Just carefully observe and follow directions without too much resistance.

Photo bubble: Everyone loves presents. Keep in mind that little things like party invites and the occasional time on set can make all the difference. Running a sweatshop manned by art students is not good for your kharma.

Intern: Remember that interning in the photo industry isn’t exactly typical mail room office duties. There’s a lot of grunt work and fussy personalities to encounter. Do your research and don’t walk away from a place because you think you deserve better. You are fresh meat and you don’t deserve anything. Companies always prefer to hire from within, so there’s a very good chance you will get a job—or at the very least an awesome recommendation—if you shut your mouth and work hard.


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