ASSISTING JESSE DITTMAR

Even after thirty years as a photographer myself, one of the things I still enjoy is working with other photographers to see how they tackle the technical aspects of a shoot and their artistic approach to photographing a subject.

When I got the chance to assist Jesse Dittmar "who is currently one of the top celebrity photographers in the country" I of course jumped at it.

If you're not familiar with Jesse's work, he has shot everyone from Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Sting, President Trump and the most recently the entire Star Wars cast to name just a few. Equally impressive is that before going out on his own, Jesse worked as an Assistant to Annie Leibovitz, who is undeniabley the most well known photographer alive today.

We shot three sittings over two days on the rooftop of the historic Burnham Center building in downtown Chicago. Jesse kept his gear list small; one camera, 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens and one light. He relies heavily on finding a common interest with the subjects and getting them photographed and back on their way in just a few minutes.

My biggest take away from working with Jesse is that he's not about the gear, it's all about the subject rapport.


I used the first 90 seconds not taking any pictures, showing him (Tom Hanks) previous pictures I had taken on an iPad, talking with him. That was like 25% of my photo shoot. And that’s because if I just started shooting, I don’t know, maybe he wouldn’t have been as comfortable. And that’s just what he’s used to.
— Jesse Dittmar

As for the above photo of Jesse - early on our second and final day, I asked if I could make his portrait and he agreed. Following the last sitting, I was putting gear away when Jesse asked if I wanted to take that photo I had requested. Truthfully, I figured he had either forgotten or had only politely said yes. I used my Fuji X100s and rattled off a few frames as Jesse's stood in front of his signature white background. It's kind of overwhelming when I think of the number of well known people he has shot in front of it. We are using a north facing wall and he is lit with nothing but soft natural light. I feel the photo is nice ode to not only Jesse’s work but also Richard Avedon, who Jesse credits as a strong influence to his style and approach.

I am truly honored to have been a small part of his project and can’t wait to see the final prints and to get my hands on his newest book.

You can see some of Jesse Dittmar's work at his website: www.jessedittmar.com

Technical Details:

  • Camera: Fuji X100s
  • Lens: 23mm
  • Exposure: ISO 200, f2.0 @ 1/550
  • Flash: None

My Copy of Jesse's Book "two"