much as possible so I can meet people.”
Dittmar started assisting right out of college. He freelanced for
three years, then spent two years as a full-time assistant for Ben
Baker. “As a freelancer, you get to see how different photographers do
things, how they solve problems, what kind of lighting they use, [and]
how they interact with people. Working with Ben, it was valuable to
see the process every step of the way.”
From Baker, Dittmar learned how to handle big celebrity shoots.
“Ben is a master of getting as many setups as he can in very little time,”
Dittmar says, recounting the seven setups Baker managed to pull off in
a 20-minute session with Michelle Obama at the White House.
In his spare time, Dittmar did test shoots. “My goal was not to be
an assistant. It was to be a photographer,” he says. About two years
ago, he reached the point where he wasn’t learning any more as an
assistant. He started showing his portfolio around to potential clients,
and decided to quit assisting altogether in late 2012 when he was
forced to choose between an assisting job and a small assignment. “I
wanted photo editors and art buyers to think of me as a photographer,
not an assistant,” he says.
Dittmar credits a college friend, Jacqueline Bovaird of LL Reps,
with helping him get his career as a photographer started. “She would
push me: ‘Go to photography events, go meet people, go talk to them.’
That got me off my ass to go to meetings [with potential clients]”
Those meetings started paying off slowly with small assignments.
For instance, he showed his portfolio to BlackBook magazine, which
doesn’t pay fees, but takes chances on new talent. Dittmar hit it off
with the photo editor because he had pictures in his portfolio of
several Brooklyn-based indie bands that they both liked.
Through BlackBook assignments, he ended up meeting a publicist
who had dated one of his best friends from high school. As a result of
that connection, he got his first assignment shooting actor and B-list
celebrity Josh Gad.
Those connections happen over and over again “because I don’t
sit at home. I’m not some brooding artist in the corner,” Dittmar says.
“I like meeting people. I like talking about my work, about what the
people I meet are doing. I consider meetings [with clients] very much
like shoots, figuring out what the person I’m meeting with is about.”
ABOVE: Hain Group founder Irwin Simon, photographed for the Wheels
Up testimonial advertising campaign. Dittmar got the assignment on a
recommendation from another client, and says word-of-mouth advertising and
client meetings have been the keys to his success.